ATP Chairman de Villiers to Step Down, Men’s Tennis Search Begins
by Richard Vach | August 21st, 2008, 7:45 pm
  • 31 Comments

Etienne de Villiers, Executive Chairman and President of the ATP, in August announced he will be stepping down at the end of the 2008 season.

de Villiers’ chairmanship was a rocky one filled with a number of twists, beginning with his appointment. He was hired and tasked to find a new CEO after the departure of Mark Miles in 2005, but during the search process he convinced the ATP he was the man for the job, although he had no tennis background. The majority of players immediately took a liking to the smooth-talking businessman who had most recently worked as president for Walt Disney Television International.


Through his tenure he boasted $1 billion of new investment into the ATP Tour, increased sponsorship and player prize money, and a more player-friendly calendar after winning a court battle to demote the Hamburg tournament from its Masters Series status. On the plus side he also pushed through the “Hawkeye” video replay system, and on the negative tried to re-brand the popular Masters Series as simply “1000s.” He also oversaw an embarrassing failed “round robin” tournament format, and cut doubles play to tiebreaks instead of third sets, promising to elevate doubles on TV which never materialized.

In the end, he operated so secretly from the players that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic took the unprecedented action of electing themselves to the ATP Player Council to have a say in their sport. Apparently the last straw for de Villiers was the top players signing a petition that the ATP not automatically renew his contract for 2009, and shop around for other candidates.

“I was tasked by the ATP Board, three years ago, to create a vision that would involve bold changes for our sport,” de Villiers said. “I believe that has now been achieved. I believe we have delivered the biggest modernization of the ATP Tour since its inception, have attracted unprecedented levels of investment into men’s tennis.”

For a blast from the past, also see:
Tennis Embarrassed Again as ATP CEO Steps In to Make Things Wrong
http://www.tennis-x.com/xblog/2007-03-02/238.php


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31 Comments for ATP Chairman de Villiers to Step Down, Men’s Tennis Search Begins

;o Says:

Well im not arguing that he didn’t attract unprecedented levels of investment into men’s tennis.

Just he didn’t know how to manage it at all.

Plus, I like the new doubles format


Richard Vach Says:

;o, I think the doubles format is an interesting idea, I just wish the format was maybe 2-of-3 short sets or something. As many of the top doubles teams have said, deciding split sets with a tiebreak is like flipping a coin.


jane Says:

Richard,

You say, “on the negative [he] tried to re-brand the popular Masters Series as simply “1000s.””

Does this mean the MS Series will not be re-branded as you use the word “tried”? I was just wondering because I had thought it was a done-deal.


Richard Vach Says:

Jane, I think they are going to now use a hybrid and call them “Masters 1000″ or something like that.


jane Says:

Thanks Richard – this is kind of off-topic, but maybe you know how the ATP is going to deal with points adjustments in the MS events next year now that they’ll be worth more? Seems like a mathematical nightmare…something de Villiers will no longer have to deal with, unless they have a plan.


Vulcan Says:

I heard some time ago that Mercedes Benz will step down as a sponsor sometime soon (I think it was 09). To me this is even a bigger change as they have been a sponsor for many years.


Richard Vach Says:

Jane, last I heard they were still trying to figure that one out. That is always a nightmare because any increase always angers the ITF because they want the Slams to have as many more points than tour events as possible.


Mary Says:

Hopefully, whoever the new Chairman can work to clean up this increasingly dirty sport.

Don’t read the mainstream US sites–except here– and press that feasts on PR-fed nonsense aimed at the fangirl/boys. Start looking to the European press.

Operation Puerto (EPO not steroids) is back bigger than ever- think steroid-sized BALCO- as the Spanish court reopened the investigation and a case in Hamburg dealing with cycling.
Read up on this case and you’ll be asking questions why we never hear about it, considering it targets many sports.

The President of UCI, tired of cycling carrying all of the blame, has now gone public in both print and tv media stating that SPANISH AUTHORITIES told him Fuentes worked with soccer, tennis, swimming, and race drivers. Learn about the cast of characters behind the scenes– it’s all out there.

The European media is not having it and they want the names released.

It would be good to have a drug policy where the players don’t know exactly when they will be tested. (Marion Jones passed 161 drug tests at what was supposedly the most-stringent sport.) Read Game of Shadows to find out how easy it is to beat a drug test– or just watch tennis or the Olympics.

