LONDON: Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners is considering a minority stake worth $600 million in a combined tennis entity born out of a possible merger of the men’s and women’s professional tours, Sky News reported on Monday.

The ATP, WTA, the four Grand Slams and the International Tennis Federation run different parts of the game and calls for a unified body for the sport have grown stronger after it was ravaged by the shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

ATP chief Andrea Gaudenzi said in March that a ‘T7 working group’ involving all the stakeholders had started work to examine areas such as a unified calendar, shared commercial offerings, sponsorships and TV deals.

The heads of the men’s and women’s bodies have welcomed talks of a merged organisation and Sky reported that CVC, the former Formula One owners, were in advanced negotiations about an investment in a merger of the tours — to be named One Tennis.

“The ATP and WTA are continually looking for ways to bring the sport closer together in order to provide an enhanced experience for fans, players and tournaments,” the tours said in a joint statement on Monday. “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.”

A CVC spokesperson declined to comment.

Tennis enjoys a massive worldwide following but there are different ranking systems, logos and websites while viewers need multiple pay-TV platforms to watch matches.

Unified governance could simplify television contracts and sponsorship deals, both tours have said in the past.

CVC acquired majority control of Formula One in March 2006 and recouped its money several times over with billions of dollars in revenues.

It twice tried to float Formula One but the plans stalled and the fund instead sold stakes to US investment groups BlackRock and Waddell & Reed, along with Norway’s Norges Bank.

The sport was finally sold in 2017 to US cable TV mogul John Malone’s Liberty Media.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2021

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