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MLP-PPA merger genius, essential move to optimize professional tournament opportunity

September 20 2023

Historic Merger Brings Peace (For Now) to Pro Pickleball

The two largest professional pickleball organisations, Major League Pickleball (MLP) and the PPA Tour, have announced a merger backed by an investment of $50m (€46m). PHOTO CRED: SPORTS BUSINESS/ EMILEE CHINN - GETTY IMAGES

After several chaotic weeks that threatened to split the pickleball world, the PPA and MLP have agreed to merge… again.

The PPA Tour, the leading pickleball tour that features bracket-style tournaments that determine player rankings, and the MLP, the co-ed, team-based league, announced plans to bring both tours under a single holding company. The merger is fueled by a new $50 million investment that ends two weeks of uncertainty as both leagues rushed to sign players to exclusive contracts.

Season One Super Finals at the Life Time Rancho San Clemente in San Clemente, California. The Seattle Pioneers play the Los Angeles Mad Drops in the Premier League mixed doubles competition. PHOTO CRED: CNBC/ MAJOR LEAGUE PICKLEBALL

What does it mean for fans? The pickleball public will continue to see the world’s best players compete in standard tour events operated by the PPA and as members of teams competing in the MLP.

What does it mean for sponsors? Companies will not have to choose which league’s future to bet on and can target sponsorship opportunities that make the most sense for their brands.

What does it mean for players? Pickleball pros, for the first time, enjoy the security of guaranteed contracts and the ability to play on both tours without violating the terms of the contracts they signed with either league.

Lacy Schneemann of the Florida Smash returns a shot during a group play Major League Pickleball match against BLQK at Pickle & Chill in Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 15, 2022.

This isn’t the first time the PPA and MLP have agreed to join forces. The two leagues announced in November 2022 their intention to merge. However, in August, the MLP began signing players to exclusive, and, in some cases, big-money deals, citing frustration with a lack of progress. This ignited the rapid race to get pros to choose sides and intensified the bad blood among league executives and players. 

But this deal is different. The new agreement is backed by a $50 million infusion by private equity firm SC Holdings, PPA Tour owner Tom Dundon, and various MLP team owners. The new pro pickleball holding company will be run by a Board of Directors that for now includes Jason Stein of SC Holdings, Goldman Sachs Partner Brian Levine, and Al Tylis, owner of the MLP D.C. Pickleball Team, in addition to Dundon and MLP founder Steve Kuhn.

The impact of the PPA/MLP merger on each tour’s schedule and player commitments is still being worked out, and the deal impacts tournaments starting in the 2024 season. The next MLP tournament stop is in Atlanta, September 21–24, and the PPA resumes play October 5-8 in Las Vegas.​​​

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