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February 21, 2019
Five Questions with Jon Podany, CEO of Arnold Palmer Enterprises
You have been on the job about three months. What are your takeaways?
First, the love and passion people have for Arnold Palmer is incredible. Virtually everyone I meet has a story about how he touched them. Arnie’s Army remains strong. Second, is the breadth and diversity of businesses that he built. Everything from properties (Bay Hill Club & Lodge and Latrobe Country Club) to tournaments (Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard and Arnold Palmer Cup) to the license business (Arnold Palmer Tea and a vast array of licensees with particular strength in Asia) to the golf course design business. Third, is how much he gave of himself. He truly is someone who gave of his time, talents and treasure; and the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children is a great reflection of that spirit.
What is your focus going forward?
Our focus is to carry forward Arnold Palmer’s legacy and inspire generations to come to “live a life well played.” We plan to do this by ensuring that the things that carry the Palmer name continue to thrive and positively impact others, including the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill, Arnold Palmer Cup, Arnold Palmer Hospital, Arnold Palmer Enterprises and so on. Keeping the brand strong will also help expand the impact and charitable giving of the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation (formerly Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation). People want to support causes they trust and you would be hard pressed to find a name more trusted than Arnold Palmer.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational is coming up in a few weeks. What’s new?
We are very excited about the changes and new things happening at this year’s tournament, highlighted by the introduction of an “Arnold Palmer Experience.” This will be engaging interactive opportunity for fans to see a 360-degree five-minute film on Mr. Palmer’s life in a domed theater, test their game on swing simulators against some of Arnie’s historic shots or iconic courses, and see many of his artifacts from his memorabilia collection in Latrobe. The film and memorabilia will touch on all aspects of his life such as champion golfer, aviator, philanthropist, businessman, family man and more. Also, there have been significant improvements at Bay Hill with a new two-acre short-game area and enhanced practice range, and a new state-of-the-art irrigation system to optimize course conditions. Further, for the first time, the tournament will be part of The Open Qualifying Series USA, meaning three spots for the 148th Open are up for grabs to the leading players (not otherwise exempt) who finish in the top 10 and ties. Finally, the purse jumps to $9.1 million, which combined with the three-year exemption with a win (vs. the standard two for non-majors) makes it a “can’t miss” event for players.
Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation has been renamed to the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation. Why the change and what is the mission of the foundation?
We felt the name change was important to bring the foundation under the Palmer name and umbrella, literally - with the iconic umbrella now in the logo - and figuratively. Also, we felt it was appropriate to recognize Winne’s important role in Arnold’s life and her charitable spirit. The mission of the foundation is to provide a brighter future for our youth with focus on children’s health, character development and nature-focused wellness.
You mentioned particular strength in Asia with the license business. Tell us more about Arnold Palmer’s impact globally.
Arnold Palmer was and is truly a global icon. He played a significant role in elevating The Open Championship, he designed golf courses in 25 countries including the first golf course in modern China, and there are 400 Arnold Palmer stores and 9,000 points of sale in 30 territories with Japan leading the way. The Arnold Palmer brand is very much a lifestyle brand, popular among all age ranges for men, women and children.