The financially beleaguered Assn. of Volleyball Professionals has been sold to a 37-year-old Irvine native and former executive at a multinational computer technology company, the league announced Monday.
Donald Sun, a former executive at the Fountain Valley, Calif.-based Kingston Technology Co., said recently in an interview that he paid $2 million for the pro beach volleyball league, which was previously owned by Nick Lewin, a managing member of DFA PVA II Partners, LLC.
Lewin gained control of the AVP in December 2010 when his firm used $3.8 million of debt to buy the tour that in August of that year had shut down and canceled its five remaining events when it had run out of money.
Lewin had planned to create a new business model for the AVP, which has twice filed for bankruptcy since 1998, the last year it turned a profit. But Lewin struggled to attract financial backers and players. The AVP held one event last year, in Huntington Beach in October.
For Sun, who has worked at Kingston for 14 years since graduating from UCLA and whose new title is managing partner and owner of the AOS Group, this is his first major purchase and a chance to control a sport that he’s long admired and played at University High in Irvine.
“I’m not a volleyball guru, but I understand the enthusiasm people have for volleyball,” said Sun, who resides in Newport Beach and said he plans to headquarter the Los Angeles-based AVP there too.
He added: “It’s a shame where I see it today, but I want to build it back to what it was before.”
The AVP had as many as 31 events in 2008 and an annual revenue of nearly $25 million. It tried to capitalize on the U.S volleyball teams’ gold medal success at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the economic downturn drained it of sponsors and several million dollars.
Even so, many players chose to play overseas or in other new domestic tours, such as the Jose Cuervo Pro Volleyball Beach Series.
Sun said he didn’t like how the AVP had changed, such as altering court sizes and switching from side-out style of scoring to rally scoring, for television events in 2001.
“They tried to make it too TV-friendly,” he said.
Sun, who said he’d like for AVP events to be televised again, said plans are still in the early stages, but he does foresee there being AVP events in 2012.
Moreover, he said he’d like to keep Lewin’s idea of a unified rankings system, in which wins in other volleyball tours can earn players points.
Sun knows turning around the AVP won’t be easy.
“It’ll take time,” he said.