Now I'm sure that the LPGA Carolyn Bivens inherited was far from perfect and that as with any organization, some change was necessary. But if you believe BusinessWeek (and that's hard to do considering how they pandered to ranking partner ESPN), you would be under the impression that the LPGA Tour was a complete and utter disaster and that her initiatives have completely turned things around.
Is it me or does Dean Foust's breathless piece reads a bit too much like an official LPGA press release:
If you think the inauspicious start chastened Bivens, think again. The LPGA chief makes no apologies for rattling cages at the 58-year-old tour, telling more than one interviewer: "I didn't take the job to be voted Miss Congeniality." She sees her game-changing overhaul as crucial to making sure the players reap their fair share of the spoils from the growing fan interest in the LPGA. "There were a number of people invested in maintaining the status quo," says Bivens. "It would have been criminal not to change the business model. The value of the LPGA had changed exponentially, and the contracting and the fees hadn't caught up to that."
Ah the value. Of course.
The tour Bivens inherited was far from healthy. Since 2001, the number of tournaments had shrunk from 40 to 35, and interest among TV networks was so limited that the LPGA not only didn't receive rights fees but had to buy air time to broadcast. The tour couldn't even afford to provide health care or retirement plans to its players.
And that has changed?
Perhaps more important, the LPGA didn't control any of the tournaments on its calendar. That left it vulnerable to the whims of tournament operators. For example, in 2006, CBS decided to move the final rounds of the McDonald's LPGA Championship to early afternoon—a time slot that was clearly unpalatable to the tour. NBC was willing to air the tournament in a better slot for $1.5 million. But the tournament's owner opted for The Golf Channel, which cost much less—about $300,000—but could deliver only a quarter of the NBC audience.
From Day One, Bivens moved fast to reshape the LPGA. She replaced the exiting staffers with a team heavy on marketers and intellectual-property lawyers who could help strike better deals with sponsors, licensees, and networks. For players, she hired a "branding coach" to help enhance their marketability. What's more, Bivens gradually hiked the sanctioning fees charged to the tournament owners to $100,000, from the $10,000 or so many had paid—a fee that wasn't enough to cover the cost of setting up the course and providing weekend child care for players. That triggered a backlash among tournament operators, but many players backed Bivens. "In the past I think our leadership was in a position of wanting to please too much. She wanted to do things differently," says tour veteran Wendy Ward.
I always forget that all change is progress! Stupid me.
This was also curious, since the ADT started under the prior regime:
To that end, she has already gained control of the season-ending ADT Championship held in mid-November in West Palm Beach, which pays two-thirds of its $1.55 million purse to the winner (winners usually get 15% of the purse). That disproportionate payout upset some older tour players, but their complaints have fallen on deaf ears. One more reason Carolyn Bivens won't be winning that congeniality award anytime soon.