SBD/Issue 202/Leagues & Governing Bodies

LPGA Commissioner Bivens May Be Amenable To Taking Buyout

Bivens Owed Roughly $500,000 Per
Year For Final Two Years Of Contract
LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens is amenable to taking a buyout from her post, and the LPGA BOD has authorized a golf industry executive to contact potential candidates to replace her, said sources close to the situation. As of last night, the board was not actively negotiating a buyout, said a source, but talks are expected to commence soon. While the outcome of any negotiation is uncertain, industry sources said a buyout of a basic employment contract such as Bivens’ could be completed in a week. She is owed roughly $500,000 per year for the final two years of a three-year extension signed in ’08. Meanwhile, a representative authorized to speak on behalf of the board is contacting sports industry execs to gauge their interest in the job. It could not be determined how many candidates have been contacted. The board declined to comment (Jon Show, SportsBusiness Journal). Golf World's Ron Sirak noted the commissioner's office has not commented on speculation around Bivens' job partially because the LPGA is "waiting for the U.S. Open to play itself out so as not to interfere with this event." Sirak: "We’re going to hear a lot more early next week and I think we’re going to have an idea of where this is going to go. ... It’s going to be interesting to see how the Board responds” (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 7/8). N.Y. Post reporter Mark Cannizzaro noted an issue with Bivens' buyout is the LPGA is "going to have to pay her off for her last year-and-a-half of her contract." But he added, "They’re going to be meeting pretty soon. I think they’ll come up with the money” (“19th Hole,” Golf Channel, 7/8).

ALL IN FAVOR?  Golfer Kristy McPherson said she is "in favor ... as the majority is" of Bivens stepping down. McPherson: "Everybody wants the best for the tour and to keep the sponsors happy. I think she's just maybe not going about it in the right way." McPherson added, "A lot of the players out here agree that when we start losing tournaments that have been around here for so long it's not only the economy, and something needs to be done" (Myrtle Beach SUN NEWS, 7/9). Golfer Suzann Pettersen, who signed a letter to the LPGA BOD seeking Bivens' resignation, said, "All we are doing is standing up for our tour. Now it's up to our leadership and our board to find a solution." Pettersen added that the letter was "written on 'behalf of the majority of players.'" However, GOLFWEEK's Beth Ann Baldry reported it is "questionable whether the majority knew about the call for Bivens' resignation." Golfer Christina Kim, one of the seven players on the LPGA BOD, "wasn't invited to the dinner and was unaware of the letter until after the fact." Kim said that she "had no problems with Bivens or been 'witness to anything negative.'" Kim: "I don't believe (our problems are) due to any one person or occurrence. It's a multitude of things." Retired golfer Rosie Jones added, "I hope we're not shooting ourselves in the foot" (GOLFWEEK.com, 7/7). Golfer Lorena Ochoa said of the LPGA BOD, "I believe they will do the best for us, and hopefully things will start, you know, moving in a good direction, because we are worried that we're losing tournaments and we want to get back on a good track" (USA TODAY, 7/9).

DEFENDING THE STATUS QUO: In Jacksonville, Garry Smits reports World Golf HOFers Louise Suggs and Carol Mann yesterday both said that the "player revolt to fire Bivens after fewer than four years on the job is premature in light of the current economic difficulties for all sponsor-driven sports." Mann: "They should have their heads examined. For them to do this, the week before the U.S. Open, is sabotage. The timing of what they're doing is one of the most inappropriate things I've ever seen." Suggs: "When I think of all the years we had to get on our knees and beg for everything, for sponsors, fans, decent courses -- I think Carolyn deserves more of a chance. She's doing the best she can. I don't know who else could do better" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 7/9).

Corning Classic Among Events
Lost During Bivens' Tenure
LONG TIME COMING: ESPN’s Judy Rankin, a member of the World Golf HOF, said the issue concerning Bivens probably should have been an “internal conversation … but the truth of the matter is things have been brewing for some time.” Rankin: “There are schedule problems. Obviously, there are re-signing tournament problems, new tournament problems, and we’ve just been through a consecutive run of tournaments with a lot of very longtime sponsors where a lot of players have a lot of relationships and a lot of friends, and those events are in jeopardy. That has kind of made this brewing thing boil over.” Rankin added of Bivens, “I think one thing everyone would be in agreement about, though, is she works very hard … and she has a big passion for the job that she’s been doing. But there is a lot unrest” (“SportsCenter at the U.S. Women’s Open,” ESPN, 7/8). In DC, Zach Berman writes, "However it is done, women's golf needs a jolt." Berman notes the tour has "lost seven tournaments" since '07, and the '10 LPGA Championship "has neither a sponsor nor a location" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/9).

