BY BOB JOHNSON, EDITOR
CHRIS PETERS, the entrepreneur who organized a partnership group that saved the Professional Bowlers Association from going under 10 years ago when the organization was on the verge of bankruptcy, will play a more limited role in the future, PBA Commissioner Fred Schreyer confirmed today.
“Chris does not want to continue to participate at the levels he has in the past,” Schreyer said. “It’s likely he won’t play the same role going forward, and won’t participate in future financing rounds.”
Peters and partners Rob Glaser and Mike Slade have poured tens of millions of dollars into the PBA over the past decade, seeking a business model that would transform it from a money-bleeding sports league into a money-making one. But according to Schreyer, the PBA has finished only one fiscal year in the black during that time.
The PBA was able to survive the sudden economic downturn that gripped the United States at the end of 2008 primarily because a number of long-term sponsorship deals were in place. That made for relatively smooth sailing through the 2008-09 season.
But this season, H&R Block, CLR, Edward Jones and Flomax all have departed as sponsors, leaving the PBA with revenues far below expectations.
“As a whole, the last four years have been a lot better than the first six,” Schreyer noted. “We now have a pretty good idea of how this business performs in a normal economic situation. But we’re incurring a more sizable loss than was projected and budgeted for, and that eats into your capital.”
Does this mean the end is near for the PBA?
While Peters, who has been “the face” of the partnership group, is backing off, the two other partners remain — and remain committed, according to Schreyer.
“They’re not going away, and they remain very supportive,”
Schreyer said of Glaser and Slade.
“They have a lot invested, so they’re not going to walk away from their investment. But at the same time, they’re evaluating how well their investment is performing, as one would in any business activity. I can assure you that they’ll not invest the same amount of money over the next 10 years as they did during the last 10.”
Schreyer emphasized that there is no rift among the partners.
“There’s no internal dissension, and they’re united in their belief that pro bowling can be a viable sport,” he said. “It’s just a matter of who wants to continue to accept financial responsibility for supporting the PBA. Chris is going to play a less prominent role, and exactly what that means remains to be seen.”
Meanwhile, planning for the 2010-11 season continues, and the PBA will meet with players next Wednesday to outline those plans.
A detailed report on Peters’ plans and the outlook for 2010-11 will appear in the April issue of Bowlers Journal International.