Challenge terminates contract with Danish triathlons

Six days after Ironman announced its purchase of the Danish firm YWC Sports and the acquisition of the Challenge Copenhagen and Challenge Aarhus triathlons, the Challenge Family released a statement that asserted that YWC Sports was in breach of a contract that still had two years to run. In the same July 1 statement, the Challenge organization announced the immediate termination of that contract with YWC Sports and the Challenge Copenhagen and Challenge Aarhus races.

The statement effectively rules out the remote possibility that the Copenhagen event scheduled in August might be licensed by Challenge although owned by Ironman. There is precedent. In February 2012, Ironman purchased the rights to USM Events, which organized and ran the new Challenge Cairns triathlon. Ironman CEO Andrew Messick offered to allow Challenge to license that event – but Challenge Family CEO Felix Walchshöfer refused the offer, stating that he did not want to have any Challenge licensed event affiliated with the World Triathlon Corporation.

The July 1 Challenge Family release stated: “The sale by the directors of YWC to the World Triathlon Corporation is understood to put them in breach of a contract that still had two more editions of each race to run. This recent purchase by WTC marks the second time where they have bought companies contracted to Challenge Family with a current agreement in place.”

Slowtwitch made requests via email on Monday and today to ask Challenge Family CEO Walchshöfer to specify what provisions in his contract with YWC made the sale of the company and licensing control of the two Danish races to Ironman in breach of that contract. Slowtwitch has not yet received a response.

When asked by Slowtwitch if he considered that the purchase of YWC Sports and the its ownership of the two Danish races might have constituted a breach by YWC Sports of its contract with the Challenge Family, Ironman CEO Andrew Messick did not answer directly but offered this statement: “We respect Challenge's right to end their license agreement and, effective immediately, are rebranding the race as IRONMAN Copenhagen and are granting it 50 slots to the 2013 IRONMAN World Championships in Kailua-Kona. Beyond that we have no further comment.”

The Challenge Family worldwide series of races continues rapid growth and now has events in Germany, Holland, Austria, Canada, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Taiwan. Walchshöfer said that Challenge would be announcing more new races on Friday, July 5.

Walchshöfer made further comments that reflected the historic rocky relationship between his Challenge organization and Ironman: “Challenge Copenhagen is a race we were proud of. It changed the face of triathlon in Denmark, growing an industry that was previously very limited. We are of course disappointed by the behaviour of both parties in this transaction. We are also disappointed for our athletes who made the former Challenge Copenhagen the success it is and entered a Challenge race in August but are now faced with a very different reality. We are extremely sorry for them to terminate the contract but the alternative is untenable.”

Ironman Copenhagen race director Thomas Veje Olsen will remain in charge of the race under Ironman.