SBJ/November 28-December 4, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Pay for tennis executives declines

The era of lucrative executive pay among major tennis groups appears to be dimming, a review of the organizations’ most recent tax returns shows.

Between 2008 and 2010, the U.S. Tennis Association sliced overall compensation 22 percent, to $38 million, while the WTA Tour dropped overall pay nearly 8 percent, to $7.9 million. The ATP World Tour also shaved pay 11 percent in that time, to $12.9 million, though its mark for 2010 is up from 2009. Outgoing Executive Chairman Adam Helfant earned $2.3 million in 2010, and sources have said he earned about $3 million this year, sums that became a bone of contention with the ATP board and that, in part, led to his decision to step down next month.

At press time last week, it remained unclear whether the ATP would choose Helfant’s successor by year’s end or enter the 2012 season with the seat empty.

The three organizations’ most recent tax returns, covering 2010, were filed with the IRS earlier this month. The returns cover a period that saw key changes in the groups’ leadership. Larry Scott left the WTA in 2009 to join the Pac-10 Conference (now the Pac-12) and Arlen Kantarian left the USTA in late 2008. Considering the departing Helfant, as well, the executives during their respective tenures earned record-breaking pay packages that to some degree sparked controversy.

The ATP’s Helfant (above) earned $2.3 million in 2010. Allaster’s pay at the WTA approached $1M.
Photos: GETTY IMAGES (2)
Kantarian earned $9 million in his last year at the USTA, an amount that made him among the highest-paid executives in all of sports that year. Scott took in $1.6 million in 2007, a huge sum for the WTA, where previously the leader had been making around half a million dollars. Helfant’s pay more than doubles the pay of the top amount previously paid by the ATP to its leader.

An ATP spokeswoman wrote that since Helfant took over in 2009, “ATP commercial revenues actually will have risen by 80 percent and ATP net assets (reserves) by 1400 percent. We’re very happy with these increases, which reflect the strength of our business and global popularity of the sport right now.”

The tour’s global sponsorship with Mercedes-Benz expired the day before Helfant took his post in 2009, meaning ATP commercial revenue had dropped sharply when he took over.

According to the ATP’s 2008 tax return, which included the last year of the car deal, sponsorship income that year totaled $38 million. In Helfant’s time as executive chairman, the tour stopped breaking out sponsorship totals and instead put those sums into a category called “member services and benefits,” which totaled $22 million in 2009 and $24 million in 2010.

In 2008, the ATP reported total revenue of $61 million. In 2010, the amount was $65 million.

Helfant has added several top sponsors, including FedEx and Corona, and his bonuses, a source said, were based on the income he brought in rather than on exceeding levels from prior to his tenure. His bonus alone in 2010, $755,059, exceeded the total compensation received by any other ATP executive, according to the tax return.

Helfant, through the ATP, has denied his pay was tied to his stepping down. Numerous sources in tennis, some of whom are close to the ATP board, disagreed, calling it the pivotal issue that led to his departure.





















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