Also, it’s really easy for a player right now to get an excepmption for a usually banned drug by getting a crooked doctor to sign off on some bogus injury.

Maybe something will be done about the Russian mafia in tennis. The Davis Cup captain who has a hard time getting a US visa due to alleged-mafia ties. Also, do something about the players who hang and buy gifts for these mafia members.

I never post anything like this due to anyone approaching the subject being called a troll– not aiming it here. It’s the trolls of the world that got Marion Jones stripped of her medals, keeping Barry Bonds out of MLB, and exposing 14 yo gymnasts. We don’t give a rat’s behind if your favorite player is exposed.

Do a google search in French, English(UK), German, and Spanish and you will get the same info I have plus more.

If Stepanek doesn’t win the USO, you know the fix is in.


Mary Says:

I don’t know Nole’s educational background, but I sure as hell would not want to rely on the barely educated Federer and Nadal for anything with my association.


Von Says:

“I don’t know Nole’s educational background, but I sure as hell would not want to rely on the barely educated Federer and Nadal for anything with my association.”

Most of the tennis players have never gotten past junior high much more high school, and the majority are Europeans.

I think the ATP should have a task force of business oriented people dedicated to business management rather than have the players making important decisons that will impact on all of the players. The players will make decisons on their personal preferences and that’s not how business should be conducted.


Von Says:

“It would be good to have a drug policy where the players don’t know exactly when they will be tested.”

They need to have random drug testing and unbroken chain of custody, somewhat similar to that which criminal offenders on probation are subjected. With random drug testing there isn’t any time for them to clean out their system of any drug-related substances. It’s an on the spot check, with open bathroom door observation by a member of the drug testing team.


Mary Says:

In 09, tennis fully adopts the WADA code. It’s a code that calls for the random testing. Tennis is trying to fight it due to schedules.
I’m not sure what the result of it.
http://tiny.cc/uc6D6

This is the code most of the international sports fall under. Of course, as we see time and time again, there are ways to beat it.
Listen to the post-match press conferences and you’ll see they already target certain players- kinda like how they target players in other sports and they never fail a drug test.

It’s a creepy world where people only get caught when someone rats them out, cannot transport them properly or they screw up the drug schedules– or their national org protects them. Plus, you don’t investigate a sports biggest star too closely.

de Villers was brought in to do what you suggested. Great article on it; it also compares golf v. tennis.
http://tiny.cc/4BvGu
if this posts twice i apologize


mary Says:

In 09, tennis fully adopts the WADA code. It’s a code that calls for the random testing. Tennis is trying to fight it due to schedules.
I’m not sure what the result of it.
http://tiny.cc/uc6D6

This is the code most of the international sports fall under. Of course, as we see time and time again, there are ways to beat it.
Listen to the post-match press conferences and you’ll see they already target certain players- kinda like how they target players in other sports and they never fail a drug test.

It’s a creepy world where people only get caught when someone rats them out, cannot transport them properly or they screw up the drug schedules– or their national org protects them. Plus, you don’t investigate a sports biggest star too closely.


mary Says:

de Villers was brought in to do what you suggested. Great article on it; it also compares golf v. tennis.
http://tiny.cc/4BvGu

I like John Helyar, so here’s another one:
http://tiny.cc/tHDj1


Von Says:

Mary:

“Tennis players are not as well-educated — they often abandon schooling for serving at an early age — and not as patient. They may enjoy only five years of peak earnings power before breaking down with injuries. They don’t care if Etienne de Villiers has a great five-year plan; they won’t be around in five years. They just know this guy is holed up in London, rarely deigning to speak with them, while they’re hopscotching the world, whacking a yellow ball and nursing aches and pains.”

thanks for that link. It’s a Very interesting article. It reinforces the lack of education issue we were talking about. I love the following:

“The present situation portends something worse: the inmates running the asylum.”

The blind leading the blind. It’s comical and pitiful at the same time.


Skorocel Says:

To Mary:

Just read your post about that famous/infamous “Operation Puerto”… Does that mean we’re in to find out something new in the weeks to come?


Mary Says:

Skorocel: I’m not sure. It’s only been a month since the Pres of the UCI went public with the fact that spanish authorities told him tennis players (note there is no specified country and it’s more than one). There are still cyclists with connections to it being caught- not all our spanish- oh, most were/had at the time/ rode for spanish teams.

