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An interview with Franck Riboud and Jacques Bungert at the 2012 Evian Masters
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From left: tournamnet chairman Franck Riboud and director Jacques Bungert

Franck Riboud and Jacques Bungert met the media to discuss the changes to the Evian Masters golf course ahead of the 2013 Evian, which will be a major on the LPGA Tour.

JACQUES BUNGERT:  So just few words.  As you know, we'll be the last major of the year.  The place, you know, it, it won't change.  It will be Evian.  I know you were worried.  And the dates will be 12 to 15 of September.  It's going to be a very interesting season, and an interesting crowd of passionate golfers.

            What we are working on at the moment with the tour is basically the idea of maybe using this special position at the end of the whole tunnel, I would say, of major to probably celebrate some players that would have shown a special performance throughout the year, throughout the season through the majors.

            FRANCK RIBOUD:  And the junior golf cup will be separat.  The golf course will be closed two weeks before for everybody to get the best quality for the course.

            JACQUES BUNGERT:  By the way, if you have questions later on, we'll answer later on with one of the architects, with pleasure.

            A new identity.  Let's go on.  As I showed you, we're changing a little bit of colors to adapt to the season obviously, as well as our new principle of having all the logos in the same color.

            This specific logo will be used for our merchandising, as you can see here.  Just obviously this will change.  I am not sure this is going to be exactly the same one.  It's just an example just to show you that it goes very well with the logo, the branding, and the merchandising.

            FRANCK RIBOUD:  Just the week of the tournament.  The rest of the year will be the Evian Golf Course.

            JACQUES BUNGERT:  It would be only to get these items within the tournament, on the site, and that's it for a very specific moment of the golf tournament.

            FRANCK RIBOUD:  The merchandising will be the Evian Golf Club.

            JACQUES BUNGERT:  Most importantly, the key is the new golf course.  You've got here as well the map I was mentioning, and you will have another one again near the practice grounds over there.

            So here the film that shows in 3D the way it's going to look like around 15, 16.  15 will be on the left, par‑3.  This is the new grandstand with the water.  As you can see, there is an extension of the water, and here you see the green of the 15 and tee of...

            The village, the new village.  18 will be a par‑4, one the important changes.  This will be the entrance for the main public.  The village, that will be obviously extended.  There is a lot of possibilities for the industry to promote their products.

            The public will go that way.  We'll have many so grandstands to look after the chipping.  You can see all the key sponsors overseeing the chipping as well.

            This is another view.  Well, that's it.  We'll come back to that.  Maybe actually if you have question already on the golf course, maybe we can answer it.  You have a view here and another view here on the golf course.

            Most of you know the changes of all the greens and the tee off position, and as well as 15, 16, 17, 18.  Very challenging.

            Dave, maybe do you want to do some comments on this?

            DAVE SAMPSON:  Very happy to answer any questions that anybody has on the new proposal.  What Jacques said is the main most notable changes that are coming on, the holes nearest the clubhouse, and then No. 5 will be changing it from a par‑4 to a par‑3.  It's going to be quite a dramatic par‑3 with a number of legs cascading back down towards the tee box.

            On No. 15, we're just pushing the tee and the green back slightly so that we can introduce the new par‑3, 16, to create the amphitheater of golf and to heighten the drama for a major championship.

            The other changes are the increase in size of all the green complexes.  We're also changing the look and feel of the bunkers.  The current bunkers are quite wide and big and flat and not in character and scale and proportion with the golf course currently, so all the bunkers will be rescaled down and made smaller and a lot more challenging and a bit more of a penalty than they are right now.

            JACQUES BUNGERT:  And the golf will close right after mid‑September this year and we will reopen early July, probably mid‑July, maybe the 14th, with a great celebration of the new opening the of golf course obviously to be able and ready for the first Evian Championship in September.

            Quick words on this.  Obviously we were discussing it yesterday with Mike Whan, the commissioner of the LPGA and with the tours.  Obviously we will have a lot of surprise.  We will have all our champions coming back to us, and some of them are being very excited about the idea of coming back here for this special moment.

            There will be a lot of specific surprise that I keep for myself just to tease you a little bit and make sure you will be with us next year.

            I'm going to leave it to Franck.  Basically, what is important too, and he and mention it during the Junior Cup award ceremony, we're working also currently...

            (Applause.)

Golf is a priority, sorry.  He mentioned we will have a new competition coming probably in '14 with the under‑17.  As you know, the Junior Cup involves the under‑14, 1‑4, and we're going to go on with the under‑17.

            The junior Cup is already paying off, I would say.  Since as you know, the Chinese player, (indiscernible) the Junior Cup two years ago, and is playing the Evian Masters this year, which a great news for China and great news for us as well.

