Lacy Schneemann of the Florida Smash returns a shot during a group play Major League Pickleball match against BLQK at Pickle & Chill in Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 15, 2022.
Emilee Chinn | Getty Images
After weeks of drama in professional pickleball, the PPA Tour and Major League Pickleball have again agreed to merge, the leagues said Wednesday.
The combination is backed by a $50 million investment led by private equity firm SC Holdings, PPA Tour owner Tom Dundon and various MLP owners.
“As professional pickleball continues to rapidly grow, we could not be more excited to provide both players and fans with the clarity and consistency of a unified professional pickleball organization,” MLP founder Steve Kuhn said in a statement.
The merger agreement was first announced in November. But in recent weeks, the MLP and PPA had a major falling out after the agreed upon merger terms still hadn’t been finalized.
The two competing leagues have been chasing the top players in the world in a spending war, signing them to contracts to play in their respective leagues.
“This merger will expand and improve opportunities for current and future players, creating a united experience and a better future playing professional pickleball,” Kuhn said.
The sport of pickleball has seen unprecedented growth in the past couple of years at both the amateur and professional level. More than 36 million people played pickleball in 2022, as courts are popping up all across the country. On the professional level, MLP teams’ values have skyrocketed, with some teams going for $10 million.
Dundon said the new holding company will help streamline the sport on issues from competition to broadcasting rights and sponsorship.
The PPA Tour is a bracket-style tour format, while the MLP is a coed, team-based league. MLP owners include many high-profile athletes from LeBron James and Kevin Durant to Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes.
Under the merger, the organizations said fans can watch both formats of individual and team play under the same umbrella. The combined leagues will comprise 150 of the leading players in the world.
“Over the past few years, we have seen ever-increasing interest from investors, sponsors, fans and players who understand the immense value in the future of professional pickleball,” said Dundon.