The men’s and women’s professional tennis circuits have appointed separate financial advisers to help organize a merger of their business branches that would be backed by a capital injection from the former owner of Formula 1.
Sky News has learned that the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), whose star players include Novak Djokovic and US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, has hired Rothschild to advise him on a possible tie-up.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), which saw Britain’s Emma Raducanu emerge this year to win the US Open, has recruited Allen & Company – a US-based company best known in financial circles for its annual conference in Sun Valley. , Idaho.
Bankers were hired to help ATP and WTA assess the terms of a proposal to create ONE Tennis, a new business venture developed by the governing bodies alongside CVC Capital Partners, the private equity investor. .
Sky News revealed in June that the the parties were in talks on the creation of the new entity, talks having intensified since then.
According to plans, CVC would invest around $ 600 million in ONE Tennis, which would oversee a combined men’s and women’s world tennis calendar and seek to improve the sport’s business strategy.
The governance of tennis is more fragmented than that of some other world sports as its four Grand Slam tournaments are all run independently, with the International Tennis Federation playing an important role as well.
In recent weeks, women’s tennis in particular has come under scrutiny for its handling of the apparent disappearance of Peng Shuai, a former doubles player who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by a senior Chinese government official.
Last week, the WTA announced that it suspend all competitions in China, including in Hong Kong, because of his concerns.
Like other sports, tennis has seen its finances affected by the pandemic, although most of the sport’s most prestigious tournaments have been held in the presence of spectators this year.
Organizers of next month’s Australian Open said only fully vaccinated players would be allowed to participate, which had raised questions about the participation of world number one Mr Djokovic.
A CVC-backed merger of men’s and women’s business operations is not certain to happen, but has won the support of several key stakeholders.
Such a rapprochement is a long-standing ambition of leaders across sport.
In June, the ATP and WTA issued a joint statement saying, âThe WTA and ATP are continually looking for ways to bring the sport closer together in order to provide an enhanced experience for fans, players and tournaments.
âBy working together, we believe that there may be important opportunities ahead and we are exploring all options.
“These are preliminary steps and all opportunities will be assessed in close consultation with our respective stakeholders.”
If the plans get the green light, Mark Webster, the managing director of ATP Media, would fill the same role at One Tennis, according to insiders.
The CVC believes there is significant potential to combine the men’s and women’s tennis circuits to accelerate the sport’s recovery after the pandemic.
The investment company will likely target larger investments in tournaments and player prizes, improved broadcast production capabilities, and an improved global digital platform for fans of the sport.
Last year Wimbledon was canceled for the first time since World War II, and most of the elite tournaments on the calendar were either canceled, played behind closed doors, or had few spectators in attendance.
CVC’s plans for ONE Tennis represent its latest attempt to reshape a major sport to its most elite level.
He has bought stakes in Six Nations Rugby, Premiership Rugby and Pro14, and is negotiating to buy a stake in the South African equivalent.
CVC’s ownership of F1, which ended several years ago, was one of his most lucrative investments, and he is now seeking a stake in La Liga commercial rights, the Spanish equivalent of the Premier League.
He also bought a stake in the commercial rights of the International Volleyball Federation, while studying deals with the American League basketball NBA and women’s football in England.
Private equity firms have identified the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to deploy capital, while also using their expertise in areas such as media and broadcasting rights and data.
CVC declined to comment on Wednesday.