Mar 31st, 2003, 08:43 PM
2003 NASDAQ-100 OPEN
KEY BISCAYNE, FLORIDA
March 29, 2003
LARRY SCOTT NAMED WTA TOUR CEO
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm very pleased to be able to be a part of this announcement. The WTA, I think, has a very important announcement. I think everyone's been anxious to hear what was going to happen over the last 30, 60 days. I think everybody knows Stacey Allaster, you know Lisa Grattan. You all know Larry Scott. To make this announcement, we're asking Stacey Allaster to make the announcement, please.
STACEY ALLASTER: Butch, thank you, as always, for your generous hospitality in opening up your facilities this morning to the WTA Tour, thank you. We would be remiss if we didn't thank you and Adam for another fantastic event for women's tennis and truly another two weeks of trend-setting tennis. Thank you, Butch and Adam, and your team. It's probably only fitting that at the WTA Tour's leading event that we have the pleasure of announcing and welcoming Larry Scott as the new Chairman and CEO of the WTA Tour. Immediately following Kevin Wulff's announcement that he wanted to return to the apparel business, the Board formed a search committee. An outside search firm was contracted, and a global search was embarked upon. The search committee presented itself with a very lofty goal in that they wanted to appoint a new CEO by the Miami meetings. I can tell you that the search committee was diligent over the past two months. It was a rigorous search.
More than 60 candidates, both inside and outside the game, were reviewed. It became clear that Larry Scott was the candidate that we wanted to put before the Board. Before Larry was ready for us to do that, he took it upon himself to ensure that he had all constituents' support. So he, for the past two weeks, in a more informal basis, has met with current players, former players, the tournaments, the management companies, the ITF, the Grand Slams - did we miss anyone in our family (smiling)? But really, for Larry to make this change, he made it clear to everyone that he wanted the constituents' support. I know that all of you will agree the tennis family can rarely agree on one issue ; but, clearly, on this issue, there is full support and agreement. From your own personal experiences of working with Larry and certainly from his track record, it's clear he's going to be a great addition to women's tennis.
His global business, political and cultural experiences, having lived abroad for the past 11 years, we believe, will really be an asset to the Tour. His working knowledge with various different political bodies, different economies and, again, different cultures, we really believe will provide the foundation for growing our sport on a world-wide platform. Certainly, in addition to his business track record, having been a player himself, he will have that nuance of really understanding the players and being able to form good working relationships with our athletes. So before I turn over the mike to Larry, on behalf of the Board, and the tournaments, the players, we're very excited to have you sitting here this morning with us. We all acknowledge his work ethic, his professionalism, and how much he really cares about tennis.
We have seen for the past 11 years how proudly he can carry the ATP Tour banner, and there's no doubt in our mind that with the same conviction and dedication, we know that Larry will champion women's tennis and bring our sport to new unprecedented levels. Over to you, Mr. Chairman.
LARRY SCOTT: Good morning, everyone. Thank you, Stacey, Butch, and Lisa. I couldn't think of a more appropriate place to have this announcement. I'm thankful to Butch and Adam for all your great work over the years and leadership in the game. This event is a monument to the vitality and success of tennis, both on the men's side and the women's side. That's why I'm so pleased that this is happening here in your presence, Butch. I'm very excited about the opportunity to lead women's tennis going forward. It's a sport that has some of the leading sports personalties, and, in fact, celebrities in the world. Women's tennis is a truly unique asset, from my perspective. I'm honored to be entrusted to lead the organization going forward. There's a wonderful heritage and tradition of ground-breaking achievements that have brought women's tennis to where it is today. The game has never been stronger. There's never been more talent. There's never been more depth in the women's game than there is today.
From my perspective, the brightest days are ahead. I'll look at my role as helping lead the organization to taking their off-court game to the next level. It's a challenging, yet exciting time for tennis more broadly. Challenging in terms of the economy, the geopolitical situation, challenging time in terms of the business models for tournaments and players and for the WTA and ATP and all the governing bodies in tennis. But by the same token, I'm very, very encouraged by the recent dialogue that started between the different governing bodies; between the Grand Slams, ITF, WTA, ATP, I am a firm believer that the sport can only reach its true potential if all the governing bodies are working in greater harmony and greater unity. I intend to make sure that women's tennis has a strong and effective voice in talking about some of those broad issues for the benefit of the game.
I'll keep my remarks short today and look forward to answering your questions, but I want to close just by saying that I look forward to a good and trusting relationship with the media, who have been great supporters of women's tennis. I look forward to building upon our relationship going forward. Thank you.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: Questions for Larry?
