FLW announcements stun industry

Published 2:46 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Standing on the stage at the Gwinnett Convention Center in front of the thousands of FLW fans and members attending the final weigh-in of the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier, Ga., FLW Outdoors Chairman Irwin Jacobs made two announcements Sunday.

Both announcements served to solidify FLW Outdoors’ stance within the sport fishing industry.

First, contrary to popular rumor, Wal-Mart has agreed to a renewed long-term sponsorship of FLW Outdoors.

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“Many Wal-Mart customers have a deep commitment to the outdoors. To them, time spent fishing represents ‘living better,’” said Stephen Quinn, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Wal-Mart.

In conjunction with the agreement, Wal-Mart will be expanding their assortment of fishing merchandise and providing family-friendly outdoor related activities at local stores.

When asked about specific stores and events, Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman stated, “It’s still too soon to tell what any specific store might have in the way of retailtainment events, as we are still finalizing some of what will take place. What we can tell you is that people who enjoy fishing are an important customer segment for Wal-Mart. These types of events, coupled with an expanded assortment of products being made available, continue to make Wal-Mart the destination of choice for outdoor enthusiasts.”

Wal-Mart’s expanded roll is scheduled to begin in 2011. The details of the agreement, in accordance with FLW Outdoors policy, will not be released.

Second, energy tycoon and financier, T. Boone Pickens, has become an equity holder and partner in FLW Outdoors.

“I’m supporting Irwin [Jacobs] in this initiative because it presents a unique opportunity to develop an appreciation and respect for the outdoors in a new and unique manner. I think it has a great future,” Pickens said.

Pickens is founder of BP Capital Management, a hedge fund manager specializing in energy stocks, but is best known as the billionaire from Texas who developed the Pickens Plan.

The Pickens Plan is focused on reducing the United States’ reliance on foreign oil through the use wind power and domestic natural gas reserves.

Pickens was made famous outside the financial markets during the 2004 presidential election as a supporter of the Swift Boat vets.

Pickens’ roll in FLW Outdoors’ future has not been fully disclosed.

When asked about the announcements, Jacobs, as he is prone to do, provided just enough information on each to get speculation and rumor started.

Jacobs stated, “Wal-Mart has been an integral part of professional and recreational fishing for many years. We recognize Wal-Mart’s renewed, long-term commitment to FLW Outdoors as a substantial and important confirmation of Wal-Mart’s support for their customers’ passion for the outdoors.”

Jacobs continued about Pickens, “I don’t believe there is a more committed and/or stronger advocate for promoting America’s incredible natural resources than Boone Pickens. He truly is one of America’s greatest citizens and everyone at FLW Outdoors is humbled and proud to have him on board as a partner and confidante.”

But, no matter what the Internet chat rooms and blogs dream up, one thing cannot be ignored.

The increased and continued support of the world’s largest retailer, combined with the joint business acumen of Pickens and Jacobs, has the potential to rock the foundation of the sport fishing industry for years to come.