The fact is that the City of Los Angeles Marathon has been a diamond in the rough since its inception. I remember running the race in 1987 and wondering why so many people had dropped out in the first few miles. It was like no other race in the country and the level of frustration among sponsors with the first management team, Bill Burke and Marie Patrick are legendary.
Chris Devine and his team came in 2004, but, in retrospect, they seem to have been outplayed by Mr. Burke and his team. The promised changes did not happen and the marathon slinked along, hampered by the other issues that Devine Racing was facing during their tenure to change the face of race marketing. Grand ideas need money and someone who can manage the events and deliver the services. While three capable Presidents went through Devine, the events continued to be harmed.
Over the last two years, Devine Racing has been dealing with late payments to elite runners, contractors and unhappy sponsors. Their ability to complete the sail of the Los Angeles Marathon will hopefully provide Devine with the cash to clear up its bills and for the LA Marathon to become what it should be-one of the major world marathons.
It has always confused me why there are not planes of Japanese marathoners coming to LA, as happens in Honolulu. LA just could not develop that type of relationship. Perhaps under Going the Distance and Mr. Frank McCourt, who is financing the purchase, we can see the LA Marathon achieve the heights that the late Fred Lebow of the NYRR always thought it could when he began helping Bill Burke in the late eighties.
The City of LA Marathon has always had the promise to be a gem on the marathon circuit, perhaps under someone who understands business and civic pride, it can achieve what many have thought was its destiny--to be a truly world class marathon!
COMPANY LED BY FRANK McCOURT COMPLETES PURCHASE OF
THE OPERATING RIGHTS TO THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES MARATHON
Unanimous Approval by Los Angeles City Council
and Agreement with Devine Racing Management Finalizes Asset Transfer
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (September 25, 2008)— Frank McCourt, through locally-based Going the Distance, LLC, has purchased the rights to operate The City of Los Angeles Marathon from Chicago-based Devine Racing Management. McCourt reached final agreement with Devine Racing Management, which has owned the rights to the race since 2004, following the Los Angeles City Council's unanimous approval of the transfer on Friday, September 19.
McCourt, who is providing all of the financial backing for the effort, views the marathon as an important civic asset that will grow to have an even greater positive impact on the City of Los Angeles, attracting more runners, visitors, and corporate sponsors to Los Angeles from around the world. This growth has the potential to stimulate economic activity and boost local tax revenue, while benefiting local community and non-profit organizations dedicated to youth, fitness, and health.
Los Angeles entrepreneurs Russ Pillar and David Kingsdale, who formed Going the Distance and initially approached McCourt with the opportunity to purchase the rights to operate the marathon, will jointly run the holding company that owns the rights and will operate the race.
"Los Angeles is a world-class city and deserves a world-class race," McCourt said. "I'm looking forward to working closely with Russ and David, Honda Motors and all the other wonderful sponsors, as well as the incredible volunteer base to build this event into one of which we all can be proud. I would like to thank Chris Devine for helping us reach an agreement that puts the interests of the City of Los Angeles first."
The 2009 race and all subsequent races during the contract period that expires in 2015 will take place on the Monday of Presidents Day weekend in an effort to accommodate clergy of all faiths for whom a weekend event was problematic. In 2009, the race will be held on February 16.
In the 23 years since the marathon's inaugural run, the event has grown to become one of the largest organized road races in the country, with more than 20,000 participants, 12,000 volunteers, and one million spectators along the course route. The new ownership team intends to implement a number of initiatives that will, over time, create a world-class experience for runners, sponsors and local communities.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa praised McCourt for taking the initiative to improve this important civic event. "Frank McCourt has proven himself a great steward of one of our city's crown jewels – the Dodgers – and I have great expectations for what he will do with the LA Marathon. I look forward to joining him at the starting line on February 16, 2009, and encouraging the thousands of Angelenos who will navigate the 26.2 mile course."
"It's been a pleasure negotiating this transfer to Frank McCourt," said Chris Devine, founder of Devine Racing Management. "The LA Marathon is a wonderful race, and we wish Frank McCourt and his team much success as they endeavor to take this race to the next level."
The new ownership group will continue to conduct a 5K race to support the fundraising efforts of non-profit organizations designated among the Marathon's Official Charities. At the same time, Going the Distance will pursue a variety of community-based initiatives—including new school-based race programs to encourage health and wellness, new community celebrations and events around Marathon weekend, and new levels of connectedness to local charities in order to increase their profiles and help them meet their goals.
"The City of Los Angeles views the Marathon as a city treasure and we are pleased that the McCourt family has decided to expand their sports interests in the City of LA," said Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks. "We look forward to a long-term and positive relationship that will cause this marathon to grow and to become the number one marathon in the world. This new contract satisfies the interests of all involved—the city, the owners, the residents and the religious communities."
"We share Frank McCourt's vision of creating lifelong health and wellness habits that strengthen individuals, families, and the communities in which they live," said Going the Distance co-CEO Russ Pillar. "We intend to use the Marathon as a platform to empower people to train for and reach goals they otherwise might not have thought attainable."
About Frank McCourt
Frank H. McCourt Jr. became the fourth owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise in January 2004. Under his leadership, the Dodgers have committed to bringing championship baseball back to Los Angeles, improving the experience for Dodger fans, including the revitalization of
Dodger Stadium, and expanding the Dodgers' participation in the community. During the 2007
season, a club record of more than 3.85 million fans visited Dodger Stadium, the second straight year that fans have set the record. Together with Dodger President Jamie McCourt, he has been an active participant in Los Angeles civic life, and has expanded the Dodgers Dream Foundation while founding ThinkCure, the team's official charity. McCourt's business endeavours also include more than 30 years at the helm of The McCourt Company, which specializes in the development of major commercial real estate projects.
About Going the Distance Principals Russ Pillar and David Kingsdale
As the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Prodigy Internet, the Virgin Entertainment Group, the CBS Internet Group, and the Viacom Digital Media Group, Russ Pillar has led a variety of consumer-branded businesses to lasting success. His partner, David Kingsdale, founded Stopwatch Entertainment and then sold it to Premier Retail Networks, the nation's largest out-of-home alternative media network. Both executives are based in Los Angeles; they formed Going the Distance to purchase and manage The City of Los Angeles Marathon.