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Champions on Ice Reportedly Closing Up Shop

When AEG Worldwide, one of the world’s leading sports and entertainment presenters, bought the Champions on Ice tour in 2006, company officials said they planned to take the tour around the world. Although COI did a run in Japan last year, along with its usual U.S. tour, the ride has apparently come to an end.

Phil Hersh (in a report in the L.A. Times) is reporting that the Champions on Ice “is dead after a 38-year run, according to sources familiar with the situation [and] an announcement is expected in about a week.” The article indicated Stars on Ice, its rival tour managed by IMG, would take over the COI tour.

IFS contacted IMG but no official response was received. A source close to the SOI tour said Hersh’s report appears to be correct.

Tom Collins is the COI founder and owned the tour until its sale in 2006. He started the tour in 1969 with shows in 15 cities throughout the United States and Canada. The tour has grown and last year had approximately 30 dates. Approximately 25 dates had been scheduled this season, according to skaters' websites, such as Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto. The 2006 Olympic ice dance silver medalists have been regulars on the tour the past few years and listed their schedule -- including the COI tour dates -- for this season are listed on their official website.

In a report in the March/April 2007 of IFS, Collins said he had several offers to buy the tour over the years from the likes of CNN and Clear Channel but he had always declined. “This was during the height of skating in the 90s,” recalled Collins in the IFS article. “Everyone wanted to get their hands on [the company].”

By 2002, AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group) came calling via a business lunch between Collins and AEG President Tim Leiweke at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas. Collins, still not ready to sell, was at least ready to listen.

Four years later, the deal was finally sealed with the official announcement made in November of 2006.

“It was and it wasn’t an easy decision but it took a little while to do,” Collins said at the time.

Collins made sure to check with his family, including three sons Michael, Mark and Martin, who are all in the business, and decided the time was right. “I put a lot of years into this and the offer was substantial,” he said.

IFS contacted Michael Collins Enterprises (a company which represents many of the skaters who were part of the tour) seeking a comment about the tour’s demise, but the message was left unanswered.

But when the sale was made, Collins and AEG, which is based in Los Angeles, Calif., said the business would run as it has in the past. “Not one thing changes. I do what I’ve always done,” Collins told IFS in early 2007. With the sale, he maintained his title as president. “I [still] put the show together, put the music together, hire the skaters, and fire the skaters. … Even my name stays the same: Tom Collins Presents Champions on Ice.” The only change, he said, “They write the checks. That’s the only difference.”

As for AEG, the wait to acquire COI was worth it, according to AEG Senior Vice President Dana Warg who also was interviewed for the article in the April/March 2007 issue of IFS. He said it did take some time to convince Collins it was the right move.

Shortly after the sale, Warg told IFS: “Tommy is very close to his business and he is certainly an icon. He wanted to make sure it was the right fit. We took the time to let him understand what AEG is all about. We’re in the touring business and we can only synergize from this.”

AEG owns or controls myriad companies and facilities including the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL, a film division, a merchandising company and a sponsorship, sales and consulting company.

Warg told IFS that while AEG has experience with touring and hosting national and international figure skating championships, this is their first venture into figure skating in a touring capacity. “[Collins] obviously understands the skating business,” Warg said. “We bring the corporate resources — marketing and sponsorship, signage and touring availability. ... We have 17 tours out there right now so he can and does tap all the resources we have.”

Warg also told IFS that in the next three to four years, AEG wanted to take Champions on Ice around the world — to markets such as Asia, South America and Europe. “We’ll just grow together,” he said.

The growth has apparently ended as one of the most popular U.S. figure skating tours now appears to be dead.

To read the Times report, go to http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-figure...1&cset=true