SBJ/March 17-23, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Tennis league CEO: Answers on ownership coming soon

The nascent International Premier Tennis League had its first player draft earlier this month, with names like Victoria Azarenka, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams among the competitors pledging to compete in the late-November to mid-December swing of team-format competitions in Dubai, Bangkok, Mumbai and Singapore.

Deep doubts still exist within tennis circles, though, as to whether the league — a brainchild of player Mahesh Bhupathi — will come off, in large part because the owners of the four franchises have not been named, and no commercial arrangements have been announced other than TV backer MP & Silva. Add to the skepticism the contention that $23 million has been committed to the players for their participation, a fairly staggering sum that represents nearly as much as is paid out by a Grand Slam event.

Staff writer Daniel Kaplan caught up last week with the CEO of the league, Morgan Menahem, who discussed the plans from Dubai via Skype.

Who are the owners?

MENAHEM: They are corporations, individuals in each of the four cities. They will be announced at some point, and it will be up to them to communicate.

Why are they not public now?

MENAHEM: It will become public. Those guys can do it themselves or they can do it through us. It will be a couple weeks before everything is put on the table. We’ve had extensive meetings with the owners; we had the owners at the draft. These people have been in front of me; they are real.

When do tickets go on sale?

MENAHEM: September.

Could the league ultimately be described as a high-profile exhibition?

MENAHEM: We are trying to avoid the word “exhibition.” For us, there is a competition factor because people want to see real tennis. It is just a different format.

When will the players be paid?

MENAHEM: The final package for the players is 20/40/40: 20 percent within two months of the draft, 40 percent a week before, and 40 percent at the end of the season.

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