AIDS group to ride their own way 

The Florida AIDS Ride will be hitting the road again in 1998, minus the for-profit promoter whose take deflated the expectations of the intended beneficiaries of the fund-raiser. Six Florida groups, including AIDS Resource Alliance of Orlando, which had hoped to benefit from the first two rides managed by the California-based Pallotta Teamworks, decided Tuesday to peddle their own event. Like the first two, the event will raise funds through sponsorships from riders and corporations. And like the others, the upcoming ride will rely on the expertise of a company capable of managing the three-day movement of 1,000 riders, gear, food and other support vehicles safely across about 300 miles of Florida roadway. But while the first two wound up returning less than 20 percent of the money raised to AIDS organizations, the 1998 event expects to set aside at least half of the gross revenues for participating AIDS service organizations. "That's one of the things we're going to insist on," said Caroline Gertz, executive director of the AIDS Resource Alliance. "We know it can be done." The decision to go it alone followed a survey of 1,200 riders willing to participate, despite problems with Pallotta's approach. In exchange for managing 14 rides across the U.S. that grossed $41 million through 1996, Pallotta had insisted on a guaranteed percentage, no matter the success of the event. In addition, participating organizations were required to leave a percentage of their proceeds with the promoter in order to reserve the right to benefit from the following year's ride. In June, Pallotta indicated that it had decided to abandon the Florida ride. But the director of CenterOne, a Fort Lauderdale AIDS service organization, said the sponsors rejected Pallotta after learning they would be receiving only about 13 percent of $1.5 million in gross revenues -- less than $200,000 -- from the 1997 event. "It's very disgusting, actually," said John Weatherhead of CenterOne. "I think we can save a tremendous amount of money," thus raising more for AIDS services.

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