Change afoot for local marathon

Devine Racing, which engineered an extraordinary evolution of the Las Vegas Marathon but also struggled mightily to meet its financial obligations, will handle all aspects of this year’s Dec. 7 race.

On Dec. 8, the company will no longer have any stake in the event.

The Competitor Group — which oversees the highly successful Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon races — will assume full control of the event going forward.

Devine Racing chairman Chris Devine, whose company brought the race to prominence in 2005 by securing a course that included the Strip, the Fremont Street Experience and business and residential neighborhoods, said Tuesday that making the move was a difficult but necessary decision.

“It was a hard call personally, but the economic dynamics made it a simple one,” said Devine, whose Chicago-based company bought the event in early 2005 from longtime operator and Las Vegas resident Al Boka. “We didn’t have the economic firepower to take the event to the next level.”

That became clear as 2008 progressed. Devine Racing was in arrears to dozens of local, regional and national vendors from the 2007 race and even the 2006 event in some instances.

The company had to sell off several assets, most notably the successful Los Angeles Marathon in September. But those sales — whose numbers weren’t specifically released but were pegged in the double-digit millions by Devine earlier this year — still didn’t gain enough to put Devine Racing on firm enough financial ground in Las Vegas. The company has cleared many of its obligations to vendors, but some substantial payments remain outstanding, and Devine Racing still has had issues regularly meeting payroll with its own employees for the past several months.

“To be candid, I think it was the best thing to do for the race and for the market,” Devine said. “I’m passionate about the sport, and I want to make sure the race is in the right hands going forward, from a stability standpoint.”

Competitor Group chief executive officer Peter Englehart said his company, based in San Diego, already has made the first payment in its confidential agreement to buy the event.

“The deal has officially closed,” Englehart said. “A transfer of moneys has taken place, and there will be further transfers. Devine is totally running the 2008 event, and our side takes over entirely after that. Come Dec. 8, it is our baby.”

And Englehart expects it to be a very large baby, considering his company garnered more than 30,000 entrants earlier this month for the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon — the largest first-time running event ever in the United States. Like Las Vegas, San Antonio offers a marathon and half-marathon.

“We’re obviously very excited. We think it has the potential to be a great event,” said Englehart, who held off on providing further details in the interest of letting Devine Racing reach its finish line with the race. “The gentleman’s agreement is that we don’t want to steal any thunder from Chris and this year’s event.”

Devine said the pending transfer of ownership will in no way affect the quality of this year’s race.

“I think it will be very positive,” he said. “The performance on race day will be similar to last year. The market can expect a high-quality race this year and nothing but improvement for the future.”

That future is something Devine said he’s looking forward to, even though his company no longer will be involved.

“We’ve had some unfortunate situations as far as available capital goes,” he said. “But there are a number of things we’re very proud of that we were able to do. We took this race from one that had 6,000 entrants starting in the desert to one with 11,000 in 2005, and now were up to the high teens (16,000 last year).

“Now, to have the race branded with the Rock ‘n’ Roll brand, a company with hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure, it’s the right place for us to be.”

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

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