Frank Yohannan, who has owned and operated the Sea Otter Classic for more than 30 years since he founded the event from scratch, has sold to Life Time, a multi-billion dollar fitness and event company.
Life Time already owns a range of major cycling, running and triathlon events across the USA including the Leadville 100, UNBOUND Gravel, Crusher in the Tushar, the Chequamegon MTB Festival, New York and Chicago Triathlons, Miami Marathon and Chicago Half Marathon.
Besides events, the company operates fitness centres in more than 150 locations in the US and Canada, boasting several million members, as well as a database of about a million athletes who have participated in Life Time events over the last half-dozen years. They do not appear to have any existing operations in Australia.
Yohannan announced the sale saying he would remain as Sea Otter’s director for the next three years. His staff, many of whom have been with the company for upwards of 20 years, will join Life Time.
“What’s most important to me is to continue to grow,” Yohannan said. “Certainly there is financial growth, which is a key part of my responsibilities. But we also need to grow with our industry — to help forecast and support major trends like e-bikes and gravel. We also need to be prepared to take advantage of new opportunities.”
More importantly, said the 73-year-old Yohannan, the sale to Life Time, with its financial resources and history in event management, is essential for Sea Otter’s continued growth. “The synergies Life Time brings are some that we could never have done on our own,” he said. Yohannan, who declined to reveal the sales price, said he will continue to independently license the Sea Otter name to events in Canada, Spain and Australia.
Sea Otter Australia, which has been scheduled to debut at Stromlo Forest Park, Canberra, ACT, first in October 2020 and then October 2021. Covid lockdowns have forced its cancellation both years, but it has been rescheduled for 1st to 3rd October 2022.
Meanwhile, Sea Otter will be proceeding in the USA on 7th-10th October 2021 with what Yohannan described as robust early registrations for racing and camping sites. And, at this point, purchases of exhibitor space continue to exceed earlier estimates, Yohannan said. Sea Otter USA was cancelled in 2020 due to covid. The 2019 edition saw over 500 exhibitors showing to approximately 70,000 spectators and 10,000 competitors.
Kimo Seymour, Life Time’s president of Events and Media said, “We think of Sea Otter as a hub in our ecosystem related to cycling. Sea Otter will be our largest single event and our first foray into the B2B side of the cycling industry,” he said.
Yohannan and Seymour agree that while Sea Otter is a first-in-class race and ride consumer event, it’s also a key player within the industry, especially its role in organizing an annual business conference prior to Sea Otter’s opening day.
Sea Otter had helped organize the Bicycle Leadership Conference, which is owned by PeopleForBikes, for many years. Last year, the two groups went separate ways, with Sea Otter planning to eventually develop its own conference. The spring event had become a showcase for the cycling media to see and report on new products being launched for the upcoming season. The event’s expo was a consumer bonanza but behind the scenes, it was an opportunity for OE vendors to meet with bike brand product managers.
A longer version of this article was first published by Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.