On Saturday, the American Ultimate Disc League announced a major leadership change, as a small group of investors purchased a large majority stake of the league from now-former President Josh Moore. Moore will also step down from his role of Commissioner, turning his league over completely to new owners.
December 24, 2012 by Charlie Eisenhood in News with 5 comments
On Saturday, the American Ultimate Disc League announced a major leadership change, as a small group of investors purchased a large majority stake of the league from now-former President Josh Moore. The investment group, led by Toronto Rush Chairman Rob Lloyd, who is also a high-powered executive for the multinational Cisco (which earned $46 billion in revenues last year), will pump money into the young league.
“That funding will be used of purposes of running the AUDL, which includes funding the league operations, funding a national marketing program, and funding, most importantly, the opportunity to provide a revenue share program to the teams that didn’t require their buy-in,” said Steve Gordon, owner of the Windy City Wildfire franchise and the newly-announced Commissioner of the league.
Lloyd and Gordon together started Ultimate Xperience Ventures, LLC. (UXV), a new organization which serves as a holding company for the investors in the league. The group bought 90% of the league from Moore after Lloyd tapped into his network of business contacts to lead a round of funding. The only UXV investors affiliated with the league are Lloyd and Gordon; the rest are personal acquaintances of Lloyd. Gordon and Lloyd declined to announce what UXV paid for the shares of the league.
“It was clear that the AUDL needed a jumpstart to take advantage of the momentum in the sport,” said Lloyd. “It clearly needed some capital and the ability to do some marketing…It just made sense.” He will serve mostly as an adviser going forward, and won’t have much to do with daily operations. His work at Cisco consumes most of his time.
The league structure will not change significantly from what was described late last month. An “Executive Council” of seven elected team owners will be charged with all major league decision making. Gordon, serving as Commissioner, will carry out the board’s decisions.
The revenue-sharing agreement, however, is new. Teams will get back 60 percent of all national league revenues after expenses, giving every market a “foundation” from which to work. That revenue will come from everything from sponsorship to licensing to new franchise sales. All league earnings will go into a central fund from which expenses will be deducted. 60 percent of the remaining money will be distributed evenly between the teams; the remaining 40 percent will go to UXV, providing a return to the investors.
“We looked at pro sports across many sports…,” said Gordon. “We analyzed all of the models are out there. We found the one that we believe made most sense which was allow for the owners in the individual markets to be able to reap the rewards of the things that they do in their markets yet still have an opportunity to participate on the national side that gives them a fundamental base to work off of.”
Team owners have now signed new Territory License Agreements, which enact these changes, along with a rewritten portion of the non-compete clause. The notorious “100 mile radius,” which caused the lawsuit between the league and its two teams, is gone. It has been replaced with a more specifically defined territory, usually a county or state, that is protected from league expansion.
These changes were months in the making. Sources familiar with the situation said that discussions began within weeks of the end of the first season, which concluded in early August. The result is a sports league that looks a lot like more traditional ones in the industry. Despite adding an investor core and implementing revenue sharing, individual team owners still maintain control over their markets. That continues to be the main difference between the AUDL and Major League Ultimate.
“The MLU is very much top-down; we’re more bottom-up,” said Gordon. “Under the new management of the AUDL, we still have a bottom-up approach. But I would say that we’re going to establish a bit more of a base, which is why the revenue share plan is there, why the national marketing plan is there. We’ll also centralize some of the decisions at the league level.”
The league has changed dramatically in just six months. Although Moore will maintain a ten percent stake in the league, he will no longer control strategic decisions. He will continue to be involved in a small business consulting role.
At first, Moore was hesitant to relinquish power. But, sources explained, he saw the need for new leadership and eventually came around. “Josh could see that things were stepping up and moving forward,” said Lloyd.
Finally finishing this deal has made team owners much more excited for the future. “We’re three to four years ahead of where we were when I joined the league,” said Tim DeByl, owner of the Madison Radicals.
Now the league will begin to rebuild its brand with the lawsuit — and most of the first year leadership — in the rear-view mirror. “I think we’re in it for the long-term,” said Lloyd. “I think the investment we’re making now is for the long-term development of the league.”
“I’m extremely excited about not only the direction of the AUDL but of ultimate as a whole,” said Gordon. “I feel the game has so much to offer to so many people which is why we want to expand the footprint of the game…We’re rearing to go to get started doing exactly that.”
Moore did not respond to a request for comment.