The women’s professional tennis tour launched a commercial enterprise with CVC Capital Partners on Tuesday to increase revenues for the sport, with the investment manager contributing $150 million for a 20% stake in what will be known as WTA Ventures LLC.
“Obviously, the ambition is to materially grow women’s professional tennis. Grow our profile, its value, the prize money,” WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon said. “This arrangement is certainly going to provide for us to create more investment opportunity to our players and our tournaments.”
He said the new entity is completely separate from St. Petersburg, Florida-based WTA Inc., which oversees the tour itself, and will manage all of the sport’s commercial activities, including rights for broadcast, data, gaming, sponsorship, licensing and NFTs.
“We can begin, hopefully, gaining more audience and more engaged fans,” Simon said. “That will then drive the asset value of each of those properties through the growth of the audience.”
In late 2021, Simon announced that the WTA would be suspending all of its tournaments — including the season-ending WTA Finals — that were held in China because of concerns over the safety of former player Peng Shuai, costing the tour millions of dollars. That ban on competition in China remains in place; Simon said there will be a decision about where to hold this season’s WTA Finals by the end of March.
He called the CVC investment “completely unattached from any of those issues.”
Simon also said the agreement announced Tuesday “doesn’t prohibit, in any way, from us continuing to have discussions with the ATP (men’s tennis tour) and potentially doing a bigger deal with the ATP involved.”
CVC says on its website that it is a “global alternative investment manager” with more than 137 billion euros ($145 billion) in assets under management.
It has worked with Formula One, European soccer leagues, rugby, volleyball and other sports.
The WTA-CVC partnership has been in the works for a while, from the initial concept to the work to complete the deal over the past 12 months.
“It’s been a long journey,” Simon said.