Armato leaves at AVP commish


AVP commissioner Leonard Armato has resigned as the head of the pro beach volleyball tour, allowing chief operating officer Jason Hodell to take over, the league announced on its website today (linked here).

Armato will reman as a special adviser to the L.A.-based organization.

“Having built the Tour from six events in 2002 to 31 events this past year, and quadrupling our prize money, I am thrilled with the progress we have made,” said Armato. “Coming off the success of the 2008 Olympics in which we won men and women’s gold medals, pro beach volleyball is now one of the hottest sports in the world.”

The management shakeup seems strange as the tour tries to capitalize on the buzz generated by the U.S. sweep of the Olympic gold medals in Beijing, where Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh won the women’s tournament and Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser won the men’s. The May-Treanor/Walsh team, however, won’t be playing this season.

The former agent for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,Shaquille O’Neal and Oscar de la Hoya, Armato bought the AVP in 2001. What had been separate men’s and women’s tours with six events is now a unified circuit with 15 outdoor stops this year and 14 more over the winter in an indoor tour.

“I will forever be grateful to Leonard Armato for his contributions to the growth of the sport of beach volleyball,” Walsh said. “With his tireless enthusiasm, Leonard has been an evangelist for our great sport bringing it to the masses and bringing to it many of our nation’s best athletes. Leonard deserves to be recognized as a lead contributor to the advancement and betterment of our sport.”

The AVP announced last year that Crocs had renewed its deal to serve as title sponsor for the AVP tour. Russell Athletic, Anheuser-Busch and John Paul Mitchell Systems have also extended their sponsorship agreements for three more years.

“It is an honor to work with the AVP, our athletes and our sponsors to continue the growth of our wonderful sport,” Hodell said. “I’m sure I speak for the entire AVP when I say this is truly one of the most exciting times in the history of pro beach volleyball. I look forward to leading the Tour as we build on the momentum created under Leonard’s leadership.”

Also Wednesday, the tour announced that it received additional financing from RJSM Partners, part of the current ownership group.

The ’09 Tour started two weeks ago in Pamana City Beach, Fla., and continues with the new Riverside Open from April 17-19. Other So Cal stops include San Diego (May 1-3), Huntington Beach (May 21-24), Manhattan Beach (July 16-19) and Hermosa Beach (Aug. 6-8).

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