Chelsea owner Mark Walter’s tennis plans
Wednesday, January 25, 2023 6:01 PM
Mark Walter, co-owner of Chelsea and the Los Angeles Dodgers with Todd Boehly, is in talks with the International Tennis Federation about new investment for the Billie Jean King Cup (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation)
Billionaire Chelsea co-owner Mark Walter is the American businessman in talks with the International Tennis Federation over a controversial proposal to bring private investment to the Billie Jean King Cup, City AM has learned.
We revealed yesterday that the ITF is set to enter into a major new partnership with an American group to promote the Billie Jean King Cup, the international team competition that is the women’s version of the Davis Cup.
Multisport investor Walter, 63, is one of the driving forces behind the planned joint venture, which would involve the creation of a new entity and a significant advance, in the form of a loan, for the cash-strapped ITF, according to American sources. .
Billie Jean King Cup lined up for private investment as International Tennis Federation accused of risking another $3 billion Kosmos Davis Cup fiasco
But some senior ITF officials are said to be concerned about the prospect of going to bed with new business partners so soon after the embarrassing collapse of a similar deal with footballer Gerard Pique’s Kosmos Group.
The ITF’s $3 billion Davis Cup deal was terminated earlier this month less than five years into a 25-year deal after Kosmos, which was backed by Japanese giants Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman of e-commerce Rakuten, asked to renegotiate the terms.
Some insiders have privately questioned the ITF’s level of due diligence and called on its chairman David Haggerty to step down while an investigation is carried out into the doomed partnership.
They also want the ITF to reinstate rules that say major decisions about the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup must go to an AGM. The statutes were amended in 2018, just months before the Kosmos agreement came into effect.
Walter is a long-time business partner of Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly of US investment firm Guggenheim Partners, of which he is chief executive. He and Boehly have also co-owned baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers since 2012.
He also has existing ties to Billie Jean King, the pioneering former tennis star whose competition formerly known as the Fed Cup is now named after. King is a Dodgers board member and has reportedly explored other athletic endeavors with Walter.
Some ITF insiders fear the deal is effectively a done deal, but insist there should be far greater scrutiny of partnership proposals with Walter than what they say has been given to the 123 member countries before the Kosmos agreement.
They called on any new investor to provide financial guarantees. They also allege that Switzerland has already been promised to host the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup final without a bidding process taking place.
An ITF spokesperson said: “There is no joint venture in place around the Billie Jean King Cup and the process of determining the host for the 2023 final is ongoing with some number of cities involved A decision should be made in February subject to Board approval.
City AM attempted to contact Walter for comment but did not receive a response before publication.
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