Amgen Tour director leaving AEG Sports for World Triathlon Corporation

Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports and the man in charge of the past four editions of the Amgen Tour of California, will leave his post next month to take a new position as CEO of the World Triathlon Corporation, the company that organizes, promotes and licenses the Ironman brand.

2011 L'Etape du California
AEG Sports president Andrew Messick doesn't just organize the Amgen Tour, he rides as well. Photo: Brian Hodes/VeloImages
Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports and the man in charge of the past four editions of the Amgen Tour of California, will leave his post next month to take a new position as CEO of the World Triathlon Corporation, the company that organizes, promotes and licenses the Ironman brand.

In his four years with AEG Sports, Messick forged a media partnership with Tour de France organizer ASO, in 2008, which saw ASO assume responsibility of producing the race’s television coverage as well as international distribution and digital media rights. He also oversaw the Amgen Tour’s date change, from February to May, which began in 2010, allowing for high-mountain climbs to be included in the route, including Big Bear Lake, in 2010, and Mount Baldy, in 2011.

Since its inception in 2006 the Amgen Tour has drawn the biggest names in the sport, including European pros Fabian Cancellara, Mark Cavendish, Andy Schleck, Tom Boonen, Ivan Basso, Thor Hushovd and Oscar Freire, as well as top Americans Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Chris Horner, Christian Vande Velde, Tyler Farrar and David Zabriskie.

The race has also had several high-profile celebrities make appearances, including former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and actors Patrick Dempsey and Robin Williams.

As CEO of World Triathlon Corporation, Messick will run the day-to-day operations of the Tampa, Florida-based company. Ben Fertic, who had served as both president and CEO, will continue as president, focusing on business development.

A two-time Ironman finisher (Canada, in 2005, and Lake Placid, in 2006) Messick, 47, described the opportunity to take on leadership of WTC as an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“It’s fair to say I have loved doing what I’ve been doing at AEG, and I still have a passion for cycling,” Messick said. “Over the last four years working on the Amgen Tour of California has been personally and professionally as satisfying as anything I’ve done in my life. And now, being able to run Ironman on a global basis is, in many ways, a dream job. To help shape the global direction of the sport of triathlon was an offer too good to pass up. Ironman is one of the great brands in the endurance base, if not the great brand, and I think what World Triathlon Corporation is doing is exciting. There’s been a lot of growth, and I think I can help continue the success they’ve had in recent years.”

Asked what impact his departure might have on the future of the Amgen Tour, Messick replied, “I hope not at all.”

“I think the last few years have proven that the Amgen Tour of California has gotten big enough that it’s bigger than any one person, certainly bigger than me,” Messick said. “We’ve made huge progress, we’ve put together an exceptional team of people, both our internal AEG folks and our friends at (sports management and production company) Medalist Sports. My expectation is that (the Amgen Tour) is going to continue to be one of the major races in the world. I don’t see any reason why that shouldn’t happen. I have absolute faith in my operational team.”

Messick earned a BA in economics and psychology from the University of California, Davis, and an MBA from the Yale School of Management. He came to AEG Sports in June 2007 from the National Basketball Association, replacing outgoing AEG Sports president Shawn Hunter, who had headed up the first two editions of the Amgen Tour. Hunter went on to serve as director for Total Sports Asia, and is now back in cycling, heading up the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

Though Messick said an official announcement of the “new organizational structure of the race” is expected in “the next week or so,” he pointed to AEG Sports vice president Kristin Bachochin as his likely successor to oversee America’s biggest bike race. Bachochin has been with AEG since 2004, starting as director of marketing before she was promoted to senior director, and most recently, vice president.

“It’s true that for the last four years I have been the person leading the charge for the Amgen Tour of California, and I gave the race everything I had,” Messick said. “That said, we have great institutional momentum. We have a large group of people within AEG that have passion for the race, and that starts with (AEG owner) Phil Anschutz. We’re highly confident that we will be able to continue the progress and momentum we’ve made. Shawn Hunter managed the race before I did, and he moved on without a hiccup. I’m confident in Kristin Bachochin’s ability to move in to a leadership role. She’s been with the race since the beginning as well. She makes sure everything works, and I have absolute confidence in her leadership.”

Messick’s departure comes as title sponsor Amgen is weighing the return on investment of its title sponsorship, which began in 2006.

After its first three-year commitment ended in 2008, the Thousand Oaks, California-based biotech company signed on for another three-year term, which came to term at the race’s completion on May 22.

In the 1980s Amgen was the first to isolate the gene for erythropoietin, the hormone that controls red blood cell production, which led to the production of recombinant human erythropoietin — developed to treat anemia in cancer patients but also abused in endurance sports such as cycling. Amgen has used the California stage race to launch an anti-doping educational campaign, targeted at riders and fans, as well as the opportunity to launch its Breakaway From Cancer initiative, aimed to increase awareness of resources available to cancer patients.

Amgen corporate communications director Mary Klem could not immediately be reached for comment on Amgen’s future involvement, however Messick said he believed Amgen would return to sponsor the event.

“This race has been very, very good for Amgen, in terms of getting the message out, for their Breakaway From Cancer initiative, and for the positive associations the race brings, in terms of the importance of healthy living and an active lifestyle,” Messick said. “This has been a great partnership, and I think everyone at Amgen agrees with that. We believe absolutely that they will be partners with us well into future.”

That future, however, won’t include Messick, who said he hopes to return to the race, as a spectator.

“We had a great year this year,” Messick said. “The racing was great, the route was great, and I think we made a lot of progress. I’m very optimistic about the future of cycling in America, and about our race. I think we’re in a really good place, and I do look forward to coming back as a spectator. I’m sad to be leaving, because I loved the race. But I’ll still be riding my bike — that won’t change.”