Lacy Schneemann of the Florida Smash returns a shot during a Major League Pickleball group game against BLQK at Pickle & Chill in Columbus, Ohio on October 15, 2022.
Émilee Chinn | Getty Images
After weeks of drama in professional pickleball, the PPA Tour and Major League Pickleball have once again agreed to merge, the leagues announced 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 grow rapidly, we couldn’t be more excited to provide players and fans with the clarity and consistency of a unified professional pickleball organization,” said MLP founder, Steve Kuhn, in a press release.
The merger agreement was first announced in November. But in recent weeks, the MLP and the PPA have had serious differences as the agreed terms for the merger have still not been finalized.
The two competing leagues have pursued the world’s best players 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 for playing professional pickleball,” Kuhn said.
The sport of pickleball has seen unprecedented growth over the past two years, both at the amateur and professional level. More than 36 million people have played pickleball in 2022, as courts pop up across the country. Professionally, the value of MLP teams has skyrocketed, with some teams reaching as much as $10 million.
Dundon said the new holding company will help streamline the sport on issues ranging from competition to broadcast rights and sponsorship.
The PPA Tour is a bracket-style tour format, while the MLP is a mixed team league. MLP owners include many high-profile athletes, from LeBron James and Kevin Durant to Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes.
As part of the merger, the organizations said fans can watch both formats of individual and team play under the same umbrella. The combined leagues will feature 150 of the world’s best players.
“Over the past several years, we have seen ever-increasing interest from investors, sponsors, fans and players who understand the immense value in the future of professional pickleball,” Dundon said.