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Friday, February 24, 2012
Updated: February 28, 1:06 PM ET
Billabong on the brink?

By Jake Howard
ESPN Action Sports

The Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay has been a stand-out stop on tour for years, but in light of Billabong's fiscal woes, has now been downgraded to a six-star contest on the ASP's qualifying schedule.

Thursday, on the eve of the first event of the 2012 ASP World Tour season, the ASP announced that the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay will be downgraded from a World Tour event to a Six-Star affair.

One of the premier waves on the tour, as well as one of the spots that served as a catalyst for the "Dream Tour" concept, the loss of Jeffreys Bay is a huge blow to an otherwise promising 2012 schedule. Over the years Jeffreys Bay has helped define the careers of luminaries such as Shaun Tomson, Tom Curren, Mark Occhilupo, Andy Irons and Kelly Slater.

In a prepared statement to the press Billabong explained: "The change in event status follows a broader review in which we are seeking to identify cost savings throughout the business. By retaining an event at Jeffreys Bay, it now provides two qualifying events back-to-back in the South African region. The move to an ASP 6-Star also opens the event up to South Africa's aspiring pro surfers for the first time in 20 years and ensures continuity of the event for the local businesses in Jeffreys Bay."

With a sliding stock price, in recent weeks and months Billabong has struggled to find their financial footing, leading to rumors about corporate takeovers and the removal of current CEO Derek O'Neill, which may prove to be more than just Internet chatter.

On Monday, Feb. 20, Transworld Business's Mike Lewis reported that the "private equity firm TPG has submitted an updated purchase proposal for Billabong for $3 per share."

This report comes on the heels of news that private equity firm Trilantic Capital Partners signed a joint-venture deal to acquire a 48.5 percent stake in Billabong-owned Nixon Watches, leaving Billabong with an equal share of 48.5 percent and Nixon founders and management with the remaining 3 percent.

The embattled surfwear conglomerate was shrouded in controversy when three-time world champion and Billabong team rider Andy Irons was found deceased in a Dallas hotel room on Nov. 2, 2010. The company released a statement pointing to the cause of death as dengue fever, which later turned out to be false and led some to believe that a cover-up was being orchestrated.

Billabong currently sponsors ASP World Tour surfers Joel Parkinson and Taj Burrow. They are also the sponsor of the 2012 Billabong Pro Tahiti, Billabong Pro Rio, and the Billabong Pipeline Masters. The company owns numerous other action sports labels, including Xcel Wetsuits, Da Kine, Von Zipper and skateboard companies Sector Nine and Element.