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Volume 21 No. 6
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Chinese group eyes World Team Cup rights

A Chinese investment group has offered to pay up to $50 million annually for commercial rights to the ATP Tour’s planned World Team Cup, which would feature up to 24 national teams playing over a week, sources said. The event would more than double the top prize money on the tour, paying the equivalent of a Grand Slam, or around $20 million.

The offer from CMC Capital Partners could be a financial bonanza for the ATP, with one source saying the proposal is for as many as 20 years, which would make it worth around $1 billion in that scenario.

Gerard Pique (right) is said to be fronting a Chinese group that has offered the ATP up to $50 million annually for commercial rights to the World Team Cup. Justin Gimelstob (left) leading contact with the group.
GETTY IMAGES
However, not all factions within the ever-fractious ATP are on board.

Representatives for the nine largest tournaments, the Masters 1000s, have been blocking the proposal because the new event would join their group and offer the same number of ranking points, thereby diluting shared revenue and increasing strains on the players. And the Australian Open is worried because tentative plans are to schedule the World Team Cup in early January, before the first Grand Slam of the year, when the event organizes a series of tournaments. (Unlike the 1000s, though, none of the Grand Slams have a say in the ATP deliberations.)

The ATP declined to comment. CMC could not be reached for comment.

The contact with the investment group is led by ATP board member Justin Gimelstob, numerous sources said. Gimelstob declined to comment. The investment group, sources said, is being fronted by FC Barcelona star Gerard Pique, who sat courtside with Gimelstob last year at the ATP season-ending championships in London.

The interest in a national team competition comes as the long-standing, but flailing Davis Cup, owned by the International Tennis Federation, struggles to reform. And the Laver Cup, a two-day Europe-versus-the-rest-of-the-world competition, launches next month (see related story).

What is known about the World Team Cup concept is this: It would be sanctioned by the ATP Tour, with the staging and commercial rights handled by CMC, which would pay the ATP the $50 million annual fee. Players would get ranking points for competing. It would be a weeklong event in a city to be determined, held annually. And it would feature 24 national teams in an Olympic-style global competition, with the precise format yet to be determined.

Early on both the World Team Cup and Laver Cup concept have drawn buzz.

“The reasons you are seeing the Laver and World Cups is the weakness in the Davis Cup,” said Donald Dell, group president of Lagardère.

Dell, a former Davis Cup player and captain, said he has heard the investor of the World Team Cup competition will take the naming rights as well.

The ATP has yet to approve the World Team Cup, and a decision is not expected later this month at the tour’s board meeting in New York City. There, however, the tour should get a feel for whether it can muster the political will to go forward with the event, one source said.

The ATP board has three player representatives (one of whom is Gimelstob) and three tournament reps. Theoretically if they split, the tie is broken by the president, Chris Kermode.

If the tour does proceed, the World Team Cup would not launch until 2019. While tentative plans are for it to be in early January in Asia, that is not set in stone. The event could rotate cities, bid out like the Super Bowl.

CMC Capital earlier this year invested in CAA and has other sports-related investments. It owns part of the City Football Group, a holding company that oversees soccer clubs including Manchester City and NYCFC. CMC also is an investor in Formula E.

Asked how long CMC will wait until the ATP sorts out its political issues, one source said he is surprised it has waited so long because the offer has been on the table for a significant period of time.