Dozens of local companies and organizations that do business with the Las Vegas Marathon are finally getting what they want from the event’s owner.
Devine Racing, the Chicago-based company that bought the race in 2005 and has been in arrears to vendors to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars, has finally begun to distribute about $300,000 of what it stated was about $550,000 in obligations.
Last week, Devine Racing sold the Los Angeles Marathon — easily its most attractive and lucrative event, and one that garners 25,000 participants annually — to media executives Russ Pillar and David Kingsdale.
Las Vegas area vendors began receiving overdue payments — some for services rendered for the December 2007 race, and some dating to the December 2006 running — in the past few days, via FedEx overnight or in several cases hand-delivered by race director Terry Collier.
"It was in the back of my mind that we weren’t going to see anything for a while," said Paul Loebig, general manager of Bailey’s Sweeper Service, which was due $11,200 from last year’s race. "Then they called on Friday. I was very surprised. I didn’t expect anything as fast as we got it."
Devine Racing’s extreme financial woes in Las Vegas were reported by the Review-Journal on May 14. Following that report, company officials had a discussion with Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid — a major proponent of the event — in which Reid expressed his displeasure and demanded a speedy resolution. Devine Racing proposed a June 15 deadline, which it apparently narrowly met with last week’s sale of the L.A. Marathon.
Reid is waiting to comment further until he can evaluate Devine Racing’s progress in making payments.
Devine Racing CEO Chris Devine, who had been unable to comment as the company worked out its financial problems, was thrilled to be moving forward toward this year’s Dec. 7 race. But he was equally humble.
"I have been a number of things throughout this process, most of all totally embarrassed," Devine said, alluding not only to vendor issues, but to problems meeting payroll for his own employees. "But we are wholly focused on fixing things in Las Vegas."
Devine insisted that the Las Vegas race has now become his company’s top priority in the wake of the sale of the Los Angeles race and the Chicago Half-Marathon, deals that netted "double-digit millions." "We just screwed it up in Los Angeles," said Devine, acknowledging several financial issues with that event, as well. "In Los Angeles, we didn’t grow the business, not by one entrant or even one dollar.
"But we’ve been lucky enough with the support of the Las Vegas community that we’ve taken this event from 6,000 entrants to 17,000 entrants. Los Angeles was No. 1 for us in terms of revenue and popularity. I was willing to sell that marathon in order to take the capital from the sale and use it to focus on the Las Vegas Marathon. … Las Vegas is where we have the most potential."
Apparently, even vendors who were owed money have regained some faith in the event. Several contacted Tuesday indicated they were indeed paid and that they would be willing to provide services for this year’s race — provided there are some guarantees.
"I’m not going to do anything until I get at least half the money down and in the bank," said Loebig, adding he’s still due several hundred dollars in late fees. "I don’t know whether I’m gonna bust his butt on that or not. But I like having our trucks out there."
Todd Wirth, owner of Graphics 2000, received about $5,000 Monday, a payment overdue by 18 months. Yet he sounded optimistic about coming back after flatly refusing Devine Racing’s interest in retaining him last year.
"Hopefully, they change their ways, and we’ll take it step-by-step and see how it goes," Wirth said.
Devine said there will indeed be a new operating procedure for dealing with local vendors.
"There are a couple different ways we are going to approach our vendors," he said. "The first is, where possible, we will have face-to-face meetings to pay them. But second, and more important, we’re going to prove ourselves by paying in advance. … There will be some percentage put down (on all contracts). We will create a comfort level that is acceptable to us and the vendors."
That would mark a big shift from the company’s first three years since taking over the race, as it rarely agreed to any upfront money unless pressed to do so — as it was by the city of Las Vegas, which got nearly $100,000 in advance of the 2007 race and another $60,000 less than 30 days later.
Dozens of businesses remain to be paid, including a few companies that declined comment but whose total bill runs into six figures. And 2007 men’s overall winner Christopher Cheboiboch is still due his $20,000 purse, plus an undisclosed appearance fee, according to agent Tom Ratcliffe, who said he still has not been contacted by Devine Racing.
However, most of those cited in the R-J’s May 14 report have received payment, including the Las Vegas Track Club, due $16,575 for the past two years of organizing the Roadrunners program, which helped hundreds of local runners through six months of preparation for the race.
Though long overdue, the payment was timed perfectly.
"We’re having our awards banquet in a couple of weeks, giving out $11,000 in scholarships to high school runners in our club," president Steve Thornock said. "We were going to have to cash in a $5,000 CD to do that, so the timing couldn’t be better."
Contact reporter Patrick Everson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0353.