PIF ‘respond’ to claims Saudi Arabia have made enormous ‘£1.5bn tennis takeover offer’ | Tennis | Sport

The Public Investment Fund has clarified claims that it made a “take it or leave it” time-sensitive offer worth £1.5 billion ($2 billion) to merge the ATP and WTA Tours. It comes after reports that the ATP chairman informed representatives of the nine Masters 1000 tournaments of the offer during a meeting in Indian Wells.

The PIF offered £780m ($1bn) each to the ATP and WTA Tours, according to The Telegraph. The plans would see the men’s and women’s circuits unite, with current ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi stepping up as the commissioner. A 10th Masters tournament would also be added to the calendar in Saudi Arabia, expected to take place at the beginning of the tennis season.

The offer was said to have a 90-day expiration date but the PIF has now responded to suggestions that they gave the tours a time limit before walking away. Per The Guardian, sources have denied that there is a deadline on the proposal and claimed that the speculation was premature.

Saudi sources also made it clear that the PIF wanted to be part of the “existing ecosystem” in tennis, instead of trying to buy out the sport. Their approach is to be “collaborative” with the current governing bodies in tennis.

Gaudenzi apparently addressed the offer following another meeting over a new ‘Premium Tour’ model. Representatives from the two tours, the four Grand Slams and the nine Masters were present for the first briefing, which considered a circuit that would see the top players compete in an elite 14-tournament tour.

It would comprise the Grand Slams, 10 Masters events, a team competition and a combined season-ending championships. Existing 500 and 250-point tournaments would be downgraded to a new ‘Contender Tour’, according to The Telegraph. The proposal is the brainchild of Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley.

Tiley is said to be threatened by the Saudi’s hopes of staging a Masters 1000 tournament at the beginning of the year, as this would take the spot of the current United Cup – a mixed-gender event created by Tiley and Tennis Australia. It is understood that this may be the reason he is so keen to push the Premium Tour model, giving the Grand Slams more say in the top tour-level events.

The PIF has already taken big strides in tennis, announcing a multi-year partnership with the ATP last month. The Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund became the naming sponsor for the ATP rankings and will present the year-end No. 1 trophy to the player that ends the year in the top spot.

As part of the agreement, PIF will partner with official tour events in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing, and the elite ATP Finals currently being staged in Turin. Their logo has already been seen on the courts at the current Indian Wells Masters.

Saudi Arabia also stages the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah. The first edition of a five-year deal was staged in December, with Hamad Medjedovic winning the title.

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