            Again, it tells a lot about what Franck wants to build here as a system.  The Evian Masters today and tomorrow the Evian Championship is only the emerge part of a gigantic system that wants to promote the future of golf through champions and through events.

            This is the place, this is the tool.  Obviously you were over there during the week.  You have seen the new training center, I mean, all these tools are dedicated to the best of golf.  Franck, maybe you want to have a few words about it?

            FRANCK RIBOUD:  No, the only thing Jacques forget is if you look at the future, we will have the Evian Championship, the Evian; we will have Junior Cup; we will have this under‑17, and we have also the Haribo Kids Cup, kids between 7 and 20 years old.

            As he said, it's exactly what we want to do.  We are not there to make profit with the Evian.  We just want to build the future of golf.  And not only French golf, all golf.

            The question mark we have is could we do something with, I don't know, a male tournament, a man tournament.  Why not?  It's something open.  When you look at the new golf course on which you don't have even the back, back tee, perhaps we could also imagine to have one day an (indiscernible) tournament.

            So we are going to give this new course to the crazy people, really the crazy one about golf.  Not the one about of the weekend, the really crazy one.

            To give you an example, when we discuss with Jan (phonetic) and Jean, I want we change the flag every day.  I want we change the tee off every day.  I want the course is changing every day, not only for the tournament, but also for the people crazy about golf.  You know, you have a lot people like this all over the world.

            On top of that, we want to bring back in this golf club what I call the (in French), meaning the right technology and so on and so on.  So we are really going to try to transform this golf course.

            On top of that, we are going to refurbish totally the Royal Hotel in the next three years.  We will not close it, but we will refurbish ‑ perhaps more than refurbish ‑ spend a lot of known make this hotel really a five star hotel.

            So you will have the Royal, the Ermitage, and the Manuel Manoir.  The idea of the Manuel Manoir is, again, for the people crazy about golf.  Like for those who are climbing mountains, you have what we call a refuge, just people crazy about golf.  If you want to eat, you will share the table with the other one you even don't know.  That's the idea.

            The other idea is to have a lot of kids from clubs, from Federation, from leagues, to come here with their trainer and train them serve.  The idea was coming two years ago we invite 25 kids from the club in Paris I know quite well.  The kids were just ‑‑ they love the place, except one thing.  They can't make noise because they are in a big hotel.

            So we offer to them now a place where they can be alone so they can destroy the place.  One of the kid was mine, so I know.  But it's exactly the idea.

            And you will see that the price we ask for playing on the Evian Training Center and having your bed in the Manuel will be very affordable.

            So that's it.  After the tournament, one idea, and we just discuss about that this morning.  We are in July; we are going to be in September.  Means nothing for you, but many things for us.  The trees, no more leaves.  They are on the ground.  People working at this period of time.  We don't have a lot traffic jam here, but you don't need a lot of things to have big trouble on the road.

            So we have to reinvent the tournament, not only the tournament, the sport tournament, but we have to reinvent everything.  The wrong idea will be to try to copy what we are doing in July in September.  The days are shorter.  Normally we have less storm.  Be there if we need you, not with your have your pencil, but with your arms.

            So that's the idea.  Honestly, that will transform totally the tournament.  Except that, we want to keep the same spirit.  It's not because we are a major that we are going to, I don't care.  No, no.  We will keep exactly the same spirit for this tournament, the spirit you can feel during the party, the spirit you can feel during the soccer match.

            Again, I got a lot of question yesterday about this soccer match because it seems obvious we have spectators.  No.  The idea in the beginning, and I repeat this everywhere, the soccer match is there for the caddies, nothing else.

            Because we want also to take care not only of the players, but we want to take care of all the stakeholders around the tournament.  The caddies are part of this.

            So don't ask us everything for next year, but we will continue to improve the quality of the tournament globally.

            JACQUES BUNGERT:  We can maybe afterwards ask specific or more technical questions today.  By the way, I want to give credit to all of the colleagues that have been working and are working on this project and are not here today.

            Obviously your partner (indiscernible) from your proposed design, and Steve Smyers, a consultant for the LPGA.  So it's a collective work, and it's important to ‑‑

            FRANCK RIBOUD:  And good for the weather during the winter.  We are not in Florida.

            JACQUES BUNGERT:  Well, now, back to your questions.

 

            Q.  Do you intend to stick to the September dates for your new championship, meaning that when it'll be played, the Solheim Cup will be over and the other four majors will count to give points to both teams.  Not you.  It will be the first time that I major won't count for the Solheim Cup.  And next, because after years you have also the Ryder Cup at the end of the month of September, maybe around the 20th, don't you think you will have a sort of conflict?

