Further Update: with more contract details emerging for players, we put out a new article this morning you can find here
The Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) has been making some big waves in the sport. They have locked up at least 22 of the best players to play almost exclusively on the PPA and have gone their own route with the serve rules for the pro division in 2022. Apparently, there has been much more going on behind the scenes as we have received information that the Pardoe family has sold the PPA to Tom Dundon. We are also told that Connor Pardoe has retained some equity in the PPA and will stay on to help run things in some capacity for a period of at least 3 years, possibly more.
It has just been made public that Dundon has also purchased Pickleball Central and Pickleball Tournaments.com software. This would mean that the PPA, Pickleball Central and Pickleball Tournaments will all be owned by one entity. This would represent a massive move, by a guy who has a ton of money and is obviously interested in using that capital on professional sports, to go all-in on pickleball. We don’t have any idea of the dollar figures involved for the entire purchase by Dundon, but it’s safe to say that he must see something in the sport to make this investment.
This is huge news for the sport as we continue to see pickleball garner more mainstream media attention. Dundon is a real player in the sports world. In 2017, Dundon became the majority owner of the Carolina Hurricanes and he completed the purchase of all minority shares of the NHL franchise earlier in 2021. Dundon’s name may be more familiar to folks due to his involvement in providing a $250 million investment/line of credit to the now defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF) back in 2019. He was announced as the new chairman of the AAF in February 2019 and pulled funding from the league before their week 9 games were played in early April 2019.
While the PPA outwardly has worked hard to provide an image of growth and success, we have it on good information that the PPA has been operating in the red (i.e. losing money). From paying players to TV deals to investing in grand venues, the PPA has not been profitable, which is what makes this purchase from Dundon extra fascinating. With the purchases of Pickleball Central and Pickleball Tournaments, as well though, one wonders if he isn’t just trying to use the PPA and it’s access to top players to market, grow and enhance Pickleball Central and Pickleball Tournaments.
A big question that comes from this is whether new ownership will change the way the PPA operates at all. Where the PPA has excelled has been their relationships with top players, trying to be innovative like implementing Championship Sunday and doing their best to make pickleball a truly professional experience with the best players. The flip side of that coin is that they operate with a very singular focus. There does not appear to be a great deal of interest in providing transparency and collaborating with others outside of the PPA. As noted, with trying to present an image of professionalism comes financial implications.
It is clear that Dundon had no issue pulling financing from the AAF and one of our first thoughts is whether he would be apt to the same with the PPA if being profitable can’t be sorted out in the short to medium term future. But that’s a lot of speculating when we have little information about this transaction itself and Dundon’s desire to make the pickleball investment a success. This appears to be bigger than just getting involved in pickleball for Dundon and it’s possible that the landscape of pro pickleball could be forever changed as a result of this.
UPDATE: This is the official word from Connor Pardoe on Facebook as of just past 2:00 am EST:
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