SBJ/June 20 - 26, 2005/Other News

ATP shakeup puts Disney alum as chairman

The ATP was to name former Walt Disney International president Etienne de Villiers its first non-executive chairman.

The move, planned for Sunday, is part of a shakeup at the top of the ATP, which is losing its 15-year chief executive Mark Miles, who will step down Sept. 1 and be replaced temporarily by current chief financial officer Philip Galloway until de Villiers finds a replacement.

The changes are designed to transform the CEO position into more of an operational role, leaving the chairman charged with strategy and vision.

Etienne de Villiers brings a background in media and investing.
De Villiers, 55, who also starts Sept. 1, is an unknown in a sport that generally distrusts outsiders. WTA Chief Executive Officer Kevin Wulff arrived from Nike in 2002 without a tennis background and left unceremoniously within 15 months. By contrast, the chief executive of professional tennis at the U.S. Tennis Association, Arlen Kantarian, has enjoyed significant success after a career in the NFL and Radio City Music Hall.

De Villiers’ first order of business will be to replace Miles. The position will have less authority than Miles had, however, because de Villiers, not the CEO, will have the vote on the ATP’s board.

“When you are losing someone of the quality and experience of Mark … and replace him with two people, you have to make certain you do not see eye to eye on everything,” de Villiers said. “You don’t want them to be of one mind, but want them to be compatible.”

With a background in media and investing, de Villiers admits he knows little about the insular, political world of tennis. But he is learning. Congratulated on his appointment, the South African replied that commiseration might be in order.

Whether insider or outsider, de Villiers will have trouble effecting change in a sport known for having too many cooks in the kitchen, said Bill Dennis, a tennis promoter.

“I don’t think rule by committee ever wins; that is why the NFL has a commissioner,” said Dennis, who in the 1990s ran the season-ending Grand Slam Cup, which competed against the ATP’s championship.

De Villiers will be based in London and plans to work on ATP matters three to four days a week. He said it was too early to comment on the fate of the ATP’s Ponte Vedra, Fla., headquarters, where Miles is based.

De Villiers learned about the job after being contacted by Richard Davies, head of ATP Properties. He was president of Walt Disney International from 1986 to 2000 and has been a consultant to Kirch Group on Formula One rights.

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