Q. Larry, with your vast experience in the ATP, did you see this as being an asset in being able to talk with them, particularly, in getting the game moving from the women's perspective and sort of more mixed tournaments?
LARRY SCOTT: Well, broadly, I do think that my history and track record can only be beneficial in terms of all the governing bodies working more closely together. Obviously, greater cooperation is built upon trust and a good track record of successes. I think that's one of the things that I will be able to bring to the leadership position at the WTA, which it's my hope, will lead to greater collaboration amongst all the governing bodies, including between the ATP and the WTA.
Q. Obviously, we heard yesterday - or the day before - that Mark Miles has just got a new contract, so a man you've worked with very closely, the two of you. Now you may be able to work together in close harmony for the benefit of the game. Do you see it that way, too?
LARRY SCOTT: I do. I've got a tremendous respect for Mark on a personal level and in terms of the vision and leadership that he's provided and, frankly, the stability that he's brought to men's tennis and tennis over the last decade, and then some. I intend to maintain the excellent relationships and trusting relationships that I have at the ATP. But by the same token, my focus is going to be on being the leader of women's tennis and being very in touch with the desires of the members, the players and the tournaments, and being an effective champion for them. That's where it starts and stops. Part of that, I do believe, is good cooperation, including with the ATP. I'm sure that will be on the agenda in some form or fashion.
Q. What are the first two things that you want to start off with in your role?
LARRY SCOTT: Well, the first thing I'm going to start off with is going and visiting the office. That's what I'm going to be doing with my wife and family tomorrow. We're driving up to St. Petersburg. Neither one of us have ever been there, but we're going to go visit it, be in the office sort of first thing, to get to know the team and get to know the staff and reinforce our commitment to be there as soon as possible, and sort of take the helm right away. Secondly, is I intend to really get out there and do a lot of listening and build relationships with the players and the tournaments right away. Obviously, I come with a lot of experience in tennis, and a passion and commitment and understanding of the issues I've been working on, but I need to build bridges right away with the players and tournaments and make sure I understand very well their perspectives in terms of what's the way forward for women's tennis, so that I can be an effective leader.
Q. It had said in the announcement you had seen and spoken to lots of the constituent parts of the game. Can you give us an impression of the overriding elements of those discussions and what people are telling you they want to see from women's tennis, perhaps.
LARRY SCOTT: I think there's a tremendous amount of passion and hope, I think, for the potential for women's tennis. Women's tennis is a fantastic success story. I think, what I've garnered, is an incredible pride in terms of what's been achieved up till now. That's something, obviously, that's been important to me. By the same token, I think there's a feeling that with the tremendous popularity of the game, not just within the realm of sports, but how it transcends into sort of lifestyle and popular culture, there is a greater potential out there and there's a desire for strong leadership and greater unity in women's tennis. I'm very excited about that, because I think there's really an opportunity and desire with this type of significant change in the leadership to really pull people together against a common vision, to work toward that goal.
Q. Just following up on what J.R. said, Mark is on record in recent weeks of saying there are ways in which the two associations can work together in a way which has not been seen before.
LARRY SCOTT: Right.
Q. Are there any particular aspects of harmonization that you can see would be viable and important to do?
LARRY SCOTT: Well, I think it's important to note that the process has already begun, even before today. Over the last six months, there has been a task force within the WTA and ATP that have been working on cooperative initiatives. There have been more meetings in the last six months between the WTA and ATP that I can remember, and I give the prior WTA leadership and WTA Board credit for that, along with counterparts on the ATP side. And there are, I think at the very basic level, a series of initiatives designed to save money for both organizations, create greater efficiency, greater promotional opportunities that are really the starting point. I think, like anything, you have to walk before you run, and I think trust needs to be built between the organizations.
I think there needs to be just greater communication and I think that's, if I could sum it up in terms of what I'll be able to bring from the beginning, is a greater level of communication and mutual understanding between the, let's say, players and tournaments on the men's side of the game, players and tournaments on the women's side of the game, that, in the past, maybe hasn't been there to the degree that it could have been.
Q. Following up on that, one of the long-standing pebbles which has been thrown into the water over the years has been a year-ending joint championships. Where do you stand on that? If you think it's a good idea, how soon do you think it will come about?
