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Volume 7 No. 79
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Judge Orders Stay Of Promoter Ion Tiriac's Proceeding Against WTA Tour

Ion Tiriac sued the WTA for defamation in Spain, Cyprus and Romania.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

A federal court judge on Tuesday ordered tennis promoter Ion Tiriac to stay an overseas legal proceeding against the WTA Tour and submit to arbitration in the U.S.

Tiriac, the promoter of the Madrid Open, sued the WTA for defamation in Spain, Cyprus and Romania over comments the tour made about his engagement with Ilie Nastase. Nastase in '17 was banned by the Int'l Tennis Federation for comments he made that were deemed racist and sexist.

The WTA then banned him from credentialed areas at its events. Tiriac ignored the WTA's prohibition and allowed Nastase onto the court for the '17 women's finals trophy presentation. It was the subsequent WTA public reprobation that triggered the lawsuits.

However, the WTA argued in a N.Y. federal court last month that the WTA's arbitration provisions required Tiriac to submit to that dispute resolution process.

Judge Jed Rakoff agreed and ordered arbitration, as well as a stay on Tiriac's lawsuit against the WTA in Cyprus. A second lawsuit Tiriac filed in Spain, with which the WTA said it has not been served, was not stayed by Rakoff, but the judge ordered discovery into Tiriac's precise ownership role of the Madrid event. Once that is completed, Rakoff ruled the WTA could resubmit a stay motion.

Tiriac in court papers and through his attorney at the hearing last month argued he did not really own the event and thus is not subject to the WTA's rule. The WTA strongly disagreed that he did not in fact own the event.

A third lawsuit in Romania is not mentioned in the two-page decision. That suit is more complicated because Tiriac added Nastase as a plaintiff, and Nastase is not subject to the WTA's arbitration rule.