Leonard Armato, head of the professional beach volleyball tour, resigned Wednesday for unspecified reasons. He will be replaced by Jason Hodell, who had been the tour's chief operating officer.
"Having built the tour from six events in 2002 to 31 events this past year, and quadrupling our prize money, I am thrilled with the progress we have made," Armato said in a statement. "Coming off the success of the 2008 Olympics in which we won men and women's gold medals, pro beach volleyball is now one of the hottest sports in the world."
Armato, who tour officials said would continue in an advisory role, wasn't available for comment. The tour makes its next stop in Riverside on April 17-19.
The Assn. of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) has tried to capitalize on the popularity of beach volleyball and the success of the United States at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh won the women's tournament and Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser won the men's.
However, the tour has been mired in financial difficulties and has not turned a profit since 1998.
Armato, formerly a sports agent for basketball stars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal and boxer Oscar De La Hoya, became the AVP's chief executive in 2001 and combined the men's and women's tours into a unified circuit.
Hodell said Armato helped the tour attract 12 national sponsors after it had none in 1998, when it filed for bankruptcy.
"Everybody was taken aback when they heard the news," Hodell said of Armato's resignation. "Everybody around the sport recognizes the impact he's had. He was one of the guys who helped bring the tour back to life. As a volleyball player, I feel like I owe him a debt of gratitude."
Hodell has acknowledged "profits have been a challenge" despite several tour sponsorship renewals. AVP lost $3 million in the first nine months of 2008 and recently delisted its stock. The Los Angeles-based company also lost $4 million in 2007.
"He won't be replaced easily," Hodell said. "His passion for the sport and his high-energy level are unparalleled."