LARRY SCOTT: There are obviously a lot of practical considerations and partnerships that are in place. But in principle, I think that would be a wonderful goal to strive for. I think as Butch and the NASDAQ-100 has proved, and, of course, the Grand Slams have proved, and now many other tournaments around the world are trying to prove, seeing the best women players in the world, the best men's players in the world playing on important stages is often times, you know, the sport at its best. It attracts the most attention and does the most for building the popularity of professional tennis. So it makes perfect sense, from my perspective, to at least consider the possibility of a joint final. But both events are, I think, have successful partnerships and have some long-standing commitments, I know particularly on the WTA side.
So it's not something that I think can be discussed for the very near term without me going on and sort of discussing and understanding the viewpoint of the existing commercial partners, AEG and Octagon. But it's something that will certainly be on the agenda to discuss.
Q. So it's not likely to happen, say, within five years?
LARRY SCOTT: I'd say not within the next couple of years it's not likely, from what I understand. I do think that there may be some openness to discuss it beyond the next couple of years.
Q. The Board and the leadership of the WTA, historically and traditionally, speaks with an American accent. Are you concerned that that needs to change and that you need to get people in positions of authority who can lead the Tour elsewhere?
LARRY SCOTT: Absolutely. I've got a very clear view on that, given my experience and the fact that, in fact, all my time - while I do have the accent and I haven't lost it with all my years overseas, and I'm often reminded of that - over the last 11 years, I actually haven't even lived in the United States for all my time with the ATP. I was two years in Sydney, two years in Monte-Carlo, and the last seven years in London. So I do think I bring an internationalist perspective to this and understand very, very well the nuances of how we market and promote the sport in different cultures, and it's not one model that applies everywhere in the world. My commitment is to, obviously, be where the Tour's global headquarters is, in St. Petersburg. Having said that, I'm going to have a significant commitment to making sure the WTA Tour is a truly international organization with competencies in all parts of the world, obviously subject to resource availability.
But I'm definitely going to be pushing from a management and administrative point of view to make sure the administration better reflects the constituency.
Q. What other changes would you like to see possibly happen as a result of this greater cooperation with the ATP that would be of interest to and would excite the average fan?
LARRY SCOTT: Well, I think, you know, there's a lot of fragmentation in the sport, more than I think anyone would like to see. I think there's a long list of things that could benefit the game and the fans through greater collaboration - certainly clarifying the structure of the circuit, the calendar, promotion of the game, speaking with one voice and promoting one brand, the tennis brand, rather than a lot of multiple brands. Initiatives like that, I think, would really resonate with fans; if the game simply became easier to follow on television, became easier for you all to communicate.
Q. Toward that, you look at this tournament, which obviously brings together the top men and women, but then you have tournaments like Memphis, which also have the men and women. In a perfect world, would you like to see more of that and maybe pare the calendar down for both the men and women and just have more dual events?
LARRY SCOTT: Well, I think the combined events make a lot of sense. The market has sort of spoken in a sense that more and more tournaments have gone toward combined events. Having said that, there is very much a role and a future for events that are simply WTA Tour events or ATP Tour events, from my perspective. One of the great strengths of our sport is the international nature and how many markets we get into locally. That is really a distinguishing factor our sport has from other sports, is - I know it will sound cliche - but that we really are local world-wide, more than any other sport in the world.
From my perspective, having sort of been a bit of a pioneer out in Australia, and trying to grow tennis in markets like China and Indonesia, Malaysia, the Persian Gulf, breaking into new markets in Latin America, having sort of been there and done that directly, I really see a tremendous power for our sport in that regard, and that doesn't always mean they have to be combined events in order to do great things for the sport. I think there's a healthy balance that makes sense going forward.
Q. What do you anticipate will be your greatest contribution to the WTA?
LARRY SCOTT: I would say bringing a combination of experience in terms of the internal issues and being able to be a unifying voice. By the same token, having been primarily responsible for marketing and promoting, generating revenue, building popularity, so I think I'll be able to - hopefully - balance the internal challenges with the external challenges.
Q. What was Mark's reaction when you told him and you told the ATP?
LARRY SCOTT: I would say, I would sum it up in one word as sort of a bittersweet reaction; I think pleased for me and for tennis in that I'd have this opportunity; and I think in some way, a sense of a quiet pride perhaps, that the game can get over some of our intramural tensions and fighting, and that the WTA leadership could be bold enough and courageous enough to accept someone to lead the WTA that came from the ATP. But by the same token, I think disappointed and concerned about the transition that's going to need to happen.
Q. Probably a month from now, Wimbledon will announce its prize money for the 2003 Championships. Given that it's unlikely to be equal this year, could you perhaps say what your views on it are, so when they say it's not, we can know what the WTA are thinking straightaway?
