SBJ/February 25 - March 3, 2002/Marketingsponsorship

Canadian pair looking at starting their own tour rather than joining one

The Canadian ice skating pair that captured the world's attention, and gold medals, during the Salt Lake Winter Olympics is unlikely to capture starring roles this year in either of the two most lucrative skating tours in North America. But they will not be missing in action.

Up first for Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, the charismatic skaters thrust into an Olympics judging scandal, is a March 12 ice show they'll headline in Edmonton, Alberta, where Sale worked as a restaurant hostess during the Games four years ago.

Their American manager and agent, Craig Fenech, said he and his clients are "considering all of the options," one of which could be starring in their own multicity tour.

Among Fenech's many consultations in Salt Lake City was a meeting with a potential tour production partner — Mike Burg, head of Charlotte-based Edge Marketing. Burg, former agent to 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski, wouldn't comment on his discussions with Fenech.

Even though they might make less money and get less U.S. exposure, Sale and Pelletier are expected to choose a tour built around their heightened stardom because they would be the headliners and have more scheduling flexibility for other paid appearances. Signing with either of the two established annual tours, John Hancock Champions On Ice (Tom Collins Enterprises) or Target Stars On Ice (IMG), would relegate the pair to billing as secondary performers and force the Canadians to conform to a grueling life on the road for months to come.

The top draws and best-compensated performers on these tours are female singles skaters such as Olympic stars Michelle Kwan, Lipinski and Kristi Yamaguchi. Kwan headlines Champions On Ice, with estimated annual fees exceeding $1 million.

Jamie Sale and David Pelletier's tears will turn to touring gold.

As of last week, Sale and Pelletier were not set to appear in Champions On Ice, which begins its longest tour ever — 90-plus cities — April 3.

"We were offered [Champions] about a month ago but weren't able to reach an agreement," Fenech said. "We haven't heard from them since. If they call back, we'll listen."

Fenech, sources say, is seeking more than double the per-show fee typically paid top touring pairs. A Toronto newspaper reported he was asking $20,000 per show. But even at half that rate, his clients would earn an unprecedented $900,000 — or $1.4 million Canadian — on the Champions tour. Starring in their own tour and doing as few as 10 stops, the Canadians could earn close to $500,000 ($795,000 Canadian) from a combination of fees and cuts of revenue from sponsorship, television rights and licensed merchandise sales.

The Stars on Ice cast is typically limited to skaters represented exclusively by IMG. An exception: Sale and Pelletier's Russian rivals, Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, who were forced to share the Olympic title following the Salt Lake judging inquiry. They signed before the Games to skate in Stars on Ice for the 2002-03 tour after six years with Champions. There is also a Canadian edition of Stars on Ice that opens an 11-city tour April 28.

Fenech said he is pursuing skating and endorsement opportunities for his clients in both U.S. and Canadian markets. "They are Canadians, so they don't want to ignore their own country," he said. "But we also recognize the disparity [in marketing dollars] between the two countries."

NEW ICEMEN COMETH: With the SFX figure skating management group disbanded, Tom Collins is forming his own management team after three decades of operating pro ice tours, including Champions On Ice. Given the responsibility of signing new clients are Rocky Marval, half of a former U.S. champion skating pair, and Michael Collins, son of Tom Collins, one of the tour managers. They were on the job throughout the Games in Salt Lake City.

AROUND SALT LAKE: American freestyle moguls skier Travis Mayer, a silver medalist who upstaged 1998 Olympic champion Jonny Moseley, was put to work immediately, making paid appearances for Monster.com, Xerox, HealthSouth, the Olympics Store and Samsung. PowerBar signed Mayer to an endorsement deal two weeks before the Games opened.

Steve Woodward can be reached at SteveWoodwardHere@hotmail.com.

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