- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

There's trouble in bass fishing paradise. A Web site that exists to keep bass fanatics apprised of what's happening says ESPN, which owns the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS), is having a huge spat with the people who used to run it. BassFan.com is correct when it says the former owners of BASS are being accused by the cable TV network of not being totally honest.
None of this would have happened had the man who founded BASS, Ray Scott, remained at the helm of the organization. But Scott sold the world's biggest fishing club of more than 400,000 dues-paying members, along with Bassmaster Magazine and the Bassmaster TV show to a group of loyal, former employees, and they after making a good bit of money themselves sold it to ESPN.
At first, it was all hugs and kisses and good will. Whenever ESPN mentioned the former CEO of BASS, Helen Sevier, you would have thought they were talking about Mother Teresa and not a tough businesswoman from Montgomery, Ala., where BASS is headquartered.
Now a panel of arbiters in Atlanta is hearing a dispute between ESPN and BASS. BassFan.com says it has two confidential sources who are familiar with the legal proceedings claiming ESPN believes it was misled regarding the number of Bassmaster Magazine subscribers, which should be the same as the number of BASS members. The former owners dispute that contention.
At stake is a portion of the $30million to $40million purchase price that is being held by an escrow agent. One source told BassFan.com that the portion in question amounts to $10million, but another source says it's half that, maybe even less.
What is known to insiders is that ESPN asked the escrow agent not to pay the former owners until the Bassmaster Magazine subscriber issue is resolved. Now, accusations are made that ESPN is trying to renegotiate the price it offered for BASS a year and a half after the sale.
Said the BassFan.com source: "I think a lot of ESPN employees are trying to save their jobs because they're now having to be accountable for what's going on over there, and these people are pointing fingers at the old group [of former BASS owners]."
Meanwhile, Mark Quenzel, ESPN's senior VP of programming, said, "I can't really comment on the financial stuff or the legal stuff. That's for other people. What I can tell you for sure is that whatever's being discussed between ESPN and the previous owners has nothing underline nothing to do with how much we believe in BASS the organization and the people and the fact that it is the cornerstone of our outdoors strategy. One has nothing to do with the other."
To which I say, come back, Ray Scott. You're sorely missed.
Speaking about BASS The Bass Masters Classic, a kind of championship of bass fishing, returns to the Big Easy July28-Aug.3. New Orleans played host to the championship in 1999 and 2001.
"The Louisiana Delta offers one of the nation's premier fisheries," said Dean Kessel, general manager of BASS. In addition to the on-the-water action, where 62 of the world's top anglers will be competing for the $200,000 top prize, the city also will hold a Classic Outdoor Show at the Ernest P. Morial Convention Center.
Anglers will fish on the expansive Louisiana Delta for the three days, with the daily weigh-ins taking place at the Louisiana Superdome. The waters will be off limits to any potential Classic qualifier as of Jan.1 and remain so until the Classic practice period in late July.
Celebrating our national refuges Interior Secretary Gale Norton invites all to a series of special events across the country to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week, now through Saturday, as the National Wildlife Refuge System celebrates its 100th anniversary.
More than 400 national wildlife refuges are open to the public, offering a variety of outdoor activities, including fishing, hunting, environmental education, wildlife observation and photography. There is at least one wildlife refuge in every state and one within an hour's drive of most major cities. In a recent survey, Americans spent $108billion on wildlife-related recreation in 2001, and 39percent of all U.S. residents 16 years old and older participated in activities such as hunting, fishing and bird watching.
Among the events taking place in Washington and surrounding areas are the Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest winner announcement and the unveiling of the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge Postage Stamp at the Main Interior Building tomorrow at noon.


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