But, if you are bored, use google and babelfish translator (or your own skills) and there is a ton of info about how crooked things are.

The ATP/WTA sure as hell won’t say anything.

The European press has been calling Spain out on their magical summer. Again google is your friend in finding out.

If MLB could not get away with allowing its players to dope, why should tennis?

Basically, the case is ongoing- but Spain has a list of doped athletes from various sports it will not release despite Europe getting majorly pissed off.


Mary Says:

Sorry- tennis players– along with other sports– are on the infamous list.


Skorocel Says:

To Mary:

Of course the ATP/WTA won’t say anything… They both were more than aware of the match fixing problem – but didn’t say anything till the Davydenko affair broke out, so it’d only be a wishful thinking for us to hear something about this doping issue from either the ATP or WTA, don’t you think?

Anyway, what did you mean by saying: “The European press has been calling Spain out on their magical summer.”? Did you mean they’re somehow casting a doubt on the recent successes of the Spanish football team at Euro 2008, Carlos Sastre at TdF, or indeed Nadal at SW19 or the Olympics? I know the L’Equipe newspaper is usually among the first to come up with these things, but anyway, I’m still kind of surprised how quickly they swept all those suspicious allegations (I mean those pertaining to the non-cyclist athletes) under the rug… It’s been already some 2 years since the whole operation started, but for some unknown reason, they’re still holding their tongue…

P.S. What did you mean by that “babelfish translator”? :)


Mary Says:

Scottish, German, Belguim, French, and Italian.

It started two years ago, BUT… there are still riders being connected with it and busted. The connections in Spain with Govt and Sports are interesting.
They were able to sweep it under the rug b/c the spanish authorities “may” have not been truthful. Can you imagine the money lost if that list is made public?

As far as time, it took MLB and BALCO years. ATP is has no interest– both players publicly and business side– b/c they’ll lose money. Players who do talk are shut up pretty fast.

Translator translates articles into english:>


Mary Says:

Called away for a moment:
The ATP/WTA/ITF don’t say/do anything because they have a large contingent of lazy hero-worshipping fans who the media and players pander to. Tennis is more and more like the boy band of the sporting world.

Replacing deVilliers won’t change anything in the ATP.


Von Says:

Mary:

“The ATP/WTA/ITF don’t say/do anything because they have a large contingent of lazy hero-worshipping fans who the media and players pander to. Tennis is more and more like the boy band of the sporting world.”

The ATP/WTA won’t say anything for some of the reasons you set forth, but more importantly, it’s because tennis is way down the list of sports in terms of importance, that sparks the majority of people’s interest. It’s about a ratio of 100:15 of tennis fans out there, if that much.. Considering that figure is correct, do you think the ATP/WTA would risk losing its small proportion of fans, which translates to income, by adhering to drug testing? I don’t think so. The revelations of who’s doping would probably send ATP reeling and the loss of income would be staggering. ATP would be in a worse chaotic mess than it presently finds itself. I find it difficult to assimilate that all of the players of any sport are 100 per cent drug free and operating under their own God given physical attributes. It’s an unfair situation and one which should be given top priority instead of being swept under the rug. By the time the ATP actually embraces the thought and acts on taking serious measures to put an end to the use of banned and/or controlled substances, the offenders would be long gone into retirement.

Without divulging my professional background, I can say without a doubt, that people who are using enhancing drugs are very adept at covering it up. I’ve seen so many instances of crooked drug testing, chain of custody being broken and messed up, switched results and the guiltless being the guilty. I’ve even seen and/or heard of instances where they try to place water from the toilet into the cups. The funnisest one I’ve heard was one guy testing positive for marijuana who said he was in a van with other friends smoking, he inhaled the smoke, and that’s how his results showed positive. It was hilarious, because Marijuana is a substance that gets into the fat cells and remains there for 30 days. I’d like to see players perform at their natural level without using any artificial and/or enhancing substances, because then we’ll actually see who’s the naturally talented athlete.

I agree replacing DeVilliers won’t change anything, and I’ve stated before that the devil you know is better than the one you don’t know. Hence, DeVilliers’ replacement could turn out to be even worse and what will the ATP do then? I suppose fire him and find another, and another, and, another ….


Mary Says:

“The ATP/WTA won’t say anything for some of the reasons you set forth, but more importantly, it’s because tennis is way down the list of sports in terms of importance, that sparks the majority of people’s interest.”

