By: Nur Renollet
March 27, 2023
Photo Credit: Associated Press
On March 7, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) officially announced their commercial partnership with Luxembourg-based private equity firm, CVC Capital Partners. The partnership resulted in CVC making a $150 million investment in return for a 20% stake in the WTA’s new commercial subsidiary, WTA Ventures. The subsidiary will specifically focus on managing sponsorship deals as well as broadcast and data rights.
As one of the world’s most prominent sports investors, CVC can now add the WTA to a long list of former and current investments that include Formula 1, Moto GP, Rugby, the French Football League, La Liga, Volleyball and IPL Cricket. This deal not only sees CVC finally break into the international tennis scene, but also into women’s sports as a whole.
Per a New York Times interview, WTA CEO Steve Simon stated that “Hopefully this partnership will allow us to begin addressing that valley between the commercial rights that we are able to secure and the rights that the men are able to secure.”
Despite men and women earning the same amount of prize money at Grand Slams, there still remains a massive chasm in pay between the men's and women’s game. The gap in pay derives from stand-alone men and women’s events that comprise the remainder of tennis’ calendar year. This substantial gap came to its widest in 2022 when men earned, on average, about 70% more than women outside of majors.
A major goal of this partnership is to invest heavily into marketing the women’s game in a manner that not only sees an increased interest in the WTA, but more importantly, sees a substantial increase in player profile. This will be completed through strategically negotiated broadcasting deals and the production of more media programming in general. The deal sees to it that WTA Tour Inc. will retain its autonomy as the sovereign voice in governance, regulatory, and calendar issues in the women’s tour. CVC’s role within the greater WTA Tour Inc. will remain focused and contained as they will possess two out of eight seats within the WTA Ventures board, which will be chaired by Simon.
The form, function, and value of this partnership is emblematic of the commercial partnership previously reported on SBAJ between Ally Bank and the National Women’s Soccer League, the United States’ top division of women’s soccer. The past six months have seen significant investments in a myriad of women’s sports in an effort to increase the visibility and marketability of the respective women’s leagues and players. It will be interesting to see the effectiveness of such strategies in the near future among these various international sports initiatives.
With CVC as a valuable leader within WTA Ventures, one can expect to see a considerable increase in the visibility of the WTA and its players. Via more lucrative sponsorship and broadcast deals, the WTA hopes to lessen the pay and popularity gap between them and the men’s game.
This partnership not only cements CVC’s commitment to pursuing this goal, but is very much a vote of confidence in just how much women’s tennis can and will grow in the next few years.