CVC makes a play for tennis with talks to invest in ATP-WTA business
CVC Capital Partners, the private equity firm with significant interests in sport, has been linked with a prospective investment in a commercial entity that would manage rights to men’s and women’s tennis.
It has been reported that CVC is in talks over a deal worth $600 million to acquire a 15 per cent stake in One Tennis, which would oversee the media and data rights of the men’s ATP and the women’s WTA.
This values the business at $4 billion.
CVC is seeking approval from the boards of the two tours later this month, according to Sky News.
It is claimed that One Tennis would be responsible for managing the broadcasting rights for ATP and WTA tournaments, and distributing data rights to betting companies, and could ultimately take on rights to the four grand slams too.
However, the tours and event organisers would remain in control of sporting governance.
Mark Webster, the current chief executive of ATP Media, is reported to be being lined up for the same role at One Tennis, which would incorporate the broadcasting and media sales arm of the men’s tour.
In a statement to the Financial Times, the ATP and WTA said they were “continually looking for ways to bring the sport closer together in order to provide an enhanced experience for fans, players and tournaments”.
They added: “By working together, we believe there may be significant opportunities ahead and we are exploring all options. These are preliminary stages and any opportunities will be assessed in close consultation with our respective stakeholders.”
This is the first time that Luxembourg-based CVC has been associated with professional tennis, but it has a strong bond with sport through recent investments in the Six Nations, England’s Premiership Rugby and the Europe-based Pro14 competitions in rugby union and a new commercial rights venture of the FIVB, the international volleyball federation.
It was also in talks, which ultimately petered out, to invest in proposed media rights vehicles of Serie A and the Bundesliga, respectively the top soccer leagues in Italy and Germany.
CVC was previously a major player in motorsport as the owner of Formula 1 and the MotoGP World Championship.
The company has declined to comment on the discussions with the tennis bodies.
There has long been talk of a possible merger between the UK-based ATP and the USA-headquartered WTA, which has intensified given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their businesses, with many tournaments having been cancelled or postponed, and spectators largely excluded from those that went ahead.
Andrea Gaudenzi, the chief executive of the ATP, has been a leading protagonist, saying in February there should be efforts to form a “unique governing body” in tennis, with media, data and sponsorship rights combined.
Earlier this year, it emerged that the ATP, WTA, International Tennis Federation and the organsiers of the four grand slams – Australian Open, French Open, the UK’s Wimbledon and US Open – had established the T-7, a working group that is studying all elements of the sport.
Gaudenzi said in March: “Everything is on the table, from governance, operational and commercial synergies, rules and more.”