LONDON (Reuters) - American billionaire Larry Ellison has thrown his weight behind the International Tennis Federation’s planned revamp of the Davis Cup and says Indian Wells could stage the event.
The ITF announced this year that it had sealed a 25-year $3 billion partnership with investment group KOSMOS to transform the 118-year-old Davis Cup men’s team event into an 18-team, one-week season finale that is due to start in November, 2019.
Ellison, who owns the Indian Wells Tennis Garden facility in the California desert as well as the Indian Wells Masters 1000 tournament, has invested in the proposed new event to be known as the World Cup of Tennis.
“I am very excited about the new format that the International Tennis Federation and KOSMOS have developed for Davis Cup and am in full support of the plans that have been outlined for this historic competition,” Ellison said in a statement published on the Desert Sun website.
“I readily embrace innovative ideas and opportunities which is why I am not only lending my written support, but will also become an investor in this competition.
“In addition, I am thrilled that the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, one of the premier tennis venues in the world, is being considered to host 18 National teams and their associations, in the new Davis Cup Finals event in 2021.”
A two-thirds majority at the ITF annual general meeting this month will be required for final approval of the proposal.
The support of Ellison is a boost for the ITF which was criticised by Tennis Australia over the weekend for a lack of transparency over its plans — a criticism it rejects.
The ITF’s shake-up of the Davis Cup has also been undermined after the men’s governing body, the ATP, announced plans to introduce a rival 24-team World Team Cup, offering $15 million in prize money plus ranking points, into the calendar to be played in Australia from early 2020.
KOSMOS president and founder Gerard Pique, the Spanish footballer who plays for Barcelona, welcomed Ellison’s investment.
“I personally want to publicly welcome Mr Ellison to this project,” Pique said on Twitter.
“We are pleased and proud to have him financially backing our commitment for boosting and reinforcing the Davis Cup.
“The agreement reassures the sustainability and ambition of our engagement together with the ITF and I know it will be welcomed as a positive announcement for the global tennis community.”
The ITF confirmed on its website that Ellison would be investing in the project.
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond