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July 23, 2008
JACQUES BUNGERT: Hello everyone. As usual, thank you for being here. Thank you Carolyn for joining us at this press conference. I guess as usual during this Evian Masters press conference I'd rather start up the talking and questioning rather than saying anything. Unless Carolyn has a statement to do before? No, nothing special.
How was the evening yesterday?
CAROLYN BIVENS: The day and the evening was wonderful last night. It was terrific.
JACQUES BUNGERT: We had a nice welcoming party for the players. So, well, questions are open. Go ahead, and if we feel we will ask to Franck, Carolyn or myself for any points or details that you may want.
Well, the wildcard, it's a very specific process. First of all, we go through the board of the masters, including the tours, including the sponsors, the president, Franck and myself and Yannick. And as you know, we have five exemptions.
First of all, this year the priority was going to the past champions. As you know the champions before 2000 are not directly qualified, so if any of them were not to be qualified, we needed an exemption.
This went to Catrin Nilsmark and Helen Alfredsson qualified through the U.S. Open as a great result she got.
Then the second one was going to an Asian player, and we were also, as you know, trying to help out the development of women's golf in China. So we had a Chinese player. Then for Carin Koch and Karine Icher it was very easy. Basically, Karine Icher was, how could I say it, in terms of the level in the Rolex Ranking, was at the highest level.
Carin Koch she used to be ambassadress. And we took among the ambassadress, the best Rolex ranking level so that we could always satisfy to the principle we have, which is the sports level for each category.
And Paula, I'm sorry, I forgot about Paula. And Paula was the elite player not qualified that was the best ranked both on the LET itself and on the Rolex Ranking.
CAROLYN BIVENS: Let me offer something you may not know here. The LPGA has decided this year to take Franck and Jacques up on an offer that they made us last year, which was to host some of our other tournaments. Tournament owners and title sponsors here at Evian.
We're always searching for ways to be able to display best of class events in various areas, and certainly the Evian Masters ranks as one of the players' favorite events. So we actually have about 40 people from other tournaments and title sponsors. Some of our newest title sponsors, including Stanford Financial are here, HSBC is here, Corona.
We have a number of tournaments and tournament owners that are represented. We've participated in the reception last night, and all the title sponsors had dinner at the Royale, and today we had meetings all day over at the Hilton.
Jacques addressed the group, and went through the positioning, the branding, and how this tournament works, the standards that they've set and how they accomplish pulling off this phenomenal event.
So you may not have known that that was going on aside from the tournament. And a number of the tournament owners and titles will be over here tomorrow as well as on Friday.
JACQUES BUNGERT: As well as your chairman.
CAROLYN BIVENS: And the Chairman of the LPGA Board is here. She participated in the Pro-Am today.
Q. During the press conference you said you wouldn't leave Michelle Wie on the side. What happened?
JACQUES BUNGERT: Well, Michelle Wie just took the decision not to come or not to ask for any exemption. First of all, I speak quite regularly because I have a great relationship with the Wie family and because she's been a host and a friend of the tournament for several years.
I think this year we all know what Michelle Wie is up to. She had a technically exemption. Because as you know, I think you will confirm this, only six exemptions are authorized through the LPGA, and we are an LPGA event. And Michelle Wie did use all her exemptions. Mainly because she wanted to be qualified directly. Had she won the State Farm, she would be with us today.
So we didn't leave Michelle Wie on the side, just happened that this year Michelle Wie won't be with us. I'm sure, and I hope for her because she's a great sportswoman and a great golfer, that she will be back. When I say will be back, not only at Evian, but back to her real level, and be back to it next year.
Q. You did make some changes this year. Could you tell us the strategy you have behind the changes?
JACQUES BUNGERT: On the 13 green, basically, two holes were changed. The 13 and the 15. The 13 and I spoke already to this ten days ago, and she was telling me how great it was. Because basically the obstacles are in the play. So it makes the 13 hole more interesting.
The 15 hole is just longer, and so the same. The strategy of the 15 hole may be a little less interesting than the 13. But on the 15 it is also the length that gives it a little different approach of the green.
The other thing is the putting green, and the putting green basically not only we had issues with our public relations platform. Because we are looking for also enhancing our offer to the different sponsors, but mainly because as you know our priority and our focus is the players.
We had discussed with the players in the past, and our putting green was not as, I would say, perform ant or great as it should have been. The greens being -- the putting green being a quality little different from the real greens of the course and not flat enough and not totally in line with what I would say the specification of the USGA.
So we decided to change this for those two reasons. That's why we decided to have this new putting green, which is, from what I understand and from what I hear from the players great, not only because it has a beautiful view on the lake, but also because it's flatter. The speed of the green and the quality of the green because of the sand underneath is exactly the same as the greens of the course.
For the crowd, we change also the situation so that the crowd can see the players practicing, and the putting green as well, and they can see the players on profile. Not only in front as it was before. So I think for all these reasons, it was a good move, and I think an appreciated move by the players.
Q. For a very long time you've been the first tournament in charm. Now you are the first tournament in terms of prize money. What will be your next goal?
FRANCK RIBOUD: You know, if you remember what we said at the beginning, first we said prize money was not a goal. But we always said that we would invest all the money we get in the quality of the tournament. And clearly the prize money is one element of the quality of the tournament.
Your question is linked to the previous one on the strategy. The strategy is to listen to three people, three bodies: The LPGA, the LET, and the players directly. And after each tournament every year, the players, the LPGA, the LET produced to us a kind of survey. Saying no, we don't like this, we want this, could you improve that. And we listened to them, and we proposed to them what we want to do and we change. So next year, I don't know. We'll find something. We will find something.
But the next goal since now perhaps not at the beginning, but let's say 13 years, every year everybody told us it's incredible. How do you improve? It's wonderful. What will you do next year? And we always find something.
So I'm sure we'll find something. It could be something for the players because of the golf course. Could be something for the spectators. Could be something for the journalists. Because trust me at the beginning there was not that kind of room to do your job. It was a smaller one. Basically it was the one beside the putting green.
So I think we have to improve every sector of the tournament. The quality of the tournament is not only one specific issue, it's many of them.
It's like in Formula 1, you have to check everything. And I have to say that I am really impressed this year because it's not only the quality of the fairway and the green, but everything any details of them. If there is something wrong, we find a flaw, we find something to correct, so next year I'm sure we'll still have some tee offs to refurbish.
JACQUES BUNGERT: Absolutely. We quite often say it's always a beginning, and this is how we really work.
FRANCK RIBOUD: Next year, my goal is to improve my golf.
JACQUES BUNGERT: I should say the same if I had the time. But no, to be a little more serious, I think we have some areas of improvement. These are not always the ones you think about. Of course, the course is key because it's the game and it is the player. And let's not forget we're not gimmicky as I was mentioning this morning.
Players are our priority, golf is our priority, and the best of golf is our priority. So everything that contributes to that is key to us, and the course, obviously, is a key.
On the other side, we have the Evian Masters Junior Cup that is now at the second stage, and this is something that next year that if some of you who were not assisting to this Evian Masters Junior Cup, it is a fantastic new event. I think it's totally linked to the spirit and to the DNA of the tournament.
And to see these Koreans, these Japanese, these Indians, these Indonesians playing together, celebrating together, being at the barbecue because it's part of the whole game. To us it was fantastic future, and fantastic view of the future. What we like in women's golf.
I think another area of improvement just to quote, too, is production. On TV we still have probably some holes to cover. Some improvement to do on the highlights because as you probably know, we are now broadcasting in more than 110 countries, and this is a key area for us as well, especially in Japan, especially in Korea, especially in the states. So definitely we have some work ahead of us.
CAROLYN BIVENS: It's exactly this attitude that makes this tournament the best of class. To critique all aspects of the tournament. To ask for feed back from fans, from sponsors and from players after each tournament, and to seriously listen to the feedback that they get, it's exactly why this tournament set a level and sets the performance bar for the events on the LPGA schedule.
FRANCK RIBOUD: The thing you have you to understand, we are not there to make money so we reinvest everything. Nobody still to improve the margin by doing this tournament. So we get money, and we reinvest the money in the quality of the tournament.
When you are doing things that way -- even for television. At the beginning I asked my friend Jeanne-Claude what do I have to do with the TV rights? And give it to everybody for free. And that is the best way for us to go very fast. To get the exposure to the rest of the world. So not everybody can do that. But if you can do like this, you change totally the vision you have for a tournament. Now it's a specific one. That is why it is a unique one.
On top of that, something I repeat every year, this tournament is a sustainable one because we are not doing that to make business. We are doing that because we are obliged to do it because of this. The Evian brand. The Evian brand is also a city. And to get the permission to use the Evian brand we have a 100 years contract with the city. And we are, let's say, obliged to bring animation to the city and the region.
So with our contract for the brand, we put the Evian tournament like this. You can be sure when I explain that to a sponsor, because a sponsor they ask for return.
They ask about sustainability. Are you sure you will continue your tournament not only two years and you will stop because you have no more money? And with Evian, they're okay, because they know that the brand is behind. On top of that, it is clear that a brand like Evian can support by itself a tournament.
So when we are asking money, we are not asking money, we are asking support. How could you help us to make this tournament bigger? How could you help us to make more noise with the tournament? How could you make this or how could you help us to improve the quality when you have a sponsor like Rolex?
Trust me, they push you really to improve the quality of the reception, of the cost because they are used to. Because if you look at Rolex, they are everywhere on top, top tournaments. So that is another aspect of the tournament. That is the reason why we created the wall of sponsor for our tournament.
At the beginning, Jacques and myself, trust me, we know nothing about golf tournaments. Little bit about business, but nothing about golf tournaments. This is the case.
Q. Are you waiting for some personality?
JACQUES BUNGERT: I will take the example of a soccer match, futbol match. This soccer match, we decide to do it for the caddies, and that will stay like this. It means, obviously, we will have the other ones, but we want to keep the spirit.
This soccer match is done for the caddies, and we will not change it. The feeling we got is year after year it's becoming more people. More, you see, we say, no, no, no, that's for the caddies.
So we have a meeting with (indiscernible) Christianson and ask her to be the captain of the caddie team because we want to keep the spirit. We're not going to change because we are on the top of the world in terms of ladies golf tournaments. We want to keep the spirit of the beginning. It's my way to answer to your question.
We are not doing this tournament for personalities. If they want to come, okay. But they will have to be like we are. We are not going to arrange many things. Because even if it is, as you said, Mr. Sarkozy was coming, and he's not coming.
JACQUES BUNGERT: Among the personalities who are coming, the ministry of economy. I was about to mention the board, and the PGA members, obviously. Let's put it that way, for us it's key. And it's not -- I want to thank Carolyn here. I don't know how to say it in English. It's not bullshit. Let's put it that way.
We really do appreciate what Carolyn and the LPGA are doing for us. I think by the way, we are two big times in the LPGA. We have when the LPGA sanctioned us, and that was a key time for the Evian and to the tournament. And Carolyn made the progression even faster thanks to her help, thanks to the push. That we all know she's a pusher. And to the level she gave to women's golf and the fact that she has really stabilized us.
Now we're coming with the ministry, obviously, Jean-Claude Killy, part of the tournament. (Indiscernible)Danny Boone, from Bien venue TV will be here, Guy Forget.
FRANCK RIBOUD: Every time we made a goal, the sponsor gave some money for Ella. This year we are going to save the life of a small girl, okay? Because this girl has very specific dystrophia disease. And the research finds something to save or to eliminate this specific dystrophia.
The treatment is $500,000 Euros per kid, and this girl is going to die. You have to know this. Don't repeat that, but we know that.
But we know we can save her if we've got the money. We start with Jacques and myself, and Francois two months ago, three months ago. I think we still need something like 300, 000 or 250,000. So we will really push all the people here. They don't know it yet, but we'll really push them to give money to save a life, which is more sweeter than just the game.
Q. Going back to what you were talking about, the development of the tournament. Annika said earlier when she first came here there were no ropes, no spectators and she's enjoyed seeing the tournament grow. When was that and how basic were the facilities then?
JACQUES BUNGERT: Well, Annika came and the tournament started in '94. For those who don't know the story there quickly. It was at first it was designed by Franck and his father Antoine to really promote the golf with the resort.
So you have to know that the director of the golf at that time was a lady called Valerie (Indiscernible) who is now in charge of sponsoring. And she was just managing her golf promotion and golf resort promotion.
So she started with the Pro-Am. The men's Pro-Am in '92. The '92 Pro-Am for men was no good. All the French golfers, I mean, French arrogant golfers. So it was terrible. So didn't work that well.
Then they did a women's Pro-Am, and it was fantastic with Laura Davies. Because this lady had played on the French team, and the university team in the U.S. so she knew Elena and she knew some of the players. They came, they loved it. They loved it because of the resort, they loved it because of the course and because of the spirit.
So in '94, the first tournament an LET at that time tournament was started. And it was 150,000 prize money just to give you an idea of the size at that time, and it was a success as well.
So Annika came the year after, and at that time it's true, the crowd was as you say quite often the family.
FRANCK RIBOUD: Perhaps you forget something, because ladies golf was not exactly like now at this time. And the European players were not dominant at that time, but you had players like Maria De Lorenzi, even Patricia Meunier, and Valerie Michaud, and Sandra, and Catrin Nilsmark, and Sophie Gustafson just arriving, and (Indiscernible) who had just come from Belgium. All of these ladies were playing in Europe. And where, really, one of the best players of the world. At this time they are not. For example, Maria De Lorenzi has refused to go to the U.S. for personal reasons.
So at this time Ladies Golf Europe was very strong. And even those who are playing in the U.S., even they are nothing in the U.S., but, you know, they want to come back in Europe. And in Europe at this time you have three tournaments -- two tournaments very, very important, obviously the British, and the Hennessy Cup.
