The Salt Lake City Marathon will be allowed to proceed April 21, city officials said Thursday, provided its new management can meet a list of demands by Tuesday to prove they have the organizational wherewithal to pull it off.
However, the race’s new owner said he will not honor the debts accrued by the old one — with whom he insists he has no ties.
"We shouldn’t be punished for what he has done," said Peter Handy, who owns U.S. Road Sports, the company that said it has bought the race from Chris Devine.
Devine has a long and well-publicized history of failing to pay his bills quickly, if at all, and his questionable stewardship of the race has been an issue for years. Many vendors have said they’re owed thousands of dollars for work performed at past races.
City officials acknowledged a "deep concern" about the business practices of those involved, especially after documents, news reports and websites appeared to link Handy and Devine in business ventures going back years. Handy is listed in documents discovered in a search on the Westlaw online legal research system as a director of Devine-owned Marathon Media Inc. He did not deny that role — nor that he and Devine have collaborated on business dealings since 1989 — but said it lasted only from 1996 to 2003.
Handy insists the two share no current associations, other than through the sale of marathons.
"I have no business ties to Chris," he said.
"We bought the Miami, the Chicago and the New Jersey marathon from Chris," Handy added, "and as of last Friday we bought the Salt Lake marathon. If there is some impropriety or conspiracy theory out there, it is just your vivid imagination. We are just doing business with these guys. Chris has a reputation for being way out there on the edge; he is a creative guy and has done some great things and he has done some really bad things, like not paying for anything."
City officials learned of the connection between the men only after being told of the sale of the race.
"It would have been nice to hear from them as some sort of good faith that they had previous dealings or current dealings with one another," mayoral spokesman Art Raymond said. "That didn’t happen, and the mayor, as the city’s elected official, is deeply concerned about unpaid local business owners. It puts our community in a poor light, but we are doing what we can."
Mayor Ralph Becker would not comment on the situation, Raymond said.
The city said that in order to approve a permit for the race to take place as scheduled, organizers must provide completed permit applications to Salt Lake County, Murray City, the Utah Transit Authority, Utah Department of Transportation and the University of Utah’s scheduling office.
The new owners also must get contact information for the barricade companies that have agreed to supply barricades and signage for the race.
If the city does not receive the requested information by Tuesday, the race could be postponed or canceled.
"We’ve had a lot of people contacting the mayor’s office, and it’s a disappointing environment," Raymond said. "The mayor is hearing directly from friends and constituents about this and shares their concern. His fingers are crossed, too."
But Raymond said that despite the city’s concerns, it can’t simply deny a permit based on the business practices of those involved with the marathon, according to the legal advice it has received from its attorneys. The city can only strive to ensure such events have sufficient organization and infrastructure to be held.
"Our hands are tied," he said. "The mayor has a high level of concern about all the peripheral issues that come with this event, from unpaid vendors and residents both local and out of state who have been left with a lack of information by race organizers."
Although city officials remain concerned about the unbroken promises and business relationships of the past, Handy said his company will pay those who work future marathons in a timely manner — though many vendors have heard that before.
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