BIVENS OVERPLAYED HER HAND: ESPN.com's Bob Harig wrote Bivens, in her "zest to increase the standards on the LPGA by requiring bigger purses, as well as higher licensing and television fees, may have overplayed her hand." Harig: "Perhaps it would have been better to sign up as many sponsors as possible in these tough times, offering a few deals and perks to get folks on board. Instead, the LPGA Tour is struggling to remain viable" (ESPN.com, 7/8). In Honolulu, Bill Kwon writes the "sagging economy hasn't helped" the LPGA, but if Bivens had "displayed people skills, some of the tournaments as well as some of her staff might still be with us." Instead, sponsors were "turned off, saying enough already." Kwon: "With Bivens, it has always been my way or the highway, even though her ideas more often than not have run into road blocks or dead-ends" (HONOLULU ADVERTISER, 7/9). CBSSPORTS.com's Steve Elling noted the LPGA players "had mostly been her allies until the Kapalua event, set for the fall in Hawaii, bailed last week with four years remaining on the resort's LPGA contract." Elling wrote most observers have "watched the unprecedented scenario play out from dry land with a detached sense of interest and amusement." The biggest question about Bivens' potential departure is, "what took so long?" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/8). Sirak noted Bivens had a "very ambitious plan to raise pensions for the players, to raise their health coverage, to raise purses for the players." Sirak: "She put into effect this business plan that greatly increased sanctioning fees for the tournaments … and that came just at a bad time. Her whole plan was that '09 would be this springboard year into a new business model for 2010. Now it's turning out to be exactly the wrong time to impose such a plan" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 7/8).

WHAT'S NEXT? Golfweek's Baldry said Bivens' replacement, should she resign, needs to be "someone who’s all about partnerships, someone who is well-versed in the golf world and can come in immediately and try to repair these relationships, someone who is very familiar with the situations and the people in play." Baldry: "I would be surprised if it were someone that was right underneath Bivens’ command. It’s got to be someone else from the outside, not someone right underneath her because I would think that would be seen as more of the same” (“19th Hole,” Golf Channel, 7/8).

Writers Feels Lopez (l) Could Be
Good Replacement For Bivens

BLAST FROM THE PAST: USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes if Bivens resigns, the tour should both pick a "qualified businesswoman to lead the tour," as well as hire World Golf HOFer Nancy Lopez. She could be the "new old face of the tour, with the title of commissioner or president or chairperson, then hire a CEO to run the tour." Lopez "isn't a business whiz, but she is golf's quintessential goodwill ambassador," and she would bring "more than personal warmth to the job." A recent LPGA name-recognition poll had Lopez ranked No. 1, ahead of Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie. Brennan writes the LPGA "might as well draw on its most enduring name for all the help it can get right now" (USA TODAY, 7/9). In Toledo, Dave Hackenberg writes Lopez "would be the perfect commissioner to repair the current state of the LPGA." She would be the "perfect up-front face for the struggling organization and could hire all the business and legal types she needed to handle the technical aspects." Lopez would "effectively represent the tour she loves and its players," and she would "repair the damaged relations between the tour and its sponsors" (TOLEDO BLADE, 7/9).

FIVE-STEP PROCESS: In Newark, Brendan Prunty writes Bivens' resignation "would not be the cure-all that it may appear," as there are "five things that have got to happen first." The U.S. Women's Open, which tees off today, currently is "totally overshadowed" by other sporting events during the summer, so tour officials should "move it to Mother's Day weekend" in May. The LPGA should "nix the current format of the Solheim Cup," which pits the U.S. against Europe, and "make it America against the World." Some of the "best golfers in the world are Asian and yet they are shut out of the Solheim." The tour also should treat the LPGA Championship like the PGA Championship instead of a "bigger weekly tour stop." The LPGA needs to make sure "backbone events" such as the Wegmans LPGA and the Corning Classic are on the schedule "by whatever means necessary." Prunty: "These are your bread-and-butter fans that show up no matter the economic conditions." Finally, the tour should "embrace Michelle Wie." Prunty: "What the LPGA needs to do is get over itself and hop aboard the Wie Wagon. She's on the level of Tiger or Phil, where no matter where she finishes, it's a major story" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 7/9).

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