I agree with what you wrote. Tennis is not a team sport where if one or two people are doping you lose interest in the whole team.

I think that a big part of the reason people stopped watching tennis is b/c you cannot trust what you see. So far this year in the public realm we have had mafia-influenced matches; players betting; Sharapova, like the Williams sisters before her, crooked dealings that were made public during the trial the past month; and admitting that the WTA makes big-name players sign up for matches they will not show up to play– luckily the press just ignores the players involved in the blood doping scandal. In a way, it’s good people ignore the sport, b/c that is what it deserves. Can you tell I’m fed up? The new Puerto stuff sent me over.

It’s interesting about your work– how much do you deal with drug testing? I’ve followed the steroid/blood doping issue for some time, but really got interested after reading Game of Shadows. The ease of which a drug network can flourish– out in the open– is amazing.

The author of the Bloomberg articles got it right. Helyar also co-authroed a great book “Barbarians at the Gate,” about leveraged buyouts.

I don’t see the ATP changing unless the players change. The players choosing the three they did to rep the players shows a lack of foresight.

I don’t think much of the players care– unless you say “You are losing money.”


Von Says:

“It’s interesting about your work– how much do you deal with drug testing? I’ve followed the steroid/blood doping issue for some time, but really got interested after reading Game of Shadows. The ease of which a drug network can flourish– out in the open– is amazing.”

I don’t deal too much with the drug testing scenario now, as I’ve transferred to a different Agency. I worked on probation cases with the Court for 3 years and was so fed up with the whole thing. I felt sort of contaminated just reading and seeing the sick things people do with regard to drugs/steroids, defrauding the Government and their lives in general. My personality suffered because I began looking at everyone through suspicious eyes. The innocent in me became cynical.

“The author of the Bloomberg articles got it right. Helyar also co-authroed a great book “Barbarians at the Gate,” about leveraged buyouts.”

I liked helyar’s style of writing. Thank you for introducing me to his articles. I’ll make a mental note to read the book when time permits.

“I don’t see the ATP changing unless the players change. The players choosing the three they did to rep the players shows a lack of foresight.”

Helyar puts it in the right sense: The inmates running the asylum. LOL. i think the elected players only cared how the season affected them personally and it was mainly the clay season, due to the huge amount of points concentrated in that part of season. The other players just towed the line probably not wanting to make any waves and/or enemies.

“I don’t think much of the players care– unless you say “You are losing money.”

As long as they get their fair share of the spoils with no headaches attached, I don’t think they care from where it comes. It’s a money making lifestyle with zero interest in the machinations of the overseeing association, unless decisons affect the players personally.


jane Says:

Here is MAC-DADDY’S proposal addressed to the ATP re: taking over for Mr. Disney (note this is John senior, not our favorite player, “you can’t be serious” John):

“Gentlemen:

As you all probably know, I am the father of John, Mark (my “normal son,” the lawyer) and Patrick McEnroe. I have met some of you at various tournaments, Davis Cup ties, etc.

To get promptly to the point, I am interested in succeeding Etienne de Villiers as Chairman of ATP Tour, Inc. I am strongly of the view that the best interests of men players, particularly the top ranked players, have been very badly served by Mr. de Villiers, to put it mildly, and by his predecessors.

The rules for participation on the Tour are an abomination. My own view is that NO player should be required to play in ANY TOURNAMENT if he doesn’t wish so to do. Also, as long as a player’s ranking entitles him to entry, he should be able to enter any tournament without requiring a minimum of tournaments each year. This is a position I have held for over thirty years.

You are all too young to remember that, in the early 1980s, I represented the “quintessential quintet (QQ)” (Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Vitas Gerulaitis, McEnroe (John) and Guillermo Vilas), in negotiations with the Men’s International Professional Tennis Council (”MIPTC”) over newly proposed rules. Those rules included proposed “hard designations” by the MIPTC for the top hundred players on the ATP computer. You will not be surprised that the QQ were not happy with that proposal. We were able to negotiate an arrangement whereby the QQ and the Council agreed in advance what the “designations” would be.

I am aware that the Mercedes-Benz international sponsorship of the Tour ends at the end of this year and will not be renewed. As your new Chairman, it would be a major priority of mine zealously to work to find a new sponsor. Also, I would work diligently to find opportunities to monetize various aspects of the Tour in order to ensure its financial foundation is solid.

