World Dressage Masters Loses Axel Johnson Group as Prime Sponsor

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Sept. 23, 2014

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The World Dressage Masters has lost Sweden’s Axel Johnson Group as the prime presenting sponsor for the four European competitions each with prize money of €100,000 (US$128,000). The Swedish-based group confirmed Tuesday that it will sponsor the newly created Central Park Horse Show in New York for three years and expand support for developing equestrian programs in Sweden.

The future of WDM that was launched in 2009 with events on both sides of the Atlantic could not be determined as the Netherlands-based management group did not respond to questions from dressage-news.com.

The 2014 WDM schedule was made up of Vidauban, France; Munich, Germany; Falsterbo, Sweden and Mechelen, Belgium on the calendar for the Christmas/New Year holiday period as the only indoor show.

Formed after a test event in Cannes, France in 2008 with support from the organizers of Florida’s Winter Equestrian Festival, the 2009 inaugural lineup of events included Palm Beach, Florida; Munich, Germany; Cannes and Hickstead, England. The Dutch company, Exquis headed up by Anthony Kies was the primary sponsor along with Moorlands Stables, owner of Totilas that was ridden by Edward Gal at the time.

The Axel Johnson Group, a conglomerate of companies that has a strong presence in Europe and North America and headquartered in Stockholm, took over as presenting sponsor in 2011.

The privately owned enterprise is headed by Antonia Ax:son Johnson, that Forbes magazine calculates is the richest woman and third richest person in Sweden with a net worth of $8 billion (€6.2 billion).

Nürnberger Versicherungsgruppe, famous for its sponsorship of the Burg-Pokal for developing small tour horses in Germany, sponsors an annual WDM rider award of €25,000 (US$32,000).

Antonia and Olympic dressage rider Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén, who competes the Swedish businesswoman’s Lövsta Stud Farm horses, created the Lövsta Future Challenge Cup to raise the quality of dressage riders in the Under-25 group and developing horses up to age 11.

The dressage program sponsorship has been renewed for another three years and a Lövsta Future Challenge was launched for six-year-old jumper horses that, a spokesperson said, will be expanded to Under-25 jumper riders in 2015.

Antonia has close personal as well as business ties with America that she explained as a factor in her support of the Central Park Horse Show that coincidentally was managed by Mark Bellissimo, who heads up Florida’s WEF that was a ground floor backer of WDM.

“My passion for dressage and my passion for the family business are two dimensions of the same legacy-concentration and focus, a long-term perspective and a touch of magic. To support dressage in Central Park is very special for me as a true New Yorker, born in the city and with Central Park as my childhood playground.”

She went to Radcliffe College, now merged with Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts as an exchange student in the early 1960s.

The spokesperson said there were no plans for the Axel Johnson Group to become a sponsor of the Global Dressage Festival, a companion circuit to the Winter Equestrian Festival that share the same show grounds in Wellington.

However, Antonia has an equestrian etstate in Wellington and Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén competes her horses in Wellington throughout the winter.