And because of the French law, they have to move the Hennessy Cup to Germany because it's forbidden to advertise alcohol in France. So at this time I had a discussion with Gill Hennessy who was in charge of the Hennessy Cup, and he explained to me how he built the Hennessy Cup, and the relation he created with the players. So we decided to do the same, and that is the reason we started.
I am not sure we'll find our way with the Hennessy still in France, because the Hennessy was, I think, really one of the best tournaments at this time. So it's, as usual, it's a combination of many things that help us to decide.
Now, after it's the company that I am managing, we start things. If we do things, we try to be number one, that's all. So we start the Evian Masters, we try to be number one. We start the DNA, which is the Danone World Cup for Soccer for kids 12 years old. We have now for the final 3, 30,000 spectators, for kids 12 years old coming from 9, 42 countries to play soccer.
We start the kids in junior golf. We'll see in five, six years where we'll be. I'm sure we'll become one of the top, top, top competitions for kids, and so on, and so on.
If we do something, we start, we learn, we benchmark. After we try to be number one. That is the only goal. And after we start to stay number one, which is another story. But the beginning was the mix of what Jacques and myself explained.
Q. What is the rule about choosing the majors and the number of majors? And another question to Mr. Riboud, the director of the Evian resort.
FRANCK RIBOUD: I'm going to answer to the second one, the new guy in charge here. It is a management issue. Well, management issue to us, to the previous one to quit. Management issue to ask to Yannick to become the new let's say general manager of our activities here in Evian.
I think that the best thing we can launch to all the managers and all the people in the Danone Group. This guy is coming from out of nowhere. I don't know how to say that. Very specific on golf. And he entered even not as the golf manager, he entered as the greens keeper. He's shown to us that he has the ability and the competence to go further.
The last step was, okay, general manager. So he is now part of the let's say 260 general managers of Danone. Like the guy in charge of Danone France or Danone U.S. or whatever. Same ranking. Starting as a greens keeper. And it is exactly again the DNA of our company. You've got training, and if you succeed, you can go no limit.
So this guy starts as a greens keeper, he's now in charge more than 1,000 people here in Evian. Trust me, he was afraid to say yes. That was really hard not to convince him, but to convince him he has the competence to do it. And obviously, we helped, Jacques helped, everybody helped. But he is very good, very good.
So the answer to your question, I think, to be greens keeper in charge of the golf course, to become the golf director in charge of golf like this one. To cover the Evian Masters, is part of the training for that kind of people. The best way to get competence is not always at school. Sometimes you can get competence on the field -- more often.
CAROLYN BIVENS: There really are no rules about majors in golf. There are guidelines and as everything else in golf there is tradition. There are many who hold that there are four majors. Most of the tours have four majors.
What makes up majors has to do primarily with history, tradition, combination of the golf course. Combination of the event has existed for in some cases 20, 30 on years. We have inherited over the course of the years in the British Open has for as long as I have been following golf, the British Open for the mens and the women's followed that.
There are two majors on the LPGA Tour, the Kraft Nabisco, the LPGA Championship. The LPGA Championship having existed for about 20-25 years. And the Kraft Nabisco having been grown out of the Colgate, Palmolive, Dinah Shore days. Having existed for 30-35 years and initially hosted some of the founders of the LPGA. And the LPGA is entering its 59th year.
So those are the guidelines. Doesn't mean it will always be there, but golf does not change very quickly.
Q. My boss told me that when golf would become an Olympic sport he will give me a quarter every week. Do you know anything about it? Will it become an Olympic sport very soon?
CAROLYN BIVENS: I can answer the second part of the question, it won't be soon. If we were successful, 2016 is the first year that golf would be an Olympic sport.
The world of golf for the first time has agreed that we will take a run at becoming an Olympic sport. Four of my colleagues and I were over across the lake a couple months ago meeting the IOC, to let them know that very serious about it.
The executive committee of the World Golf Foundation is helping to drive this. The composition of that is the PGA of Europe, the Royal and Ancient, the Augusta, the USGA, the PGA TOUR, PGA of America and the LPGA.
Ty Votaw, former commissioner of the LPGA has just been named as our Executive Director to help drive this effort for the next 14 to 15 months.
We have to have a bid submitted before the first quarter of 2009, with a plan that would include all the amateur federations as well as the professional organizations and propose the format that would be used.
In the fall of 2009, the sports that will be part of the Olympic games, and there are currently seven sports competing for two spots, will be named. Then within a few days, the site for the 2016 Olympics will be named.
As some of you all know, Chicago is one of the finalists for the 2016 games. So there is a lot of what-ifs in there. The competition will be very stiff.
There are a lot of sports that want in, and there are a number of sports as you know, baseball and softball are about to go out, and they'd like to stay in. There will be some fair competition.
JACQUES BUNGERT: Thank you all, and see you on Sunday.
End of FastScripts