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USTA buying Cincinnati men’s stop

USTA buying Cincinnati men’s stop

By Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer

Published

The U.S. Tennis Association is making another investment in tournament ownership by acquiring the men’s tennis event in Cincinnati, the fourth largest in the country.

Terms were not disclosed, though the last elite U.S. men’s tournament to sell, the Masters Series Indian Wells, valued the sanction at $20 million two years ago.

The Cincinnati deal, which still requires ATP approval, adds another elite event to the tournament portfolio of the USTA, which is best known for owning and operating the lucrative U.S. Open. In recent years, the USTA has bought a minority interest in Indian Wells, the second-largest stop in the country, as well as a women’s California event.

“We are going to take one of the best local tournaments in the world and take it national,” Arlen Kantarian, USTA chief executive of pro tennis, said of the Cincinnati stop, which is negotiating with its title sponsor, Western & Southern Financial Group, on a renewal.

USTA-owned events
Tournament Description
U.S. Open America’s Grand Slam aces nearly $200 million in revenue annually
Clay Court Championships Small event in April in Houston
Pilot Pen Men’s and women’s New Haven lower-level stop is popular among players because it’s the week before the Open
Masters Series Indian Wells Second-largest U.S. tourney by attendance, USTA owns a minority share
East West Bank Classic USTA owns 25 percent of AEG-owned California women’s stop
Masters Series Cincinnati Pending deal for USTA to acquire the fourth-largest U.S. event
Source: SportsBusiness Journal research

The USTA plans to expand the tournament’s broadcast hours (it had 12 hours on ESPN2 this year), including moving the finals to CBS in 2009, and combine it by 2011 with a smaller women’s event that the Cincinnati organizers own, sponsored by Western & Southern and running a week later.

The USTA, which is not buying the women’s event, also is planning increased marketing and on-site improvements.

The deal with event owner Tennis for Charity does not include the stadium or the 89 acres it sits on. The USTA will lease them from Tennis for Charity, the philanthropy that owns the sanction.

The event has long been run by Paul Flory, who will continue as its face and keep a minority interest.

The tournament is facing up to $20 million in capital improvements, so Flory said it was time for a partner. “We had one intent,” he said, “and that is to build the event.”

The tournament is a key stop on the U.S. Open Series, leading up to the U.S. Open. It also is one of the elite nine events on the ATP World Tour, which has 63 stops.

Tennis for Charity borrowed $12.5 million in 2002 to upgrade the facility, and at the request of the lender, the ATP guaranteed the event’s sanction for 10 years, according to testimony by ATP board member Charlie Passarell last week in the ATP’s antitrust case in Delaware. That would mean the USTA would have to re-apply in 2012 to keep the event in the top tier.

In 2006, the most recent year for which public tax returns are available, Tennis for Charity reported $10.4 million in revenue and a $1.4 million surplus. Of the revenue, $3.5 million came from sponsorships, $2.7 million from ticket sales and $2.3 million from box seats.

The tournament awarded $2.6 million in prize money this year. The event was scheduled to conclude Sunday.

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