Additionally, I have represented John and Patrick in connection with all of their legal needs. This includes all of their broadcasting contracts with BBC, NBC, CBS, ESPN, Tennis Channel and Australia’s Channel 7, agreements with respect to special events, endorsement agreements with Nike, Dunlop, Wilson, Snauwaert, Sergio Tacchini, etc., not to mention a myriad of endorsements for companies not directly involved with tennis, book contracts and so on. I know and have interfaced with all the constituencies in professional tennis for many years.

Finally, I am currently Of Counsel to the internationally recognized law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP, where I practiced commercial law since 1967. From 1974 through 2000, I was a partner in the Corporate Department.

I would be most pleased to meet in person at a convenient time and venue (the US Open site?) with any or all of you, your agents and anyone else you deem appropriate. Please feel free to call or e-mail me with any questions, comments or suggestions you may have. Thank you all in advance for your consideration of this proposal.

Sincerely,
John P. McEnroe


Mary Says:

Yes, that’s what the ATP needs a lawyer, not a businessman! Dumbasses.


Von Says:

“Yes, that’s what the ATP needs a lawyer, not a businessman! Dumbasses.”

Well, lawyers are businessmen especially if their expertise is directed to Corporate Law and that’s where John McEnroe, Sr.’s background is tailor-made to fit into that position. ATP most probably has a team of lawyers on the payroll, who review their contracts, and contest lawsuits, etc. However, I personally feel that John Mc, Sr., is a bit too old for that job, and if he’s elected, it would be a furtherance in nepotism. The McEnroe family’s regime in tennis has been ongoing for close to 30 years, and I believe it’s what has provided the leverage for John Jr.,to pull off all those on and off-court stunts, including his latest fiasco with the crowd, without suffering any seriously punishable fines and/or sentences. He knows his dad will get him out of any incidents while making a mockery of the judicial system. Had it been another individual who had behaved as disgustingly as John did toward the crowd, their job with the TV networks would have been axed. John came out of that incident with everything still in tact.

Assuming John, Sr., gets the nod from ATP, we’ll next witness the emergence of John, Jr.’s children into the tennis hierarchy, occupying positions of importance for which others might be much more qualified but won’t be given a chance, due to their lack of the right connections. Nepotism personified!!


Mary Says:

Sorry, Von, I was not taking a swipe at all lawyers. I just don’t see a corp-law type(and an American no less!) doing well as head of the ATP.

“He knows his dad will get him out of any incidents while making a mockery of the judicial system.”
?
ITA with your comments.


Von Says:

Mary:

“Sorry, Von, I was not taking a swipe at all lawyers. I just don’t see a corp-law type(and an American no less!) doing well as head of the ATP.”

No need to apologize, I wasn’t offended at all. I agree with you. They don’t need another lawyer, especially an old one at that. Would you be bowled over by his resume? I wouldn’t. The guy has never worked in Labor Relations, and/or negotiated Union Bargaining Contracts, what would he do if there was a strike, similar to the one they had some years ago in baseball?. Even a lay person could negotiate on a figure to be paid on the players’ contracts that he’s negotiated. The ATP needs a younger International/global savvy business team, not one man, to run the show, but with a CEO too. If they did that, they won’t need to defend lawsuits. How about if I apply for the job? That was a joke.


Mary Says:

I stay in to watch the USO and it is boring. Tennis must be punished.

On the ITF site I pulled up the numbers on 2007 Testing. I knew drug testing in tennis was a joke, but I never it was this bad. I can figure out safe times to dope.

Just an example: At the 2007 AO, 510 players entered, but only 143 drug tests were administered. That’s about 4%. While there are 3 different tests, all those tested had a urine test. Only 42 had there blood tested and only 2 were tested for EPO.

The other slams had approx the same numbers.
Out of competition was 157 tests, not taking into account those tested twice.
Not all three tests are carried out each tourny, Rome only saw 30 blood tests.

ITF out of comp test was done late Nov/early Dec.
WADA suprise test was done on one of approx approx 9 days over the year in Dec, July, and April.
Looking at 2006 OOC, I see they are clustered around the same dates as 2007.

2007: http://tiny.cc/I59IO

2006 was open season with really nobody being tested. Before 2006– sad.
I’m glad the press asks the WTA/ATP/ITF and the players BS questions, instead of how easy it is to dope.

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