SBD/April 10, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

IMG Purchases ATP/WTA Events In Memphis With Aim Of Moving Tourneys To Brazil

IMG has agreed to buy the ATP and WTA tour events in Memphis and "move them to Rio de Janeiro to be part of its Brazil venture, IMX," according to sources cited by Daniel Kaplan of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The ATP "must still sign off on the move of its event," while the WTA has "granted its approval conditioned on the events remaining combined as one tournament." The tournament would "become the second acquisition for IMX, a 50-50 venture between IMG and Brazilian mining and energy conglomerate EBX." The moves "serve to underscore the continuing decline of professional tennis in the United States, particularly outside the major events." USTA Dir of Corporate Communications Chris Widmaier said, "We are committed to keeping professional tennis thriving in the U.S., but we recognize the final decision of the tournaments rests with the owners, along with the ATP and WTA tours." The Memphis stops are currently owned by Sharks Sports & Entertainment, which also owns the Sharks and the ATP World Tour SAP Open in San Jose. If the Memphis ATP event was to move, "it would become the highest-level tennis tournament ever played in South America." There are currently 12 ATP events and 10 WTA stops in the U.S., but "those totals include four combined events, including Memphis" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/9 issue). In Memphis, Kyle Veazey notes the "eventual result may have little impact on the sport's future in town." Sources said that there is the "potential that local event organizers will replace the ATP Tour 500-level event Memphis is reported to be losing with a 250-level event." Though that is a one-level drop in "terms of prestige and the points the men's tour awards to players who compete, it may not wildly affect the field the tournament can attract, depending on its position on the calendar." Veazey notes Morgan Keegan has "sponsored the men's event in recent years, but its future as a sponsor had been cloudy" with Raymond James' purchase of the firm in January. The women's tour has "only been coming to Memphis" since '02. It did "not have a sponsor last year" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 4/10).
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