Fishing League Worldwide, the bass-fishing tournament organizer owned for two decades by the late Minnesota businessman Irwin Jacobs, is being purchased by Major League Fishing.
The deal, announced Thursday, comes about six months after Jacobs killed himself after shooting his wife in their Lake Minnetonka home.
Terms were not disclosed. A spokesperson for MLF said the deal could close by Oct. 31.
Jacobs’ ownership in FLW, which is based in Benton, Ky., passed to his daughter Trish Blake, according to a directive in his will.
“By joining forces with Major League Fishing, the sport of professional tournament fishing will be taken to new heights for anglers across the world at all levels,” Blake, who is also FLW’s president of marketing, said in a statement.
The deal drives Major League Fishing, a Tulsa, Okla., firm formed to create fishing tournaments for TV, deeper into the business of nontelevised tournaments involving amateurs as well as professionals.
“Our business plan always included reaching all levels of grassroots fishing,” Boyd Duckett, MLF co-founder, said in a statement. “FLW does it best with the Tour and grassroots tournaments; their reputation in competitive bass fishing is remarkable and their culture has always been pro-angler, which makes this the perfect opportunity for both organizations.”
Major League Fishing started in 2011 and its tournaments and programming have run on the Outdoor Channel and other outlets since. In 2018, it started the Bass Pro Tour with 80 professional anglers competing in an eight-tournament season.
MLF is a partnership between the Professional Bass Tour Anglers’ Association and Outdoor Sportsman Group, a division of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment. Kroenke owns 50% and equity shareholders, the majority of which are professional anglers, own the other 50%.
FLW was founded in 1989 by a former high school teacher and football coach as Operation Bass; in 2001 it was renamed FLW in honor of the founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, and then Fishing League Worldwide.
Jacobs acquired the company in 1996 and expanded it to organize about 290 bass fishing tournaments a year. It operates five leagues, including for high schools and colleges, and the FLW Tour, which draws the highest level of professional bass anglers. Tournaments are held across the U.S. and in eight other countries.
Last year, Polaris Industries Inc. took a minority stake in FLW and promoted its vehicles at fishing tournaments since. MLF said it was buying out all of FLW stakeholders.
Kathy Fennel, FLW’s president of operations, said in a statement, “As part of the Major League Fishing team, we look forward to enhancing and expanding tournament offerings to our anglers and fans.”
On April 10, Jacobs shot and killed his wife, Alexandra, and then himself. The couple’s children have argued over their parents’ estates in court.
Son Mark Jacobs has said in court filings that the estate of Irwin Jacobs, which includes the FLW, is $110 million in debt. Attorneys for daughter Randi Jacobs have said no accounting or audits have been shown that validate that claim.
Jacobs, who was 77 at the time of his death, was a nationally known investor who made a fortune as a corporate raider in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1990s, he purchased a series of boat firms, including Ranger, to form Genmar Holdings Co., which became the nation’s No. 2 maker of boats for a time. His other businesses included J.R. Watkins Co., Jacobs Trading Co., Jacobs Industries Inc. and Premier Storage Inc.
Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926