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Spending ACBL's $1M profit

This month's Bridge Bulletin reports (p. 62) that the ACBL earned $1M profit last year.

First off, kudos to CEO Robert Hartman for the financial reversal. The chart below shows ACBL's net assets from 2003 to 2012.

ACBL Net Assets: 2003-2012

Second, I offer some context for these figures:

The good news:

  • The $1M profit this year extends the $500K profit from last year
  • The ACBL lists $2.4M cash on hand, $1M in short-term investments and an additional $4M+ in other investments
Some caveats:
  • This financial reversal has come at the expense of other stakeholders. The ACBLnow runs 6 regionals per year (the 3 NABC's and 3 cruise regionals). The ACBL took over the regionals a few years ago from the districts in hard times. The ACBL has made some tough financial decisions that squeeze districts and units to ensure its profitability and it's unlikely those decisions will be reversed now in good times. Of course, card fees and annual dues have also risen.
  • The scariest part of this type of success is that it inevitably leads to demands for higher, permanent payouts to various stakeholders. Consider the cities (especially out here in California)that locked themselves into higher irreversiblepension costs at the height of the economic boom 10+ years ago. At the minimum, the huge profits overshadow the need to understand $624K in board expenses and $4.8M in "management and general" expenses.
  • The ACBL has made this much money and still nothing substantial has actually improved in the past year. The ACBL doesn't need profits: it needs to improve bridge! Consider technology, where the ACBL has spent huge amounts in the past year (and has approximately 17 full-time equivalents): we're still having this discussion on BridgeWinners not, the ACBLScore rewrite is still in-progress, the recent TourneyTrax system rollout had sufficient problems that tournament managers are no longerallowed to directly use it, the ACBL is no closer (and maybe even farther) from switching off its old computing platform and/or embracing modern computing which is the major problem.
That said, how would you all like to see that money spent? My vote is:
  • $170K to reduce annual fees by $1. This amount is trivial, but at least conveys symbolically to the members that the ACBL understands its role is to serve the members not enrich itself.
  • $330K for marketing. We have a marketing CEO: let's fund his ideas.
  • $50K to the Team Trials. The ACBL already kicks in quite a bit to support top-level bridge, but let's see how the USBF can improve the Team Trials (or US Open Bridge Championship) with a 1 or 2-year inflow of cash.
  • $200K for technology. Ironically, funding of technology isn't the problem (2 years ago it was). But if money is the only way the ACBL can make technology progressthen better the money goes to technology than be wasted.
  • $150K for districts/units. There's actually an additional $250K per year that the ACBL could and should be giving back to units/districts at no cost to itself, but that's another story.
  • $100K for itself - because my mother taught me to save.
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