Pickleball Inc.: Big bucks, buyouts roil the sport
"Bidding war."

January 8, 2022

Pickleball industry aficianados buzzed all week about a new big business investment in the sport, its impact on pro athletes’ contracts, and the future of tournament entities/associations in on and out of the deals.

First up: Subprime auto loan mogul Thomas Dundon and his Dundon Capital Partners LLC scooped up PPA, PickleballCentral.com, and PickleballTournaments.com.

“Slim,” an anonymous blogger at NML Pickleball, pondered what it all means for player contracts:

“What is coming to light now for the PPA is that with the new ownership, has reportedly come new contracts presented to the 2022 contracted PPA tour players. While at least 22 players had agreed to 1-year mostly exclusive contracts, our understanding is that what has been presented to the players (and already signed by some) are 3 year contracts that contain very strict exclusivity agreement for players that limit them to playing PPA events only, and they must request written consent from the PPA to play any other event, which may be withheld at the PPA’s sole discretion. Needless to say, these are extremely limiting terms for the plays that substantially affect their future earnings ceiling.”

The NML blog further learned that the contracts “include provisions for a more performance-centric appearance fee that would be based on their rankings,” and “restrict players to PPA Tournaments and related events and appearances, and any participation outside of that requires PPA approval on a case-by-case basis. It is not clear to us right now what requires approval beyond tournaments, but this could severely limit earning power of players, particularly if it they can’t run clinics without asking the PPA first.

Today, Major League Pickleball–founded by wealthy Austin, TX., investor and Dreamland (Dripping Springs, Tx.) pickleplex entertainment venue owner Steven Kuhn–threw down with its own breaking news regarding an alliance with PPA’s main rival, the APP:

The Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) and Major League Pickleball (MLP) today announced the establishment of a strategic partnership between the two organizations. Details of the partnership, including an exciting, new 2022 competition and events schedule, and financial structures and appearance fees for professionals, will be released during the APP’s 2021 season-ending tournament in Boca Raton, January 18 – 23.

It’s a time for ch-ch-changes and for choosing at the top of the pro pickleball ecosystem.

What does it mean for the rest of us mere mortals? For casual rec players who avoid the tournament scene, the answer is: not much, if anything, at all. For pickleball addicts, it means popping the popcorn while a “three-way bidding war” — as pro athlete Zane Navratil put it — unfolds like an intense game of cutthroat:


Keep following the bouncing ball! PPA is now ripping off MLP…

The APP $75k Masters tournament in Boca Raton is less than two weeks ago. Pro athlete Steve Deakin is still listed as co-host, but will not be there as he ditched APP and signed one of the exclusive deals with PPA.


For the super-pickleball nerds interested in all the latest machinations, there’s a new post at NML Pickleball with some interesting insider info.

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