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‘World Series’ of Adventure Racing Moves to US, New Owner Eyes Global Growth

Heidi Muller had served as CEO of the worldwide race organizer. Yesterday, the formerly Australian-owned company announced she purchased it, and that it reregistered in the United States.

Heidi Muller buys ARWSThe Adventure Racing World Series' new principal owner, Heidi Muller; (photo/ARWS Media)
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The Adventure Racing World Series (ARWS) has changed hands. ARWS announced in a Jan. 23 press release that businesswoman Heidi Muller has taken over as principal shareholder, after purchasing the company from Australia’s Geocentric Outdoors. Muller made the transaction along with three private investors: Jason Wilford, Philip Sigsworth, and Michael Bond.

Muller brings plenty of experience at ARWS to the table. The South African acted as CEO of the company for the past year, during which she exercised “full operational” control, according to the press release.

As part of the transaction, the company reregistered as a U.S. company, now called “The Adventure Racing World Series.” It will be based in Bentonville, Ark.

ARWS’ Big Plans

Muller’s duties are headlined by organizing this year’s Adventure Racing World Championship and facilitating an International Adventure Racing Conference. She will do both from her operational base in South Africa. As Muller explained, her life has revolved around Adventure Racing.

“When we started Expedition Africa with some borrowed money 11 years ago, we traveled to the race with our newborn baby, and had little idea the race would change our lives,” she said, referring to her husband Stephan. “Since then we have organized over 150 races, 10 Expedition Africas, two Expedition Indias, and now we are looking forward to holding the Adventure Racing World Championship.

“Adventure racing has been my life and now I have the biggest opportunity of all, to help the sport I love and believe in, and to take the Adventure Racing World Series to the next level,” she continued.

Heidi Muller buys Adventure Racing World Series
Muller (right) with 2021’s ARWS Africa champions; (photo/ARWS Media)

Muller said that will specifically mean building on the organization’s push last year to increase its presence at shorter, regional events. It’s a bid to become more accessible to all athletes, Muller said, and ARWS’ role has been to support prospective new race directors as they apply for funding from their tourism boards.

“For the racer, it will mean more ARWS races and more opportunities to get into adventure racing,” she said, adding that the organization is primed to launch its 10-12 stop “regional series” in North America soon. “The aim is to encourage people to race more, so those taking part don’t regard a race as a one-off experience.”

Muller’s leadership will also include measures implemented to increase the sport’s audience. She said a stronger media presence is on its way to the races. As well, film projects, a new website, and an app that will host live tracking for all races are in the works.

Athletes and teams who register for ARWS races will also soon find stricter doping regulations in place. Currently, the organization’s banned substances policy relies on the World Anti-Doping Code and is stated in brief.

Finally, Muller said ARWS will work on updating its “environmental policies,” but didn’t further elaborate.

Organizational changes under Muller’s leadership include introducing an advisory board, including “senior and new” race directors, athletes, and referees. Their tasks, according to the release, center around “collective brainstorming and discussions on the ARWS and the future.”

“Some are experts at drawing maps, others on funding or permissions, and all can learn from one another,” Muller said. “The teamwork which characterizes adventure racing will be a big part of the ARWS going forward. We now have an opportunity to steer the ARWS in a new direction.”

Adventure Racing’s Heady Future

The ARWS currently sanctions races in over 50 countries. One of the world’s main adventure race organizers, it competes with Adventure 1 (A1), which served as World Obstacle’s 2022 world cup partner.

ARWS qualifier circuit map
(Photo/ARWS Media)

Adventure race organizers at large could soon find themselves competing for a lot more renown: The discipline might become an Olympic sport in the near future. In October 2021, the Global Association of International Sports Federations granted “observer status” to World Obstacle, essentially opening the door for Olympic inclusion.

ARWS and Muller didn’t release financial details of Monday’s transaction, except to pledge that the company will heavily reinvest in adventure racing.

“All of the ARWS budget will be invested back into adventure racing as we build for the future, and I believe establishing an American company offers the best opportunities to achieve our goals. There are exciting times ahead for the Adventure Racing World Series!” Muller said.

Bentonville: New Home of ARWS

Now an American company, ARWS enters a new phase. The organizers seek to grow the sport in the U.S. and internationally, and attract larger sponsors. A race series in North America begins this spring and includes a calendar of events around the country.

Northwest Arkansas, most notably the Bentonville area, has more recently become a world center for mountain biking. The sport of adventure racing will now make its stamp there, as the ARWS plans to open its head office in the small city in 2023.

“We wanted to make Northwest Arkansas the home of global adventure racing,” said Wilford, one of the chief investors.

Wilford has a long history with the sport. Today, he is a coach, consultant, and the director of strategic partnerships for the Ozark Outdoor Foundation. The nonprofit owns Expedition Ozark, a 5-day adventure race held in April in the region; it’s a qualifier event on the ARWS calendar.

All three investors — Wilford, Sigsworth, and Bond — live and work in Northwest Arkansas.

Sigsworth is on the board of the Ozark Outdoor Foundation and is the CFO for an Alice Walton (Walmart heiress) nonprofit entity. Bond is an attorney and is active in the outdoors.

Asked whether Walmart or the Walton family was involved in the transaction, a representative for ARWS replied “there’s no involvement from Walmart or the Waltons in the ARWS.”

Wilford, Sigsworth, and Bond will all play active roles in the company moving forward. Muller referred to them as “directors” and said they “will bring key commercial skills into the organization, working on finance, legal matters, and sponsorship acquisition and management. They will manage running the company, leaving me to use my experience on the operational side and work with our race directors.”

The 2023 ARWS season kicks off Feb. 25 at Australia’s 6-day Legend Expedition Race.

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