Who Will Run the Malibu Triathlon?

The Malibu Triathlon remains in uncertain status as the Malibu City Council adjourned without awarding a race permit last night, leaving two groups — Super League Triathlon, who acquired the rights to the race in 2020, and the Zuma Foundation, led by former owner of the race Michael Epstein — in limbo over who will produce a race in Malibu.

The Council, after a more than five hour meeting, arrived at the Road Race Permit question on the agenda. The Council was to vote on the awarding of two Road Race Temporary Use Permits available within Malibu — one for a running event, and one for the triathlon.

More than 18 different stakeholders were scheduled for comment, including those from Malibu Race Series LLC (who would produce the run race), Zuma Foundation, and Super League, which would have pushed the meeting and vote until no earlier than 11:30 PM at night. The Council then voted to adjourn, scheduling the Road Race Permit vote for the next meeting on January 8th.

How We Got Here

This is a classic case of the question: “when you put on a race, what do you own?’ And how that has unfolded in dramatic fashion in Malibu.

According to documents provided by the city, Malibu entered into a ten year agreement to produce the Malibu Triathlon with Michael Epstein Sports Productions in 2012. Epstein owned all of the intellectual property associated with the event, as well as the contract with the city to host the event. The city notes that prior to the sale of the Malibu event, the contract and permit were transferred between other agencies than Michael Epstein Sports Productions.

In 2020, Super League acquired the intellectual property of the Malibu Triathlon, as well as the remaining three years of the Agreement to host the event, from Motiv Sports, who had acquired the event from Epstein.

In November 2022, Malibu reviewed a proposal from Super League for a new five-year Agreement. The Council, upon review of the proposal, had questions surrounding payment values to the city, as well as auditing the donation figures the Triathlon had made to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. It voted to establish an Ad Hoc Committee to review the permits and potential extension with Super League.

Councilmembers Paul Grisanti and Marianne Riggins were appointed to head the Road Race Committee. Their conclusion following the review was to establish a request for proposal (RFP) in the August 28th, 2023 City Council meeting. Super League representatives, along with Epstein, spoke at this meeting in support of the RFP process. Epstein at that meeting, though, made note of Super League being based outside of the United States and touted his own credentials as a race director — despite having sold the race before. Mayor Bruce Silverstein raised questions of sportswashing with regard to Super League’s event in Neom and associating the Malibu name with it.

The Council approved opening an RFP at that meeting, with proposals received from Epstein’s Zuma Foundation, Super League, Malibu Race Series LLC, and an unnamed organization. The Ad Hoc Committee has recommended that the two permits be awarded to Malibu Race Series LLC and the Zuma Foundation, citing the limitation of road closures, partnerships with local organizations, and beneficiaries of local non-profits. Notably absent is a mention of the long-time beneficiary, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

We plan on attending the January meeting to further report on this ongoing story.

Photos Courtesy of Super League