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Indian Wells Tournament Saved

Times Staff Writer

The U.S. Tennis Assn. has come to the rescue of the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells, deciding to invest in the high-profile tournament and helping prevent it from moving to China in 2007.

On Sunday, the USTA’s board of directors at its meeting in San Antonio approved an investment to keep the event in the U.S., according to a source familiar with the discussions. The issue at hand is the proposed buyout of the management firm, IMG, which owns 50% of the tournament, and wanted to sell to a Chinese group.

Raymond Moore and Charlie Pasarell, of PM Sports, own the other 50%.

The makeup of the new group owning the other half would be the USTA and investors George Mackin and Bob Miller, who own Tennis magazine, as well as other yet-to-be identified individuals.

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“It’s always hard to predict the group dynamics,” USTA president and chairman Franklin R. Johnson said Sunday of the vote. “It all just went very well. I think a lot of people learned a lot more about the tournament and the significance of it.”

An official announcement is expected today. Johnson said that financial terms of the USTA’s involvement were not going to be announced “at this time.”

On Sunday, he said the USTA’s required investment could depend on other members of the investment group.

It was Johnson’s involvement that put the issue on a relative fast track when news emerged during this year’s Pacific Life Open in March that the area was in danger of losing the tournament.

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It is expected that the USTA will take a major role in the marketing of the Pacific Life Open.

Additionally, the USTA has the option to increase its investment over the next six years. One distant possibility would be the organization owning the event outright.

“We are bullish on the tournament and want the opportunity to own more,” Johnson said.


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