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Original Issue

Triathlon's Secret Sugar Daddy

The name is JDavid. It first appeared in connection with the triathlon on the front of Kathleen McCartney's racing singlet at the 1982 Ironman in Hawaii. Since then, what's officially known as Team JDavid/Hoover Racing has come to include five of the top six male triathletes and two of the five best women. Two-time Nice champion Mark Allen is on Team JDavid. So are Scott Molina, Scott and Jeff Tinley and three-time Olympic cyclist and 1980 Ironman champion John Howard. Among the biggest names, only Dave Scott is missing. McCartney and the woman who beat her in that '82 Ironman, Julie Leach, are the JDavid women.

But what is JDavid? It's a 6-year-old, privately held La Jolla, Calif. specialty investment securities company named after co-founder Jerry David Dominelli, a fiercely private 41-year-old former Bache broker whose forte is foreign exchange trading. The Hoover belongs to JDavid's other co-founder, former Del Mar, Calif. Mayor Nancy Hoover, who has lived with Dominelli the last four years and is considered a financial wizard in her own right. But despite JDavid's deliberately low profile, it has become perhaps the most influential force in triathlons today. Its sponsorship of leading athletes has allowed them to train under ideal circumstances and has solidified a potentially unstable sport.

Philanthropy is nothing new to JDavid—almost from its inception it has consistently and silently supported sports and arts in San Diego. It took on triathlons when JDavid executive Ted Pulaski got the bug: He took up the sport himself (he has lost 33 pounds in two years), convinced Dominelli to sponsor McCartney and eventually passed the bug along to Hoover's 20-year-old son, George, who finished fifth at Nice.

JDavid's support is more than a family affair. Team JDavid has 20 members. Half are investors who are among the top five triathletes in their various age groups, and the other half are the Aliens, Molinas, McCartneys, Howards and Tinleys, who are treated as if they were Olympians in training. In addition to free clothes and equipment and all-expenses-paid trips to Nice and Hawaii for competitions, they receive a stipend of about $1,200 a month as well as help in buying $1,500 racing bikes. They also get group training trips to places like Colorado. Much of Team JDavid will arrive in Hawaii 10 days before the Ironman, with an entourage including a team bike mechanic and a cook.

The next move apparently will be into television. "JDavid has a great deal of influence," says Barry Frank, senior corporate vice-president for Mark McCormack's International Management Group, the organization that produced the last two made-for-TV triathlons in Nice. "Networks believe you've got to have a Tinley, Allen or Molina to have an attractive event."

JDavid forced the cancellation of a CBS-IMG triathlon, which had been scheduled for this summer in Spain, when its team balked at running a marathon and the Nice run was shortened from 26.2 miles to the 18 miles preferred by triathletes when JDavid contributed $25,000 to the $75,000 prize money.

While JDavid's clout is most evident at the top of the sport, its influence is also felt at the grass-roots level. JDavid investors put up $50,000 to launch Triathlon magazine, and JDavid funds have helped double circulation to 100,000 in only six months. This has brought new athletes into the sport, one reason races have increased from 200 to 1,000 in the last 12 months. So who cares if JDavid doesn't like to talk? Actions—and money—speak louder than words.