SBD/August 25, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Analysis Shows USTA BOD Members' Projects Benefited From Grants, Other Contracts

Several of the USTA's current and recent board members "have benefited" from the organization's "grants and contracts, raising questions about the unofficial perks available to the men and women at tennis’s highest rungs," according to Pilon & Lehren of the N.Y. TIMES. The Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., whose CEO Ray Benton sits on the USTA's BOD, "received more than $840,000 from the USTA's charitable wings over the last three years." Meanwhile, N.Y. Triathlon Organizer John Korff "sat on a USTA board that approved a $50,000 grant to Life Time Fitness, a health club chain." Months later, Life Time "bought Korff’s company for an undisclosed sum." USTA Dir of Communications Chris Widmaier acknowledged that the organization "sometimes contributed money to its members’ causes and companies." However, he said that that was "unavoidable in the small world of elite tennis." Widmaier: "You’d be kind of hard pressed to find someone with that kind of tennis expertise that might not have interacted with the USTA at some point." BOD members said that they "played no role in steering money to their own organizations and that in many cases the financial arrangements had predated their time on the board." Pilon & Lehren note the USTA spends roughly $200M a year "on salaries, grants to tennis organizations, operating costs and outside contracts." But at least $3.1M of that "annually goes to organizations with ties to board members." No one "received more from the USTA than the Tennis Media Company, the publisher of Tennis magazine and Tennis.com." In '12, for roughly $2.8M "from the USTA, Tennis Media sent copies of the magazine, along with a digital package." But Tennis magazine Publisher Jeff Williams said that even though he was an "active USTA board member, he had played no role in the decision to send the organization's funds to his company." Williams: "The relationship between Tennis magazine and the USTA was one that existed long before I joined the board." Widmaier added, "Having an expert in media is helpful to us. He does not interact with staff as it relates to the business of Tennis magazine and the USTA" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/23).
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