Ding Shizhong is the founder and chief executive of one of the largest sportswear companies in the world, Anta Sports. Already China’s largest homegrown player in the category, the Fujian-based firm has grown from a holding company for namesake brand Anta to a sprawling group including Ding’s overseas investments. By 2022, brands such as Fila, Kolon Sport, Descente and Amer Sports, a group holding Salomon, Wilson, Atomic, Arc’teryx and Peak Performance among others, had come under his control.
The Fujian native started buying and selling shoes from a relative’s factory in the mid-1980s. He then set up his own manufacturing operation for international brands and, by 1991, he had moved up the value chain founding his own brand, Anta. Ding has consistently said he is not building “the Nike of China,” as observers sometimes describe Anta, but rather, “the Anta of the world,” a phrase analysts believe means he plans to bring the brand overseas. Ding has made some early inroads for a future export business, having signed international athletes for Anta’s China market campaigns and collaborations, and negotiated a deal with the International Olympic Committee to become an official sportswear uniform supplier.