SBD/Issue 205/Leagues & Governing Bodies

WTA Boss Allaster Has Big Shoes To Fill Replacing Larry Scott

Priority For Allaster Will Be Renegotiating
Tour's $88M Title Sponsorship Deal With Sony
New Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Chair & CEO Stacey Allaster faces "several hurdles, including how to continue the success created by her predecessor, Larry Scott," according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. During Scott's six-year tenure, which ended June 30 when he became Pac-10 Commissioner, sponsorship revenue "grew sixfold; total revenue jumped two and a half times and prize money" rose 23%. A "big priority" for Allaster will be renegotiating the tour's $88M title sponsorship deal with Sony Ericsson, which expires after next season. Allaster said that she was "encouraged that Sony Ericsson extended its sponsorship of the event in Miami through 2010, and she seemed optimistic about negotiations for renewing the tour sponsorship." Belson notes the Tour is facing "many of the same problems that have hurt other tours, leagues and teams: a slowdown in sponsorship and advertising, weaker attendance and uneven television viewership." However, it has "withstood these economic challenges better than many other sports organizations, partly because its events are spread across the globe and many of them have long-term sponsorship agreements." Allaster: "The sport is holding its own, but it's not recession proof. There's no way to go through this economic crisis and not be affected, but we're weathering the storm" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/14). Scott reportedly earned about $1.5M annually, while Allaster in her role as president made more than $400,000 (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/14).

CALM DURING THE STORM: Allaster said that the Tour is in a "very strong position to not only weather the [economic] storm, but also prosper." Allaster: "We've got diversified revenue, long-term contracts and the fact we're in 34 different countries helps smooth it out. Being one week a year in a market makes it very special. Consumers are still going to entertainment events and our attendance is flat, so I take that as a real positive compared to how the other leagues are doing" (CP, 7/13). Allaster said, "I'm incredibly fortunate to be inheriting a tour that's in its strongest position it's ever been in. ... We've got our international expansion underway with China and the Middle East. We've got a good financial base and good reserves, and we've got a great product" (WASHINGTONTIMES.com, 7/13). More Allaster: "I'm the right person for this job irrespective of my gender. I've got an excellent foundation and an understanding of this business and I've been working with Larry for 6 1/2 years and have 20 years of great success in our sport. ... That gives me the confidence to be able to work through the issues" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/14).

TO LOVE & TO SERVE: ESPN.com's Peter Bodo wrote Allaster's appointment "represents a logical step in implementing the ideas Scott, with great skill and a formidable bargaining ability, managed to weld together into a coherent whole." Allaster's selection, paired with the ATP World Tour's choice of former Nike exec Adam Helfant as Exec Chair & President, underscores the "two contrasting and mutually exclusive philosophies driving" the two tours. Helfant was an "outsider to professional tennis," and the "idea was to recruit someone with sufficiently broad experience that could be transplanted to tennis." However, Allaster "represents the competing philosophy, which call[s] for someone deeply entrenched and familiar with the fame to call the shots." But Bodo wrote the "problem with this approach is that very often its best representatives have been more or less beaten into submission by the 'system,'" making it "hard to think out of the box when you've spent your entire life in it" (ESPN.com, 7/13). TENNIS.com's James Martin wrote there is a "leadership problem in tennis -- and it's the fact that there are no visionaries to steer our wonderful sport in a global economy where the rules of marketing, sponsorship and broadcast rights are changing at a rapid pace." Many lower-level tournaments on both the WTA and ATP World tours are "struggling mightily in this tough economy," so "where are the person(s) to iron out a battle plan and galvanize public opinion?" Helfant's "credentials are impressive, but since taking over the reigns of the men's tour he's kept such a low profile that you could be forgiven for thinking he's in the witness protection program instead of occupying one of our sport's most important positions" (TENNIS.com, 7/13).

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