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Monday, April 2, 2012
Volleyball tour has new owners

Associated Press

The AVP professional beach volleyball tour, which collapsed in bankruptcy two years ago, has been purchased by a former technology executive with the perfect name for the sexy, sandy sport.

Donald Sun grew up in Southern California playing indoor volleyball and watching AVP events on the local beaches. He stepped down from Kingston Technology, a Fountain Valley, Calif.-based maker of computer memory, last month to devote himself to reviving the domestic beach volleyball tour full time.

"This is not an investment. This is a career," Sun said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press shortly after the deal was announced on Monday. "I'm going to be involved."

Founded in 1983, the AVP held as many as 31 events a year in its heyday thanks to a popularity spike from the Beijing Olympics, where Americans won both the men's and women's gold medals. But the tour shut down in 2010 and filed for bankruptcy protection.

Sun's AOS Group LP reportedly paid $2 million for the tour's trademarks, video library and other assets. He said he would like to get the tour running this summer with a few events, but first he will have to line up sponsors and venues.

Several competing domestic pro tours have sprouted up in the meantime, and finding open dates on a schedule that includes an international tour and the Olympics will also be a challenge.

"We'd like to work with the other leagues to see if there's something we can do together," Sun said. "I'm the new guy. I'm going to approach this with humility and reverence."

Hans Stolfus, a former player who has worked for the AVP, said the tour will again try to capitalize on what is expected to be increased attention following the Olympics. The bikini-clad women typically draw big ratings at the games, and the American teams of Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor and Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser are again among the favorites to medal.

"It's late in the game, but he has every intention of putting something together as quickly as possible," Stolfus said. "It's going to be difficult, but hopefully not impossible, to get something on the calendar as early as this summer. Long-term strategy involves 2013 and beyond, but losing the attention of the sport's diehard fans for another summer after what transpired during 2010-11 isn't an ideal scenario for new ownership to overcome."

Sun played high school volleyball. He said he thought about trying out for the team after arriving at UCLA, but quickly realized he wasn't tall or otherwise talented enough to make a perennial NCAA championship contender.

"I grew up watching, loving and fully enjoying the sport," Sun said. "As a volleyball player, you see these guys out there and they're just great athletes, doing things normal people can't do."

Nick Lewin, the head of the former ownership group, said there were several offers for the AVP.

"We ... decided to sell to Donald, who has a real passion for both the sport and the brand," Lewin said. "We have the utmost confidence that Donald and his team can build the AVP into exactly what we all envision."