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New owners hire two Nike marketing execs for board

By PHIL GULICK

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 12, 2000


For 41 years, the Professional Bowlers Association was a stable platform that launched a number of outstanding players and outlasted all but college football as a television sports attraction.

Now, the organization is undergoing personnel changes that could revitalize the game and take it beyond the mundane TV shows of the past few seasons.

In April, Chris Peters, Mike Slade and Rob Glaser combined their considerable talents and money and purchased the PBA. They promised to make changes that would revolutionize the presentation of professional bowling and its players to the public via television, the Internet and other media.

Peters is an avid bowler and a former Microsoft vice president. Slade was president of Paul Allen's Starwave venture, and Glaser was chairman and CEO of RealNetworks. Peters convinced his friends to accept the challenge of resurrecting the bankrupt PBA.

Last month the trio added two people to its board, tapping Nike for marketing personalities who will explore what they think is professional bowling's untapped potential. Ian Hamilton, former global director of tennis sports marketing for Nike, comes aboard as commissioner. Steve Miller, former global director of sports marketing, becomes president. They will run the PBA's day-to-day operations at its new headquarters in Seattle. Former commissioner Mark Gerberich has been retained as general manager of operations in Akron, Ohio, the PBA's former home.

"Ian and Steve were just the kind of world-class sports marketing experts we were looking for that would execute our vision to combine technology, television and branding to expand the PBA's worldwide fan base," Peters said.

Peters also announced a revamping of the Web site, www.pba.com, to include player statistics and biographies, tournament news and events, real-time chats and TV schedules.

Hamilton and Miller have a history of creating successes out of relatively minor sports entities. Hamilton led Nike's worldwide tennis division from a yearly revenue of $50-million to more than $600-million. Miller boosted U.S. sports marketing to 500-percent growth in the early 1990s. Hamilton and Miller worked together to market some of the world's most recognizable athletes, including tennis great Andre Agassi.

Results of this new brain trust may emerge during the PBA's fall season, which opened Saturday at the Track Canandaigua (N.Y.) Open. The tour runs through November, and for three more months starting in January, which will mark the 39th consecutive year for the PBA on television. ESPN has the contract through the winter tour.

COUNTRY LANES: Cara Honeychurch beat Marianne DiRupo 179-160 to win the Brunswick Women's World Open at Newnan, Ga. Her third career title was worth $14,000. Sebring's Kendra Cameron finished sixth. The Professional Women's Bowling Association tour is at Lancaster, Ohio, for the Columbia 300 Open, which ends today. ... PBA Hall of Famer Johnny Petraglia won the Columbia 300 Senior Open last week in Naples, Fla., beating Barry Gurney 258-211 for $12,000. ... Sunset LanesHammer West of Las Vegas won the ABC Brunswick World Team Challenge Grand Championships last month in Kenner, La. The tentative 2001 BWTC tour opens Jan. 20-21 at Seminole Lanes. ... ESPN2 will cover all 23 PWBA tour stops next year.

- Phil Gulick can be reached at xerxes6@aol.com or xerxes6@juno.com.

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