Dismissed Ladies European Tour chief executive Ivan Khodabakhsh’s position became untenable after he lost the backing of tour sponsor ISPS Handa.
LET players were told via email this week that Khodabakhsh “is leaving his position.” The LET also released a statement which said: “The Board of the LET has asked its Chairman, Mark Lichtenhein, to assume the day-to-day management of the business on an interim basis as the Board reviews its current governance structure and business strategy.”
Khodabakhsh did not attend last week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns. He also was absent from the previous week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Dundonald.
Scotland’s Catriona Matthew called for Khodabakhsh’s dismissal on the eve of the Women’s British when she said: “I think the product’s there. They have got a lot of good players. It’s just perhaps they have the wrong person at the head. Hopefully if they can get that resolved, it can start building itself up again.”
Khodabakhsh was foiled when ISPS Handa pulled its sponsorship of the European Ladies Masters, ending six years of direct LET sponsorship. The relationship with the Japanese non-profit organization began with the 2011 ISPS Handa Portugal Ladies Masters, then the 2012 Ladies British Masters. ISPS Handa had served as title sponsor of the Ladies British Masters for the past three years.
ISPS Handa pulled out of this year’s scheduled $590,000 European Ladies Masters in Germany after negotiations broke down between Khodabakhsh and executive director of international affairs Midori Miyazaki.
The European Ladies Masters was the fifth event to fall off this year’s LET schedule. Two other events have been scrapped this week: the Xiamen International Ladies Open and Qatar Ladies Open.
“The writing has been on the wall for a while now,” Annika Sorenstam said. “It’s been a very difficult year for the LET. Hopefully, things improve.”
Khodabakhsh began his LET role in 2013. He had no golf experience. His previous position was as chief executive of the World Series of Boxing.
The LET had 24 tournaments in 2012. There were 22 in 2013, 24 a year later, 20 in 2015 and 21 last year. There are just 15 on this year’s schedule. Nine years ago there were 28 tournaments in 21 countries.
Earlier this year, The Times newspaper reported the LET was on the brink of collapse, with losses of close to $1.5 million. The LET said the story was “highly inaccurate.”
ISPS Handa is currently one of the biggest sponsors in men’s and women’s golf.
– Beth Ann Nichols contributed