Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Officials try to lure BASS HQ to Morgan

By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Tourism officials hope Decatur’s reputation as a top venue for fishing tournaments and the recent purchase of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society by a Morgan County native will lead BASS officials to make the River City their new corporate headquarters.

“Why not just give it a shot?” Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, asked of sending invitation letters to Don Logan and Jerry McKinnis, two of three men who bought BASS from ESPN earlier this month. “No risk, no rewards,” she said, reiterating a motto she said she learned from David Bronner, chief executive officer of the Retirement Systems of Alabama.

Her letter said she would like to discuss BASS moving its headquarters from Orlando to Decatur and noted Decatur’s central location to the Bassmaster Tournament Trail and proximity to eight lakes and rivers.

“Our city and community leaders, lodging and retail establishments all understand the importance of catering to professional and recreational anglers,” Reist’s letter reads.

Reist said she heard Logan, a Hartselle native and former CEO of Time Warner, was interested in moving BASS from Florida closer to Birmingham, where he now lives. She added that Logan’s mother and a sister still live in the Hartselle area and his granddaughter looks after his mother.

BASS was founded in Montgomery in 1968 by Ray Scott. It is the largest membership organization of bass anglers in the country, with more than 500,000 members. ESPN bought it in 2001 and expanded it to include media platforms including three magazines and a popular website.

The purchasing party will assume ownership of all BASS assets, BASS said in a statement announcing the sale. As part of the agreement, BASS’ core TV programming assets — the Bassmaster Elite Series and Bassmaster Classic — will remain on ESPN networks.

Logan, before his retirement in 2002, oversaw Time Inc., America Online, Time Warner Cable and the Time Warner Book Group. The Auburn graduate is an avid fisherman.

His business partners in the endeavor are outdoorsman McKinnis, host of ESPN’s second longest-running show, “The Fishin’ Hole,” and Jim Copeland, who is on the board of directors of three Fortune 500 companies.

Reist met Logan in March when Logan was the guest speaker for the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. In addition to the letter regarding the headquarters, Reist invited Logan to attend the Sept. 17 groundbreaking ceremony for the new Ingalls pavilion.

“The letter was the first step,” she said, adding BASS has not responded to the letter. “I haven’t called because I know any time you’re going through a buy-out or change, they have more fish to fry than to worry about us. The letter was more or less just opening the line of communication. We just wanted to send out something and let him know that we’re ready to work with him.”

BASS and Decatur have had a working relationship for more than a decade, with Decatur serving as a host site for multiple Bassmaster tournaments, including the prestigious Elite series. BASS officials spoke highly of Decatur’s performance in hosting large tournaments and called Ingalls Harbor one of the finest facilities of its kind in the nation.

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