US private equity fund CVC Capital Partners is reported to be eyeing a disruptive shake-up of pro-tennis as it pursues a $600 million deal to merge the ATP men’s and WTA women’s tours.
Sky News reports that CVC aims to combine the ATP and WTA organisations to form ‘One Tennis’ the new unified commercial identity for global tennis.
As part of the proposals, which have the potential to ‘transform the face of global tennis’, ATP Media’s Chief Executive, Mark Webster, who operates the commercial rights arm of the men’s tour, would head up One Tennis.
At present, the ATP and WTA manage media and data rights activities separately, along with some centralised door sponsorship deals, whilst individual tour tournaments oversee their own sponsorship sales. However, the ATP and WTA would still exist to manage sporting affairs.
Furthermore, Sky News also reported that talks have now reached an ‘advanced stage’ and CVC is likely to seek approval from the respective boards to push the investment through later this month.
The Financial Times added that the deal would see CVC take a minority 15% stake in the new body, valuing the entity at $4 billion.
Moreover, the deal would see greater investment in tournaments and player prize money, improved broadcast production capabilities and an enhanced global digital platform for fans ‘in order to accelerate the sport’s recovery from the pandemic’.
During 2019, a review of pro-tennis structures undertaken by the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), had advised the ATP and WTA organisations to reform their tours, prize money and athlete rankings.
CVC is currently in the process of purchasing a 14.3% share in Six Nations Rugby as part of a long-term strategic partnership, which is subject to regulatory approval, with the Luxembourg-based firm already owning a stake in Premiership Rugby and Pro14.
However, the PE firm’s aggressive expansion into pro-sports has garnered criticism, as observers question whether sports leagues governance and conduct duties should be controlled by profit motivated fund.