Following suit with Nike and Anheuser-Busch, Trek Bicycle Corporation terminated its marketing relationship with Lance Armstrong Wednesday, citing “the findings and conclusions in the USADA report.” Armstrong still holds a minority share in the company.
Trek released the following brief statement late Wednesday.
“Trek is disappointed by the findings and conclusions in the USADA report regarding Lance Armstrong. Given the determinations of the report, Trek today is terminating our longterm relationship with Lance Armstrong. Trek will continue to support the Livestrong Foundation and its efforts to combat cancer.”
BikeRadar asked Trek legal spokesman Bill Mashek what was different about today versus the past few years, in regard to its position with Armstrong and allegations of doping.
“Like the statement said, we reviewed the [USADA] report. The company has respected the process throughout,” he said. “The company made this decision today.”
Mashek said Armstrong still retains the small share of the company.
“He was granted a very small share in the early 1990s, less than a quarter of one percent,” Mashek said. “The majority is privately held by the Burke family.”
Mashek declined to comment on whether Armstrong was contacted before the decision was publicized, or on who specifically on the Trek leadership team made the call.
As to how this would affect Trek’s brand image going forward, Mashek said Armstrong “has not been at the forefront of Trek’s marketing recently.”
“The bike brand and the bikes stand in the market on their own among the riders,” he said. “That’s what’s going to move bikes in shops.”
Trek, Armstrong and LeMond
Before Trek had a relationship with Lance Armstrong, the American company partnered with three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond. At one point Trek Bicycles sold the LeMond brand of bikes. In recent years, LeMond became quite outspoken against Armstrong. Also, Trek terminated its relationship with LeMond. But Bashek said Armstrong did not cause Trek to break ties with LeMond.
“That is not accurate. Greg LeMond did have a licensing agreement with Trek. But the decision to terminate that was not related to Lance Armstrong,” he said. “That was a business decision. LeMond sued Trek first, as a matter of fact twice, while they were partners and had a licensing agreement. Trek notified LeMond that they were not going to renew the agreement when it expired, which it was allowed to do under the terms of the agreement. Trek fulfilled its obligations. Trek had no problem with LeMond talking openly about doping in the sport of cycling. But the company did ask him not to disparage any individual athlete, including Armstrong. Trek was able to reach a confidential settlement with LeMond following the lawsuits.”
You can read more about the 2008 split between Trek and LeMond here on Bicycle Retailer & Industry News. At the time, Trek president John Burke told Bicycle Retailer, “Had all the stars aligned with Lance and Greg, if [LeMond] had kept a positive relationship, [the LeMond brand] would have ended up a $30 to $35 million brand.”
Trek and Livestrong
Like a few other sponsors that have dropped ties with Armstrong, Trek is retaining its association with Livestrong, the cancer charity from which Armstrong just resigned as chairman. Livestrong is a registered trademark of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Trek has three Livestrong-branded bikes in its current line.