by Kelly Campbell
If you’re not up to speed on the recent fallout between the PPA and MLP, check out our blog PickleGate 2023: What’s happening with the PPA and MLP? for an overview.
It’s been nearly a month since we found out that the previously-anticipated PPA and MLP merger was no longer happening –– and that the two organizations were at war, competing to sign the best pickleball players.
So, what’s the latest on the fallout? Grab some popcorn and read on as we discuss the apparent rekindling between the PPA and MLP.
The Merge is Back On –– At Least, That’s What We’re Told
On September 13, 2023, Major League Pickleball and Professional Pickleball released a joint press release announcing that they reached an agreement to merge (yes, again). It makes us wonder –– is this for real? Can the two billionaires who back these groups really trust each other after their tumultuous fallout?
More specifically, the press release read, “Merger of Two Largest Pro Pickleball Organizations Is Backed By $50M Investment Led By Private Equity Firm SC Holdings and Financier/MLP Team Owner Al Tylis, Along with PPA Tour Owner Tom Dundon and Various MLP Team Owners.”
The announcement did not address the recent drama and did not include any information about the details of the agreement itself –– whether a contract has been signed, a term sheet, or merely a verbal agreement. It seems like there aren’t any glaring differences between the last time around and this merger. While it’s safe to say that the pickleball community is still a little wary about the deal considering last month’s fallout, if this deal goes through there is a lot to look forward to in the realm of professional pickleball.
The new structure should provide a streamlined schedule and unity via a “single-entity overseeing the two still-distinct brands.” It’s always been a goal to get these two pickleball titans to develop a complementary relationship rather than be at odds with one another. Both formats bring value to the professional pickleball space and inhibit pickleball growth when operating separately by limiting competition between the biggest names in pickleball. With the merge, the two organizations will include a roster of over 150 of the best pickleball players competing under one competitive umbrella in a mix of team and individual events.
“As professional pickleball continues to rapidly grow, we could not be more excited to provide both players and fans with the clarity and consistency of a unified professional pickleball organization,” said Major League Pickleball Founder Steve Kuhn. “This merger will expand and improve opportunities for current and future players, creating a united experience and a better future playing professional pickleball.”
“Over the past few years, we have seen ever-increasing interest from investors, sponsors, fans, and players who understand the immense value in the future of professional pickleball,” said PPA Tour owner Tom Dundon. “The holding company unifying the PPA Tour and MLP will create a streamlined sport for fans and add more meaningful opportunities for player competition, broadcasting rights, and sponsorship throughout the professional pickleball calendar.”
Connor Pardoe took to social media to share, “The pickleball world has been crazy the last three weeks. Today we have clarity. This is an amazing day for the PPA, MLP, players, fans, and the sport of pickleball! I’m looking forward to growing the game of pickleball together.”
The press release also announced the new Board of Directors for the joint organization:
Jason Stein from SC Holdings
D.C. Pickleball Team owner Al Tylis
PPA Tour owner Tom Dundon
MLP founder Steve Kuhn
Former Goldman Sachs Partner Brian Levine
As excited as we are about the anticipated merger, and what it likely means for the future of professional pickleball, we have so many unanswered questions. Who extended the olive (pickle) branch? What does this mean for players who signed to each organization? What security is in place to ensure that a fallout like last month’s doesn’t happen this time around? Can these two organizations really work together after the sneak attack that rocked the pickleball world?
We’ll keep you updated on any future significant changes between MLP and PPA.