In with a bang, out with a whimper…
I’m not sure how they pulled it off, but congratulations are in order to American Century.
Because for months the Kansas City-based mutual fund company navigated the stormy PR seas of having billions of dollars of its funds named after disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong‘s charity without anybody here laying so much as a glove on them. A charity that Sporting Kansas City finally found too hot to handle and that ended in a messy, high profile divorce with LIVESTRONG in January.
Yet as company after company bailed on the beleaguered biker, somehow American Century managed to remain in the game and out of the limelight. Of course it didn’t hurt that the homers at the Kansas City Star more-or-less gave American Century a pass on the controversy.
At least Barron’s provided an early indication that American Century might be about to dump LIVESTRONG last October, reporting that the mutual fund company was “Reviewing the Lance Armstrong Situation.”
“The Kansas City-based asset manager is in something of a pickle,” Barron‘s wrote. “It has 10 target-date funds called the Livestrong Portfolios, which held $6 billion as of late summer…A spokesman for American Century Funds tells Barrons.com by e-mail this afternoon that the company is ‘reviewing’ the situation, and has ‘no comment at this time.’ ”
Too bad for you if you were relying on the Star to report that story because even after American Century announced it would drop the Livestrong name earlier this week, the newspaper provided not one wit of evidence or mention of the company having been in a “pickle” or even having stated at the height of the Armstrong controversy last fall that it was reviewing the situation in the wake of his fall from grace.
Even 24/7 Wall Street reported that, “If the brand of Lance Armstrong was a stock, let’s just be nice say that the value would have tanked. The reality is that the exchange would have probably halted trading if it was public. After the doping allegations and details emerged about use of performance enhancing substances have grown and grown, Lance Armstrong has been rapidly losing support. If you tally up the over $400 million raised by the foundation, the corporate sponsorships, and also a family of mutual funds tied to LIVESTRONG, it is amazing that there are literally billions of dollars at stake here.”
And trust me, they weren’t talking about the Sporting’s naming rights deal.
“American Century Investment Services entered into an agreement with LIVESTRONG for rights to use the LIVESTRONG name and through 2016 it was determined that American Century will pay the Lance Armstrong Foundation above a guaranteed amount,” 24/7 continued. “The sponsorship notes, ‘Under limited circumstances, the agreement can be terminated by either party, and there will be no future payments.’ After inquiring into American Century, the total LIVESTRONG funds – including income fund and target date funds from 2015 to 2055 – the total size of those LIVESTRONG funds was more than $2.5 billion.”
Guess that about does it for big time KC connects to Armstrong and Livestrong…Or does it?