Discovery Channel will not renew title sponsorship of its pro cycling team after the end of the 2007 season.
According to USA Today, Bill Stapleton, long-time agent for former team rider Lance Armstrong and executive of Tailwind Sports, Discovery's decision to drop sponsorship after three years is related to Monday's firing of Discovery Network's president Billy Campbell, by new Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav.
Campbell played a major role in bringing Discovery onboard as the team's title sponsor in 2005. Discovery first sponsored the team at a lower level in 2004. "This would not have happened if Billy Campbell was still there," Stapleton said to USA Today. "This is about their change in management."
Campbell was in favor of the signing of Italian racer and Tour de France favorite Ivan Basso in spite of the controversy that surrounded him following Operación Puerto.
Before Discovery Channel, the United States Postal Service was the title sponsor for the US's leading pro team, owned by Tailwind Sports. Now retired from racing, Lance Armstrong won six Tours de France for USPS, and then his seventh for Discovery in 2005.
Basso was signed in November to replace Armstrong as team leader and Tour contender after the team spent last year without a clear leader. At the 2006 Tour, Discovery spent one day in the yellow jersey, and its best-placed rider was 19th in the GC.
Although no longer racing, Armstrong stays involved with the squad as a co-owner with Tailwind Sports. Stapleton said he is already considering replacement title sponsors for 2008. He said he could sign a new sponsor prior to the end of the 2007 season.
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