Kyle McLaughlin Steps Down As CEO Of Tough Mudder

Kyle McLaughlin, was hired as Senior VP of North America by Tough Mudder on June 1, 2018. He was named President on February 1 of last year, and then promoted to CEO on July 1. Kyle has been in the event production space for over a decade and spent almost 6 years with New York Road Runners, the company that produces the New York City Marathon.

Towards the end of 2018, Tough Mudder were having a tough time paying their vendors. The previous two years were filled with a massive expansion of products and TV deals. However, there had not been any large return on investment and things were looking grim. To save some cash, the TMX product was shelved and Tough Mudder took away prize money on all events.

2019 seemed to show a turnaround. President Kyle was seen working and communicating with his customers in a way we had never seen by previous leadership. Things appeared to be looking up for one of the frontrunners in the OCR space.

On December 23rd, Tough Mudder tickets were no longer on sale North America. Obstacle Racing Media had sources informing us Kyle had stepped down, and had sent his staff home with uncertainty the offices would reopen.

Tough Mudder Founder Will Dean  denied this fact on a December 29th podcast and made assurances that everyone would be back to work on January 2nd, 2020.

Kyle released this statement to the Tough Mudder ambassador community moments ago.

To the Tough Mudder Community:

Many of you have reached out over the past few days, and after seeing much of the rumors and incorrect information that has been spread—I felt it was an appropriate time to clarify a few things & share a few thanks and thoughts.

I resigned as Chief Executive Officer of Tough Mudder, Inc. on December 20, not because I wanted to, but because I was left with no choice given the circumstances.  My hands had been tied, and I was left without the ability to effectively lead the company or influence a positive outcome of an ongoing negotiation between Tough Mudder’s shareholders and Active Networks. I indicated in my resignation that I’d be open to resuming as CEO if a deal could be reached between the parties to allow Tough Mudder to resume operations. I have been intentionally keeping a low public profile up until this point to try and avoid drawing unnecessary attention and panic to an already complicated situation.

The circumstances of this overall situation are quite complex, and have been the subject of much speculation, conjecture and misinformation over the past few weeks. As I am no longer a Tough Mudder employee, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to give any more context as to the background or causes. What you should know, is that it was entirely avoidable, is still solvable, and will require parties to put self-interest aside and pursue one of the many paths forward for the greater good.

Tough Mudder had an incredible year, and I couldn’t be prouder of the team I got to work with every day who made that happen. Customer satisfaction was up 27%. Corporate & group sales were up 35%. We had the strongest roster of corporate partners in years, and we were delivering event experiences we all could be proud of. We were on track to be in 25 countries and had ambitious plans in the works for 2020. The team at TMHQ around the world are the best in the business, and my heart is with them as they’re wading through this uncertainty.

2019 would not have been possible without the help of Active Network, who jumped in to help and supported our turnaround plan when times were rough in the end of 2018.  And they’ve been by our side all year as we worked to chart the course for a new Tough Mudder. In addition, countless vendors and partners, some of whom have been with us since the early days, bought in to our plan and worked hand-in-hand on controlling costs and delivering great experiences. Many of them, most of whom are small businesses, are still owed their final payments from 2019 and are waiting with great hope for a positive outcome.

I’ve watched as the keyboard warriors have reacted to the Spartan announcement over the past two weeks, and again—much speculation and fear-mongering has led to a lot of misinformation.  As Will mentioned in the ORM podcast, Joe De Sena and I, along with Tough Mudder’s board and advisors, were working on a merger plan, keeping Tough Mudder fully intact as-is with the same team delivering the same experiences. All of the tickets would have been delivered, all of the vendors satisfied, and jobs preserved. As Will and Joe have both said in interviews—it’s the right thing to help the industry thrive in the long run, and my thanks to the Spartan team who’ve stuck with TM through this process.

Tough Mudder has always been about overcoming obstacles, together as a team. Only a very few people have the power to influence the outcome of this situation, but for the rest of us—we should do what we do best:  support each other through difficult challenges, leave no one behind, and give every moment our honest best, not our settled best.

My recommendation?  Be patient. Don’t spread misinformation & don’t take every little tidbit you hear on face value. Support the TMHQ team, who needs this community’s strength right now. And use your voice, your accounts, your handles and your forums to tell your Tough Mudder story and show everyone that the world is a better place with Tough Mudder in it.

Clear eyes. Full hearts.

Kyle

Kyle McLaughlin Quits

Read all of the Tough Mudder latest here.

 

Matt B. Davis

is the host of the Obstacle Racing Media Podcast and the author of "Down and Dirty-The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs". He is also the only (known) #wafflehouseelite obstacle racer.

Comments

  1. Michael Christian says

    Tough Mudder needs Kyle, and so do the people. He brought life back to something that many had given up hope on. Last year was amazing. please work this out and bring back our awesome CEO and all he has to offer. We are tougher together.

  2. Kelly Scott says

    #toughertogether. Kyle made all this possible! TM made a comeback because of his direction with the community, the ambassadors, the vendors, really everyone involved! Everyone needs to drop the hunger for right and wrong and money and do what they can to return the brand back to the man we all respect and wish to follow through the mud again next year! This community will continue to thrive and grow if it was allowed to do so. #tmambassador #eacapetheordinary #standtogether

  3. Gary L Brewer says

    Kyle is right on, and yes we need him, and i’m sure he be there in the time of need

  4. Jon Engelbrecht says

    I agree wholeheartedly with Michael Christian. 2019 was a great year with Kyle at the helm. The customer service was 5-star, and he was a humble man to work with and for. I have volunteered many times since 2012, and this was the first year in which TMHQ employees truly rolled up their sleeves and worked with us MVPs. It was an inspiration to work with them and for them, often times staying after a shift to help finish what needed to be done for the next day. That type of response by MVPs is a direct response to the leadership Kyle provided and the rest of the people who answered to him demonstrated in their roles. It saddens me to think there might not be a 2020 season. Tough Mudder HQ, please work this out, and you then have to bring back Kyle to lead again.
    #30xToughmudder #22MVPshifts #TMAmbassador #bleedtoughmudderorange

  5. Anthony Pampena AKA Fire Beast says

    If this is True and TM goes back to the way it was before Kyle McLaughlin then this is one 100X Tough Mudder that will not be coming back. Kyle did so many positive things for TM in 2019! The overall atmosphere and buzz from the 1st TM in LA to my last one in NJ was off the charts. He revamped Mudder Village into a fun for all ages party, that actually kept Mudders around and involved in the activities way longer than it had ever done. From the upgraded wash stations/changing area to the Obstacles being upgrade or fixed to make them better. From being involved on and off the course……. serving beers, hosing people down, cheering you on, doing and obstacle or something simple like remembering you name…. Kyle was and is way above and beyond anyone else who ever held his position! He really cares about TM and I hope this isn’t the end of something that was truly AWESOME in 2019!

  6. Years ago Will Dean had a number of options on the table from multiple sources to help him build the sport of OCR and make TM the forefront brand. Instead he stole ideas, refused to focus on his customers, and always strived to turn a quick buck to put back into his own pocket. I was thrilled to see Active step in and Kyle to take control to bring this sport and brand into a healthy place. I’m still hopefully it can happen and maybe even get Joe on board to help bring back the fun of the extreme endurance events that he lost in his lawsuits with past partners. I just hope Will Dean makes the right call and removes his ego from this before he ruins it for everyone.