SBJ/June 30-July 6, 2014/People and Pop Culture

Plugged In: Mark Ein, Washington Kastles

Mark Ein, 49, grew up in the Washington, D.C., area as a tennis fanatic, even serving stints as a ball boy at the local pro tourney fetching balls for the likes of Jimmy Connors. Ultimately, he made his money buying and selling companies, with his company, Venturehouse Group, serving as the holding entity for his collection of companies. But several years ago, Ein started playing tennis again and found himself at Ted Forstmann’s annual summer tennis pro-am, the Huggy Bear. There, Ein met a team tennis player, Chris Haggard, who sold him on the virtues of World TeamTennis. Since buying the WTT’s Washington Kastles franchise six years ago, the club has won four titles and at one point won 34 straight matches, a record for North American sports.


I have always said when people come to root for the name on the front of the jersey and not on the back, you know you have it made.


Photo by: CAMERAWORK USA
Why have the Kastles been so successful among WTT’s teams?: I so appreciate that question. I have honestly found it fascinating myself. It’s the same balls, same court, same set of rules, even the same talent level. I could go through all of our matches player by player last year, and if you know tennis, you would say that was a toss-up. … I really think it comes down to culture, just like other team sports, where teams that have good cultures year in, year out, win.
 
The importance of profitability: This was never run with a financial objective. Obviously what is important is it is long-term sustainable and long-term successful. In the early years, the key is investing heavily to build the brand. … I do think we will be fairly close to breaking even this year, but again, it is really not a hard-core objective.

About WTT paying big-name stars to play the occasional match: One of the challenges of the sport of tennis is it tries to survive on the back of big names, and all the team sports have the virtue that anyone who puts on a jersey for a major sports team can go into a school, into the community, into the business community, and have an impact because they are wearing the jersey of that team.
 
What people think about when they consider the Kastles: Really, hopefully it is a few things: the streak, the championships; we have won three straight titles. … We sell out every single match. I started this mainly as a platform to give back to the community and use it as a way to do all kinds of things for great organizations in Washington.
 
— Dan Kaplan

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