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Michael Epstein wins back Malibu Triathlon permit over Super League Triathlon

"This decision sets a dangerous precedent for the wider industry"

Photo by: Malibu Triathlon/ Ryan Bethke

After a month of waiting, Malibu City Council has awarded the permit to put on a triathlon in Malibu to former race owner Michael Epstein. The Zuma Beach Triathlon will take place on September 14 and 15, 2024.

“Having successfully produced triathlons at Zuma Beach for 34 years while raising over 15 million dollars for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, I am humbled, thankful and grateful to have the Zuma Foundation be given this privilege by Malibu’s City Council for the next 5 years,” Epstein wrote in an email to previous participants earlier today.

We’ve reported extensively on the situation with the Malibu Triathlon (see the link below for our last story after Malibu City Council deferred the permit process for a month at it’s December meeting and other links to our coverage). Here’s the quick version of what’s going on: Race founder Michael Epstein sold the Malibu Triathlon to Motiv sports, which then sold the event to Super League Triathlon. In early 2023 the city of Malibu created a “Road Race Ad Hoc Committee” to decide which organizations should get the two permits the city gives out for a running race and a triathlon every year. Suddenly Super League Triathlon was competing for the rights to put on a race it had purchased three years before. That committee decided to give the Zuma Foundation (run by Epstein) the triathlon permit.

According to Epstein’s email today, the Zuma Beach Triathlon will have a corporate challenge which will fundraise for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Malibu Triathlon decision punted to January council meeting

Super League Responds

Super League Triathlon also sent an email to previous participants earlier today:

We are extremely disappointed by the decision of Malibu City Council to award a permit for a triathlon to a former owner, who has sold the triathlon in the past for commercial gain. Super League remains the legal owner of the event’s IP, and this decision sets a very dangerous precedent for the wider industry and all who want to promote health and wellness by investing in sporting events.

Super League Triathlon has owned Malibu Triathlon since 2020 and steered it through the challenging times of COVID, raising substantial funds for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) as well as revitalizing a race with a tremendous history and legacy in the sport.

The decision not to award a new permit ends 38 years of the Malibu Triathlon® as we know it and its proven substantial fundraising for CHLA, which has brought in $18 million for pediatric cancer research, as well as being an important part of the community and delivering support for a significant number of local charities and businesses.

There has been a disappointing lack of clarity around the decision-making criteria during the RFP process. We have asked the City Council many times for a meeting to discuss the criteria used in this process as we have been ready to satisfy any and all requirements, but have not received a response.

Super League Triathlon will undertake all necessary measures to protect our IP and to robustly question both this process and the outcome, as well as to defend the wider sport event industry.

We would like to thank all of the partners, staff, and supporters that have made this event such a huge success, and of course the many thousands of participants who have provided incredible inspiration for us to continue to deliver a world class event.

Last month Super League announced that it would be taking over the Long Beach Legacy Triathlon from USA Triathlon, which takes place on July 20 to 21, 2024.


We’ve reached out to Epstein for comment about this latest turn of events. As Super League points out, the decision sets an interesting precedent that could very well affect companies looking to invest in sporting events in the future.

That said, at some level this is simply business. Ironman famously “lost” Ironman Canada in Penticton when the city decided to give the race permit to Challenge. (That event was short-lived and Ironman eventually returned to Penticton.) As we pointed out in our last story on this issue: “Buying a race is one thing, but if you can’t get a city permit to put it on, your investment isn’t worth much.”