ATP World Tour Exec Chair & President Brad Drewett yesterday shockingly announced that he would soon resign because he has been diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease). Drewett, who has been in his role for just over a year, but with the ATP for 35 years in some form as a player or administrator, made the sad announcement during the start of the Australian Open. Drewett has worked tirelessly during the last year seeking dramatic changes in prize money from the Grand Slams, which he won from the Australian Open. During that time he spoke with an unusually soft voice, which he said was due to problems with his vocal cords. It is unclear if the voice issue is related to ALS. "It has been a privilege to serve as Executive Chairman and President of the ATP, an organization that I've been a part of for more than 35 years since I became a professional tennis player," said Drewett. "I hold the ATP very close to my heart, and it's with sadness that I make the decision to enter this transition period due to my ill-health." He will continue in his current role on an interim basis as the ATP BOD begins the search process for his successor in the near future. Drewett was recently named one of SportsBusiness Journal’s "50 Most Influential People In Sports Business" for the work he had done on the Grand Slam prize money issue. WTA Chair & CEO Stacey Allaster said in a statement, “The thoughts and prayers of the WTA family are with Brad, his family and the entire ATP community at this very difficult time” (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).
NO EASY TASK: SI.com's Jon Wertheim notes Drewett was "named to the position on Jan. 1, 2012," after the ATP parted ways with former Exec Chair & President Adam Helfant at the end of '11. Wertheim writes of Drewett, "Well-liked and even-tempered, he was viewed as a compromise candidate, a stay-the-course insider who was acceptable to the top players as well as the tournament directors." His brief "tenure was mixed." Drewett still did "not extract as much prize money from the Grand Slam tournaments -- especially the U.S. Open -- as the players would like." He also was "largely silent when the tournament representatives on the ATP Board turned down a unilateral prize money increase offered" by Indian Wells Tennis Garden Owner Larry Ellison. On the "other hand, Drewett won sizable concessions from the Australian Open -- which now has the largest purse in the sport -- and closed significant sponsorship deals and extensions" (SI.com, 1/15). The AP's Dennis Passa wrote Drewett's one year on the job "was not an easy one." Within days of taking the job, he was "forced to reduce tensions after rumors of a potential player strike surfaced at Melbourne Park." Most of the complaints were about "compensation for the lower-ranked players, and for increased prize money for the earlier rounds of Grand Slams, both of which have been addressed and improved at this year's Australian Open" (AP, 1/14).