CVC Capital Partners is in talks about a $600 million deal that would combine the men’s and women’s professional tennis calendars and allow the private equity firm to buy into the sport.
Under the proposals, CVC will take a 15 percent stake in One Tennis, a new entity created to manage media and data rights for both rounds, according to people familiar with the proposals, and value it at $4 billion.
The ATP and the Women’s Tennis Association, the governing bodies of the Tours, will remain as separate entities and be responsible for sporting decisions.
But they were coordinating the tables so that male and female players would play more of the same events, as they do in the “major tournaments” – the four elite tournaments including Wimbledon and the US Open that have a separate governing body.
If agreed, the deal would be the first foray into tennis for CVC, the Luxembourg-based private equity group that drives sports deals around the world, including in football, rugby, volleyball, basketball and auto racing.
The company used to own Formula One and MotoGP and bought into Six Nations, Premiership Rugby and Pro 14 Rugby tournaments As well as the International Volleyball Federation. Talks have been held to invest in Italy’s top soccer league, the German Bundesliga, and the San Antonio Spurs basketball team.
CVC’s latest strategy has been to try to acquire minority stakes in leading competitions in an effort to gain enough influence to take over the commercial management of sports leagues and tournaments and to bundle media rights packages together to sell them around the world.
CVC declined to comment.
The WTA Tour consists of 64 tournaments in 31 countries, while the WTA Tour, founded in 1973 by Billie Jean King, runs over 50 tournaments.
Under the proposed deal, One Tennis will manage the broadcast rights to the two bodies’ tournaments, as well as rights to sell data to gambling companies.
ATP has a contract with IMG to bet on data while the WTA has a deal with Stats Perform, both of which could be overseen by One Tennis if the deal goes through.
A person familiar with the matter said Mark Webster, ATP Media’s current chief sales and broadcasting, has been put in line to run One Tennis, as ATP Media becomes part of the new entity.
One person said a deal will likely be agreed as soon as this month. They added that it would aim to create an entity that could eventually bid for the operation of the media and data rights for Grand Slam tournaments.
The WTA and the ATP said they are “constantly looking for ways to bring the sport closer in order to provide an enhanced experience for fans, players and tournaments”. They added, “By working together, we believe there may be significant opportunities in the future as we explore all options. These are preliminary stages and any opportunities will be evaluated in close consultation with relevant stakeholders.”
The two organizations had to suspend tournaments last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sky News was the first to report the talks
Andrea Gaudenzi, president of the ATP, told the Financial Times last year that he supported him Integration of ATP and WTA. Roger Federer, who shares the record for winning 20 major titles, and Billie Jean King also spoke in favor of the merger.