LISA GRATTAN: We know what you're thinking...(smiling).
LARRY SCOTT: It's obviously one of the most important issues to one of the Tour's key constituencies, the players. I'm on board with that agenda, and it's something I will be discussing with the Grand Slams.
Q. Have you spoken to the chairman yet? I know you're in London, so you're aware of...
LARRY SCOTT: I intend to very soon.
Q. Larry, knowing as well as you do the ATP's attitude towards maybe getting more support financially, marketing support, as they say, from the Grand Slams at the moment, are you looking down that track as well for the women, or do you see it maybe emerging in a different form? Do you share the views of the ATP on that?
LARRY SCOTT: I'm coming to this very much with an open mind and recognizing that my job is to represent the views of the members on issues like that, the players and the tournaments. I come to it with the belief that a greater collaboration between the governing bodies makes all the sense in the world, and that should include promotional initiatives and more investment in the sport in different forms. But it's premature for me to sort of discuss specific plans in that I haven't had a chance to do the type of outreach that I think is required to not only have people understand all the issues, to be able to make sort of intelligent decisions, but then to sort of try to form some sort of consensus on the WTA.
Q. Have you had time to speak with any of the players yet?
LARRY SCOTT: I've had a chance to meet with some of them, not nearly as many as I'd like, giving that people have been busy concentrating on the great competition that has been happening on the court. I have had a chance to meet with a handful of players. Those conversations have gone well. As I said earlier, one of my top priorities is going to be to get out there, get to know the players, have them understand where I come from, what I believe in, my vision, and, more importantly than that, to understand their perspective.
Q. Is it possible just to ask Lisa on behalf of the Board, you've had two or three Chief Executives in the last two or three years from outside of tennis. Now you've gone for a tennis person. Does this reflect a perceived change in the attitude of the WTA, that you really believe someone in tennis can run it better than someone from outside?
LISA GRATTAN: Yes, we do. After the last year, I think we learned that to have someone with the experience that Larry brings to the table is definitely something that we need right now. Kevin did a great job for us while he was here, but the fact that we have an individual who's proven and has the experience was something that, when we first embarked on the search committee, we knew we wanted someone within the tennis world. Because we needed someone who, as I said, could hit the ground running; but in Larry's case, will hit the ground sprinting. That's what we need right now. We're really excited we were able to find an individual like Larry and be able to come to an agreement with him as quickly as we did. I'm real excited and so are the players. So, thank you.
Q. Traditionally, the relations between the WTA and the press, at least the written press, were much less than the ATP ones. Are you aware of that, and are you going to do something about it?
LARRY SCOTT: Yes and yes (smiling). I have some sense of it, but, obviously, once I get on the job, you can rest assured it will be a top priority to understand better what the issues are. I know there's always room for improvement. I think, hopefully, you all know from my background, I respect and treat with great importance the relationship between the media and, in this case, the WTA. It will be personally important to me to concentrate on that.
Q. How soon do you think we should be looking to see an effective change of things with the WTA as far as your leadership is concerned? When do we start seeing your stamp being put on things with the women's Tour?
LARRY SCOTT: Well, in terms of me getting out there and outreaching, having a chance to synthesize some thoughts...
Q. The business side, sponsorships, media. The whole umbrella.
LARRY SCOTT: I think it's fair to say within 100 days you'll have a pretty clear idea of any changes that will be happening with the organization and where it's heading.
Q. What would be your optimum number of combination tournaments, WTA, ATP?
LARRY SCOTT: That's a good question. I don't think I can give you as educated an answer as I'd like yet because I don't understand yet how the women's players feel about that issue - what they see as the positives, what they see as the negatives. And, I need to get much smarter in terms of the calendar challenges that may exist on the WTA. I hope you'll give me a little time to give you an answer on that one.
Q. Is there a change in the title? Was it just CEO before? Now you're introduced as Chairman and CEO?
LISA GRATTAN: No, we had a Chairman.
STACEY ALLASTER: No, within the bylaws, it's clear that it's Chairman and CEO.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: If I could, I think we all need to get to our seats. I'd like to just put my two cents in and congratulate the WTA for selecting somebody who I believe is going to move the game forward. We desperately need to be unified and start thinking of the sport as one, as Larry said. I just want you to know that we support it 100 percent, and he has some challenges out there. I hope everybody from the players side and the tournaments give him an opportunity. He's very well qualified, understands the challenges, and I think we're fortunate to have him.
LARRY SCOTT: Thank you.
STACEY ALLASTER: Thank you.
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