            JACQUES BUNGERT:  Well we'll see as far as the Ryder Cup is concerned.

            On the Solheim Cup points, we are working and discussing it with the tour, but it might be some sliding, some decision with some sliding the points.  So we'll see that as well.

            Anyway, these a dates were the only dates possible, so we had to adjust to, I would say, the general calendar.  So we'll see how we are working on this with the team and the LPGA, and we will see.

 

            Q.  (Question in French. )

            JACQUES BUNGERT:  The question of your colleague was about the link and the benefit between the good results of Group Danone, because ‑‑ actually, by the way, the chairman is also the chairman of Group Danone.

            And the link between the success of the Evian Masters and (indiscernible), the Evian brand was saying basically that it was full profit obviously worldwide for the brand, and they had to even exploit even more the great potential of a worldwide major, and this was a challenge for the future.

            Franck insisted on the fact that after competing all these years, there is a technical issue that explains also why Evian, the tournament, the group, to exploit the brand with a mayor and with the city of Evian.

            You have some specs and some obligation on the part of the brand.  Among them, the idea of animating the city and making an event for the city.  In the past, it was a musical festival and now it's the Evian Masters and tomorrow the Evian.

            So it's technically also putting a very specific future to the tournament, because it's a technical obligation by contract between the brand and the city.

            FRANCK RIBOUD:  50% of the sales of Evian are outside France.

            JACQUES BUNGERT:  We were talking about Evian, but I'm sure our friend Barbec (phonetic) will tell you about the benefit for IBM being here using the tournament as a lab.  I'm sure we could talk about Lacoste and his experience in tennis.  We are really benefitting from what we're doing.  All the digital goodies and innovations, we're working on them on a global platform with Lacoste.

            Same with Societe Genrale, Rolex.  I would say that we're also benefitting from their experience.  And in the past 10 years, our partnership, everything we signed, as well as with Renaud yesterday actually, is for very long period of time.  Everything is just the idea of this tournament.

            Franck was talking about spirit.  It's important to understand that we've got a board, I would say, a club of sponsors that are really working with us all year long to make this tournament what it is.

            For most of them, it's a fantastic lab also and it's a lab for us.  It gives us also some dimensions that help us evolve.

            FRANCK RIBOUD:  Just imagine that with Rolex we have a 10‑year contract.  So in golf, if you want to build something, you need sustainability.  So we need this kind of contract.  We don't want to change.

 

            Q.  What about the prize money?  It has been$3.25 for three years and you don't change it.  Why?

            FRANCK RIBOUD:  After the U.S. Open.

 

            Q.  So there is pressure on you?

            FRANCK RIBOUD:  No pressure.  We respect everything.  The U.S. Open is the U.S. Open, so we don't want to be up the U.S. Open.

            JACQUES BUNGERT:  As we were mentioning two or three years ago, I don't recall, but basically we could have expanded and grown the prize money easily.  It was not the crisis of that.  We didn't want to do it just for the sake of respecting what it is.

            It's true we've been aligning ourself ‑ without any pressure, I should mention ‑ from anyone just because we were respectful.  As we did change the name of the Evian Masters.  You know it because we have been talking about it.  But when we were together at Augusta this year, because Franck happens to also be on the board of Rolex, and we were with our Rolex friends and when chairman came to us.  It's really a privilege.

            He came to Frank and said, Thank you.  Franck was like, Why?  Just thank you for changing the name.  And why?  Because in fact there is a contract with the tour that no major can be called Masters.  It was not a problem.  We anticipated it.  Nobody asked for it.

            We said okay.  Nobody asked.  We are going to change it just by respect.  This is the way we work and this is the way we see also I would say the family of golf, people who have been around for longer, longer, longer and many years than us.

            FRANCK RIBOUD:  I think there is another way to answer it.  If you look at sports, all the sports, we have also the responsibility not to be totally crazy about prize money for sports.  I think we have the right good balance between what different population can accept and what can attract the best player of the world.

            Don't forget that 18 years ago we start as a pro‑am and today it's a major.  So everybody think it's going very fast, very fast.  Yes, but that's the reason why we don't want to destroy or damage the tournament being there since 100 years.  So we have to continue to build the history of this tournament.

            It's a long, long process.

            JACQUES BUNGERT:  Any other questions?  Okay, so thank you very much for your attention.  I would like to say also a special thanks, because you've been following us for a long time.  It's our major today, and it's also thanks to you and thanks to the job you've been doing and the history you've been telling about Evian.

            We don't do it every day, but we would like to thank you for that you.

            Thank you.  (Applause).

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