Sal Johnson’s piece goes into much depth about the current LPGA kerfuffle. Of interest to many will be a nice recap of Bivens’ track record to date, a rough and tumble timeline to say the least that has left “Brand Lady,” as blogger and former SI writer Geoff Shackelford derisively labels her, with very few friends.
One thing we learned early about Bivens was that she isn’t very “golfsavoy” and it’s been a big learning curve for her to not only learn about the LPGA but learn how to deal with the people that run golf tournaments and players needs. Bivens doesn’t have the great personality that her three previous predecessors had, dealing with people has been an uncomfortable act and frankly she doesn’t have many friends especially in the media.
Bivens hasn’t spent the time in trying to erase these deficiency and her total approach tends to give negative vibes instead of instilling confidence in people. Some examples of this, in her first six months on the job she tried to strong arm media companies in the fact that they had to give away their rights to images and stories. Instead of trying to meet with the people in control, explain how the LPGA needed more control of their images worldwide, she put into effect rules and regulations that media companies felt would harm them and take away a lot of their control. Bivens lost that battle and at the same time didn’t make many friends in the media.
Bivens also has tried to strong arm the folks that owned LPGA events into paying higher rights fees. Instead of really taking the time and massaging those folks, Bivens just told them that for the good of the LPGA they needed to pay up or risk losing their event. On the surface the LPGA got more money as tournaments paid up but in the back rooms those that were forced to pay weren’t very happy in the tactics.
Another example of Bivens not handling things very well is her dealings with television executives in trying to attract more money. Right now the only entity that pays the LPGA for rights fees is Korea and Japan. The LPGA doesn’t control the U.S. Women’s Open and part of the Ricoh Women’s British Open. The events that they control are mostly on ESPN and Golf Channel, with some events on NBC and CBS. All these events are time buys, the LPGA pays the network a fee for the time plus expenses in covering the events and the LPGA get reimbursed through selling the time. Bivens has been headstrong and told her players that she will be looking to secure rights fees for LPGA television properties in 2010.
In getting this going it’s been rumored that she has shunned both ESPN and Golf Channel to the point that they may not want to deal with her, again Biven’s rough personality not winning many friends. It’s also rumored that she is working on a deal with NBC and CBS for about 11 events, but it doesn’t look like she will get a rights fee for this and is trying to get some fancy financial deals in place, going to the tournament owners and sponsors for the money in order to try and coax NBC and CBS into a deal. The jury is still out on these dealings but could blow up to the fact that to coax ESPN and Golf Channel back Bivens would have to sweeten the pot shall we say.
Lastly Bivens seems to have a problem getting sponsors to pony up in a very rough economy. Yes this has always been a problem for the LPGA but it seems worst now. Already sponsors have left, the Ginn Tribute, Fields Open, Safeway International are gone for 2009. The sponsors of the SemGroup Championshhip filed for Chapter 11 so it looks like that sponsor and even could be gone.