Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP), long the most recognizable brand in the sport but recently reduced to ruins and bankrupted, has a new owner.
AOS Group, LP, headed by 36-year-old Donald Sun, has purchased 100 percent of the AVP assets from DFA PVA II Partners, LLC, the name of the company headed by former AVP front man Nick Lewin, who had purchased the AVP assets he once controlled as the former managing member of holding company RJSM Partners—the former majority owner of the AVP before it became financially strapped and entered into bankruptcy.
Lewin said he had “probably at least four offers” for the AVP’s assets, but chose Sun, whose business background is in computer memory technology.
“Donald is incredibly positive about the brand,” Lewin told Volleyball. “He wants to return it to its heyday. He’s willing to put the work into it. The AVP means an awful lot to a lot of people. It’s the only brand that matters in professional beach volleyball. It has worldwide recognition. It can be absolutely fantastic if Donald can make it work. We would have loved to have made it work ourselves. At the end of the day, it’s a relief to have it in the hands of someone who is going to do right by the brand. That’s the most important thing.”
Sun is no stranger to volleyball. He was an outside hitter at University High School in Irvine, Calif., and was named to the Orange County All-Star team. He went on to study at UCLA and is a 1998 graduate of the university.
“I followed the AVP when I was younger,” he said. “I admired the players and went to a lot of the tournaments around Southern California.”
Sun previously worked at Fountain Valley-Calif.-based Kingston Technology Co., which his father and a partner own. The company manufactures computer memory items, such as USB drives. AVP ownership will be Sun’s full-time occupation going forward.
“What we really did is buy the brand,” said Sun.
Sun admitted launching a substantive tour in 2012 at this point may be a challenge, but did not rule out some sort of rollout this year. After the AVP’s well-documented and rapid march to the grave in 2010, it came back and ran only one season-ending event in 2011.
“The plan going forward right now is to try and figure out if we can do something in 2012,” he said. “We’re also working on other leagues and seeing if they are willing to work with us to unify beach volleyball in the U.S. That’s possibly going to be a long process, but the effort is something that is needed.”
Instead, Sun noted 2013 is a timeframe better suited for a full-fledged schedule.
“We’re looking more toward 2013,” Sun said. “In 2012, we’ll do what we can. We know everybody’s marketing dollars are already allocated. It’s already April. We’re focused on putting our best efforts forward. We’re working diligently on how to manage 2012.”
Sun was quick to respond to skeptics in regard to the AVP’s future viability given its recent past and other factors such as the economy and the current fractured state of the pro beach game in the U.S.
“I say I can’t change the past. What is done is done,” said Sun. “I can control the future. Our approach is out of humility, respect, and reverence. I understand there is bad blood. But I see a brand that is recognizable. I see a good brand with value. I want to change that perception and bring it back to where it was. I’m in this for the long haul. I understand it’s tough. We’re going to do our best to do something this year. The whole key here is to execute and move forward.”
Sun is ready to jump into this endeavor with plenty of gusto.
“I found something I really like doing,” he said. “Technology was cool, but 13 years was enough time. I’m in this for the long haul. I bring an outsider’s point of view. I would like to think I am injecting some life into this whole thing.”
Sun did not give any specifics as to who his top lieutenants would be or if he would be hiring any previous AVP employees. An AVP-issued press release on the transaction listed former AVP player Hans Stolfus as a contact complete with an AVP.com e-mail address in his name.
“I look at this as a start-up with great brand recognition,” he said. “We’re not starting from ground zero here. It is a fresh start. We have no overhead right now. We want to get the right people in place. Right now most of the people working for me are interns. Infrastructure will be key. We have to do this wisely and not spend dollars inappropriately. We have to make sure we are sustainable. Nothing will happen if organic growth doesn’t happen. I want to surround myself with quality people so we can make this work really well.”
Sun again addressed a desire to work with the other pro beach volleyball tours.
“First, the key is cooperation with each respective tour,” said Sun. “I’m flexible. Ultimately you would like to see cohesiveness under one umbrella or we all could co-exist. I would like to see us at least all co-exist. We can at least try.”
The AVP dates back to 1983 and has endured a rollercoaster tenure that has ranged from events rife with prize money and loaded with some of the world’s top stars to a tour that racked up multiple bankruptcies and axed the final five events of the 2010 season and did not run another event until the end of the 2011 season.
“Donald Sun enters our world of volleyball with three refreshing traits: humility, a true love of the game and respect for the history of beach volleyball,” said former AVP Commissioner and beach Olympian Mike Dodd in the AVP-issued press release. “I am confident Donald will surround himself with the right people to help him navigate the complex beach volleyball terrain as well as develop alliances and strategies that will help bring the beach game back to prosperity and revive the AVP brand.”