Strike That, Reverse It — Malibu Re-Opening Race RFP

In a stunning reversal, the Malibu City Council refused to sign the agreement awarding the city’s sole triathlon permit to the Zuma Foundation and will instead immediately re-open the RFP process.

In January of this year, the Council awarded the sole triathlon permit available in the city to the Zuma Foundation, headed by former race director Michael Epstein. This was over the objections of Malibu Triathlon IP holders supertri, who had acquired the event from Motiv Sports (who had bought it from Epstein) and produced over the past few years.

However, in April, the Zuma Foundation informed the city and athletes that there would be no event in 2024, citing ongoing road construction and athlete safety as primary factors. The city had withheld signing the contract with Zuma Foundation, which would have lasted until 2028, due to concerns over insurance and the postponement of the 2024 race.

On May 28th, the City Council met to discuss their options regarding the event. Representatives of both supertri and the Zuma Foundation spoke. supertri’s comments were on the long-term tradition of the race, the relationship with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and a minimum annual donation of $100,000 to Malibu based charities. supertri also offered the ability to produce a smaller-scale event in 2024. Meanwhile, the Zuma Foundation’s comments were pointed at the ongoing construction on the Pacific Coast Highway and assorted bridges and overpasses, and that the event must not take place until 2025.

Councilmember Bruce Silverstein led off the debate: “We’re not being asked to approve not having the race. They’re not having a race. They’ve decided that unilaterally. If there were a contract in place, it’d be a breach, but there’s not even a contract in place…

…I feel like we’ve gotten our faces slapped.”

Mayor Pro Tem Doug Stewart noted that he had been contracted by directors of the Zuma Foundation and was inclined to conclude “whether this is an operational problem, or is this a safety issue as they have said.” Ultimately, he said, Zuma Foundation had won the contract in 2024, but it would be up to them to prove that they were still the best organization to earn the contract in 2025 and beyond given the circumstances. “It’s up to them to convince us why they should do it next year, when they didn’t do it this year.”

Mayor Steve Uhring noted the prior approval process — requiring more than two hours in open debate regarding the contract — and then the unilateral cancellation by Zuma Foundation, as well as Epstein’s prior sale of the event and now attempt to re-win the permit — as factors in his decision making to “start from scratch all over again.”

“It’s a brand new ballgame. Both parties have to come back, start all over again and explain why we should give it to one of them.” And responding to Councilwoman Marianne Riggins question on “the work we did?” Uhring replied immediately: “Gone.”

With the re-opening of the RFP, would supertri consider bidding to return to Malibu? In a statement, supertri said, “We note the decision of Malibu Council to return the status of a potential triathlon event in the City to RFP. supertri is the legal owner of the Malibu Triathlon IP, proud supporters of the event and has retained strong relations with the local community. We eagerly await the contents of the RFP to allow us to fully consider our options.”

Photo: supertri