WTC Not Conceding Penticton

The morph from Ironman Canada to Challenge Penticton isn't, legally speaking, necessarily a done deal. WTC is not giving up on Penticton without a fight.

As many close observers know, the owner of all the North American Ironman races save Louisville, Graham Fraser (pictured), sold his stake in Ironman events to World Triathlon Corporation in January of 2009. Fraser kept only Ironman Canada, and ran it under license from WTC. That license was to run through 2014.

According to Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton, Fraser quietly sold this last of his North American races to WTC in May of this year. "[Fraser] did the deal with WTC in May," said Ashton. "We found out about it in July. If this happened in May, why weren't we notified? All of a sudden, July 30, we get notice that Graham sold the race."

The City of Penticton maintains it had in its agreement with Fraser the right to agree to any assignment of the race to a third party, and Penticton chose not to accept the assignment. From Penticton's point of view, and according to Ashton, "On July 30, Graham repudiated his license, and the City has served Graham a notice of repudiation."

This left the City free, from its perspective, to entertain other suitors, which it obviously did. However, the City maintains it did not run away from Ironman. "We invited WTC not once, but twice, to present to Council," maintains Ashton, "including as late as yesterday, and Andrew [Messick, CEO of WTC, pictured below] flew up and was given an opportunity with Council."

In weighing the various options before it, Ashton says, "The midnight oil has been burnt, including a late decision by Council," that obviously came down in favor of granting a license to produce its 30-year-old triathlon to the Challenge Family group.

But WTC is not yet done. It is considering the possibility of giving the license back to Graham Fraser, which, from WTC's perspective, would "cure" the "breach" that Fraser is now in through assigning his contract with Penticton to a third party without the Penticton's consent. WTC says that giving the licence back to Fraser would not only cure its breach, but now place the City of Penticton in breach, because Fraser's license to produce an Ironman in Penticton runs through 2014.

Ashton's response to this threat is, it's "A lot of sour grapes. We want to give this race back to the athletes. That's what Challenge does."

Would Fraser be willing to accept the license back? By selling this race to WTC, Fraser thought this would be the last Ironman he would produce. What would it take to bring him back into an environment in Penticton that would be certainly hostile, if Penticton was forced to abrogate its deal with Challenge and revert to Ironman?

As regards its legal position, "I'm comfortable with the counsel the City of Penticton has received on this," Ashton insists. He believes Fraser relinquished the license, and that is that. WTC seems to rest in a 30-day time period embedded in the contract to cure the breach.

This comes on the heels of a situation where the parties were reversed. Challenge built a race in Cairns, Queensland, Australia. Challenge Cairns was to take place this past June. In March of this year, prior to the race, WTC purchased USM Events, a race production company that owned, among other events, Challenge Cairns. Felix Walchshofer, managing direction of the Challenge family of events, could not abide the idea of his arch rival owning and producing one of the Challenge Family events. The race morphed into Ironman Cairns. Walchshofer walked away.

"If I were WTC," said Ashton, "I'd take the high road on this." WTC does not see it that way, and appears less resigned than Walchshofer was to concede the loss of a treasured venue.