Partnership ensures financial stability for Las Vegas Marathon

The financially troubled owner of the Las Vegas Marathon has agreed to a partnership designed to finally put the event on terra firma for this year’s Dec. 7 race and beyond.

Devine Racing, which in the past year has struggled to meet financial obligations with its top two events in the Los Angeles Marathon and the Las Vegas Marathon, has brought on the Competitor Group Inc. as a partner for the Las Vegas Marathon.

The multimillion-dollar sale of the L.A. race last month, to a group headed by Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, still wasn’t enough to get the Las Vegas event back on solid ground.

So Devine Racing chairman Chris Devine realized it was time to face the music, by partnering with the San Diego-based company that owns and operates the highly successful Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons.

With that, the Las Vegas Marathon has assured itself long-term stability with a company that operates 20 events across the country, including 11 large events, that draw 250,000 competitors annually. Beginning in 2009, it will be called the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon.

"It was a (result) of soul searching I did," Devine said Saturday in announcing the partnership. "Las Vegas deserves a group like Competitor being involved. That’s how we take this race to a place we know it can go."

That soul searching took some time, though. Several months ago, the Competitor Group was among those vying for rights to the Los Angeles Marathon and also had expressed interest in the Las Vegas Marathon. But neither of those overtures went forward at that time.

"We looked at Los Angeles with Chris back in the spring, but it just didn’t fit into our plans," said Peter Englehart, chief executive officer of the Competitor Group. "And the reason we had never (pursued) Las Vegas before was because Chris said it wasn’t a property he wanted to part with. But he finally said, ‘OK, let’s talk.’"

That was welcome news for Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid, who has been one of the most ardent supporters of the Las Vegas Marathon. Devine Racing’s backlog of payments due — to runners, dozens of vendors and even its own employees in L.A. and Las Vegas — finally came to a head for Reid in late August, when he insisted that the Chicago-based company put up a $3 million bond to guarantee all costs of the 2008 race would be covered.

Shortly after that, Devine got serious about getting a partner to stabilize the event and negate the need for the bond. Reid did his best to patiently bide his time.

"I’ve known for the last several weeks that there were ongoing discussions, and I tried to ensure that the public interest was taken care of," Reid said. "From the beginning (of the discussions), I tried to make sure those who provided services to the Las Vegas Marathon are paid, and that going forward, we would never be in that (negative financial) position again.

"The community has to believe in the marathon, and it couldn’t believe in the marathon without those problems being fixed. My job was to push the race to the place it needed to be. And the Competitor Group will provide the assurances the community needs in terms of financing."

Englehart and Devine stressed the importance of Reid’s involvement as the negotiations progressed.

"Our discussions with Rory Reid have been very important," Devine said. "We came to the conclusion that this race, in order to prosper, needed a stable foundation. This (agreement) seemed to be the best for us, to help co-manage this race this year, after exploring multiple options.

"Rory has an interest in making sure that the community is served well by this event on every level, and he has been extremely supportive of this."

Devine and Englehart said the plan includes provisions for clearing up the event’s overdue financial obligations and for ensuring timely future payments to all entities involved with the marathon and half-marathon.

"There are several (vendors) left to be paid, and we have a plan to take care of all that," Englehart said.

As Devine noted, the Competitor Group and Devine Racing will operate the event as a partnership this year, and terms of that agreement were confidential. The two companies still are discussing what the arrangement will be for 2009 and beyond.

Regardless, Englehart said he is confident the event has a bright future and in due time could rival his company’s biggest ventures: the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon, which drew 31,000 entrants in January for its full and half-marathon; the Country Music Marathon, which also drew 31,000 for full and half-marathons in April in Nashville, Tenn.; and the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon, which netted 22,000 in June for its full marathon.

The Las Vegas event, which has a full and half-marathon, attracted approximately 17,000 entrants last year.

With eight weeks until this year’s race, Englehart harbors high hopes for the first weekend in December.

"In doing our research, we got pretty comfortable pretty quickly that we could bring runners to Las Vegas for a long weekend," said Englehart, whose company will launch Rock ‘n’ Roll events in San Antonio and Seattle within the next year. "And we’re going to have a very good race in Las Vegas in 2008. We need to make sure the runners are aware of that."

That’s more than acceptable to Reid for an event that a few months ago was mired in debt and bad publicity.

"I just think this is a very welcome turn of events," he said.

"The elements that ensure a world-class event are now in place here, and I definitely think this will be a world-class event going forward."

Contact reporter Patrick Everson at peverson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0353.

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