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Mark Cuban-backed business invests in Boston Triathlon

Entrants in the women’s division run for the water on Carson Beach at the Boston Triathlon in August.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

If Boston gets a nationally recognized triathlon, local endurance athletes may have businessman Mark Cuban to thank.

Cuban is backing an investment, through Boston-based Rugged Events, in the Boston Triathlon. The goal: To help turn what's primarily a local race held at Carson Beach every summer into a national draw.

An owner of the Dallas Mavericks and the Landmark Theatres chain, among other ventures, Cuban also is known for his role on "Shark Tank," the ABC reality show that features entrepreneurs making pitches for investments. Cuban last year invested $1.75 million, through that show, in Rugged Events, which organizes the Rugged Maniac obstacle races.


Now Rugged Events, led by Rob Dickens and Brad Scudder, is getting into the triathlon business by partnering with Michael O'Neil, who bought the Boston Triathlon through his Ethos firm nearly three years ago. O'Neil has wanted to expand the triathlon from a sprint-level race — most racers finish it within one to two hours — to an Olympic-length race, one that's roughly twice as long. Triathletes probably won't spend big money on hotel rooms or plane tickets for a sprint race, O'Neil says, but a three-hour race is a different story.

O'Neil sees big-time triathlons in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. He says there's no reason Boston can't have one, too. "The plan is to make this a world-class event, like those other races," O'Neil says.

O'Neil says he just completed a deal with Rugged Events to sell the firm a minority stake in the race. With that money and the additional manpower Rugged Events can offer, O'Neil says he's able to stage an Olympic distance race in Boston in July.

"We knew we would need more capital and human resources to bring this to the next level," O'Neil says.

Fortunately for O'Neil, he already has a sympathetic audience in City Hall. Mayor Marty Walsh attended this year's race, and chief of staff Dan Koh raced in it. "It's hard to do a triathlon in an urban center," O'Neil says. "In this case, really, Boston is open for business."


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.