Reported May 20, 2004
Olympia Shake Up
Weider, Pecker Form Joint Venture
to Produce Bodybuilding’s Big Event
Two press releases that appeared on the International Federation of Bodybuilders’ official Web site on Thursday, May 20, ended weeks of speculation regarding the future of the federation’s professional division and its number-one competition. The first announced a joint venture between the IFBB and American Media Inc. (AMI) “to produce one of bodybuilding’s best-known professional events, the Joe Weider Olympia competitions.” The second confirmed the “withdrawal of the appointment of Wayne S. DeMilia to the positions of IFBB vice president, Professional Division, and chairman, IFBB Professional Committee,” and named NPC President and IFBB Vice President for North America Jim Manion he new Pro Division VP. Needless, to say, DeMilia’s role as producer of the Olympia events was eliminated: “Wayne S. DeMilia is no longer associated with the Joe Weider IFBB Olympia competitions or with any other IFBB event or activity, except for the 2004 Night of the Champions.”
The announcements came after weeks of rumors that DeMilia had been “fired” as Pro Division director over a reported contract dispute with IFBB President Ben Weider regarding the production of the ’04 Olympia Weekend. In April a new Web site for Pro Division Inc. appeared, indicating that DeMilia was striking out on his own. According to a statement on its home page, “Pro Division, Inc. is not affiliated with any bodybuilding federation. It is made up of registered athletes, promoters, judges and officials. Pro Division contests will go on as scheduled.” Among the featured links to upcoming contests: the ’05 Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic.
Word began circulating of a new competition produced by the unaffiliated pro division that would take place instead of Olympia Weekend at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas in October. Also that it was getting late to start selling expo booths and nailing down sponsors.
As partisans lined up, it was apparent that American Media chairman, president and CEO David Pecker would be a key player. AMI purchased Weider Publications, including Flex and Muscle & Fitness, from founders Joe and Ben Weider in 2003, and Pecker made it clear from the first that he had his eye on the Olympia. Would he side with DeMilia, who has worked with the Mandalay Bay since 1999 to build the Olympia competitions and expo into a real destination weekend, or the Weiders, who founded the IFBB in 1946 and very specifically refer to the event as “Joe Weider’s Olympia competitions”? Where were the athletes in all this? Like everyone else, waiting.
On May 20 Pecker indicated that he would dance with the “gal what brung him.” Of his latest alliance with the Weiders, Pecker said, “We intend to make the Olympia the biggest event in Las Vegas in late October and a must-see for everyone in town. And, as we fine-tune our broadcast plans and promotional packages, advertisers and sponsors from a wide range of categories will see the potential this event presents to reach millions of fans, both here and abroad,” And he’s got the P.R. muscle to make it happen’his magazine empire includes The National Enquirer and the Star.
A few questions remain regarding who’s got contracts for what. What happens with DeMilia’s arrangement to produce the Olympia pay-per-view broadcast? Or how does this affect the slew of promoters, including Jim Lorimer of Arnold Classic fame, who found themselves caught in the middle of the dueling pro divisions? (Not surprisingly, Lorimer’s partner, California Governor Schwarzenegger, who recently became executive editor of Flex and Muscle & Fitness, issued a strong statement of support for the new venture.) Also unclear was exactly what Manion’s new role would be. According to a third IFBB press release dated May 20, Manion’s new titles are “vice chairman of the Pro Division and pro judging director,” and he will be working with the new chairman of the Pro Division, Eric Weider.
The IFBB made its announcement just two days before the 26th edition of the Night of Champions, the second-longest-running show on the pro circuit, which is scheduled for May 22 at New York’s City Center. DeMilia and Charles Blake have staged the NOC in Manhattan since 1978. Look for more developments on this story next week.