Ironman CEO Starts a Disastrous Thread on Slowtwitch

The CEO of Ironman, Andrew Messick, stopped by the Slowtwitch forums to start a thread titled, “Meanwhile in Canada…”

We had the following exchange:

CEO: Besides IMLP, last Sunday was IM Canada, a race with a $75k pro prize purse that paid 8 deep. We had 8 male pro finishers and 7 female pro finishers. Every pro finisher got a check. And for the women, there was no one to give the 8th place check to.

TRS: That’s wonderful. Can you talk to Jeff Edwards (VP Operations for Ironman North America) for me? I would like my check back. 

CEO: You want it back? I thought that the idea was to give it away.

TRS: You’re too clever by a half.

Let me break character and explain a few things that you don’t seem to be grasping. 300 of your customers contributed their hard earned money in a tremendous show of support for the struggling professional triathlete. Thousands more from all over the world used social media to voice their support. We admire, respect and appreciate the talent, hard work and dedication of these athletes and the value they add, in terms of excitement and atmosphere, to the events we choose.

Someone with the same respect for these athletes may have approached our little stunt like this: “We respect our athletes and value the input from our loyal customers. Ironman understands that there is room for improvement in developing our talented pros and we are working internally and with select members of the pro ranks toward a better way. Thank you to the donors for supporting these 7th place finishers. As an organization we recognize your support for the socioeconomic well-being of the athletes and we will consider your voice moving forward.”

Instead, we got something similar to, “DON’T YOU HAVE A JOB?”

IM Canada was an outlier and it might be fair to say that Lake Placid was an outlier too. We chose that particular event to stage the stunt because Mark lives in NY. Debating one event versus the other is probably silly, so let’s look at the bigger picture.According to Fortune, since the acquisition of Ironman, Providence has increased its revenue 7 fold to $150 million per year. Furthermore, according to Triathlon Business, you just borrowed $240 million in order to pay Providence a $220 million dividend. Now, it is probably close to impossible to quantify the value added by pro triathletes, but based on my personal observation of your advertising strategy, they seem very important to you. Your Kona broadcast is focused on marketing the pro athletes. More focus has been on them than the sob stories as of late.

  1. Have pro prize purses increased since the Providence acquisition? Has the increase been anywhere close to 7 fold?
  2. Regardless of the other events going on, is it morally reprehensible to pay a pro athlete roughly the equivalent of 1 (of >2500) entry fee for 6th place and NOTHING for 7th place?

You seem like an arrogant leader of an arrogant organization. The confiscation of Ray Bothelo’s 7th place check by Jeff Edwards, your VP of Operations for North America, was an interesting metaphor for your approach to your customer. As a man was slumped over, having just given everything he had for over 9 hours, a volunteer (probably unpaid) helped him hold the check. They stumbled together with his support toward your executive Jeff, who snatched the check from the volunteer and bent it in half. Jeff then walked it over to a garbage can and disposed of it. One of your customers (me) who cares about the athletes (Ray Bothelo) spend $80 dollars on that check, $500 on a flight and >$500 more on prizes/merchandise and shipping for our 30 donors. That would have been an amazing keepsake for Ray to remember this weekend of legend. And Jeff, who seems to be an arrogant fucking asshole, modeled perfectly the attitude and value system of the WTC in that single act of customer disservice.

You owe Ray Bothelo and the 300 donors who care about people like Ray an apology.

(As of 11:21 EST, CEO has not yet responded. The thread is cautionary tale in corporate PR Fails. Read the entire thread by clicking here.)

But wait, there’s more…

Moments later, Kelly Burns Gallagher, posted a blog entry where she recapped an interaction she had in 2013 with Ironman VP of Operations, Jeff Edwards. You might recognize the name. He’s the clown that stole Ray Bothelo’s check.

Read her entire essay here: #IMLP, Jeff Edwards, and Speaking Out

This is an excerpt. Jeff was upset at a particular triathlon club because they had used chalk to mark up the roads.

On August 10, 2013 at 1:16 p.m. Mr. Edwards stated:

“Either they pick up the phone and respond by Monday or they are done – FOREVER . . . every single one of them and their friends and families and training groups. I will personally harm them if I see their stupid bike jerseys or cars or stickers or tents or whatever else they use – no matter where I see them.”  (Ellipsis and capitalization in the original.)

At 4:04 p.m. Mr. Edwards went on to state:

“We can also start searching their names in the database, retroactively DQing them for every race they have ever done, and removing them from any future race for which they are registered.We keep the money. Too bad for them.”

photo credit: This Is Our Flag, These Are Our People / Voici notre drapeau, voici nos gens via photopin (license)

About the Author

Ben Hobbs
Ben Hobbs is Publisher of TRS Triathlon and host of TRS Radio. Follow @TRS_Tri

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