RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said Thursday that three potential successors to Kraft Nabisco as the title sponsor of the year’s first major are here watching the event this week, but moving the championship away from Mission Hills isn’t an option in negotiations.
“We are coming back,” Whan said. “If I come back without a sponsor, I come back without a sponsor. We will fund this one. We’ve put a lot of money into tournaments the last few years, and they’ve all turned into good things. I can’t think of anything more strategic to fund than this one.”
Kraft Nabisco has been associated with the event for 33 years, but the company’s contract expires after Sunday’s conclusion of the event. Kraft Nabisco isn’t renewing. The LPGA will take over ownership of the event after this year’s championship is completed.
Whan believes the women’s first major offers everything he wants to sell in an event. He says so much of the value is its history and traditions at Mission Hills.
“I’m not concerned,” Whan said. “Give me something to sell, I’ll take this one … I want to be here. In my commissioner’s tenure, I’m not going to lose this major. This one isn’t going away.”
The price to title sponsor the year’s first major is roughly $5 million to cover total operations, more than $6 million with the TV buys required. If the LPGA keeps ownership, it will be the sixth event the tour owns. The LPGA also owns the JTBC Founders Cup, CME Group Titleholders, the Kia Classic, the International Crown and the Solheim Cup.
While Whan said he isn’t particularly interested in the tour owning events, he sees the value in getting events started that way.
“We’re like fire starters,” Whan said.