Helfant to step down as ATP president after year
ATP Executive Chairman and President Adam Helfant will step down at year's end and won't seek a new contract, the organization announced.
Helfant joined the ATP in January 2009 and signed a three-year deal, but was unable to come to terms on a new contract after negotiating with the tour’s board of directors for the past few months. Some sources have said the dispute was over compensation and believed the former Nike executive was asking for a substantial increase, which Helfant denied. Reports indicated he was looking for compensation in the range of $3 million per year.
"Recently, erroneous news reports, citing unnamed sources, inaccurately characterized the tenor of my conversations with the ATP Board," Helfant said. "I made no demands, monetary or otherwise, of the Board. I did not ask for more money, or threaten to resign, despite what has been alleged and reported by others. These facts are clear to those with direct knowledge of my conversations with the Board; I was made an offer to stay longer-term with the ATP, which I declined for professional reasons. I am proud of what we’ve accomplished."
A low-key figure who rarely interacted with the media, Helfant was responsible for bringing in two new, major sponsors, Corona Extra and FedEx. Corona signed a five-and-a-half-year contract in February of 2010 that was said to be in the range of $13 million annually, around the same amount that the ATP’s former sponsor, Mercedes-Benz, paid at the end of its deal. Before that, under its controversial and outspoken CEO, Etienne de Villiers, the ATP had gone a year without a main sponsor.
Helfant claims that by the end of 2011, ATP commercial revenues will increase by roughly 65% and its net assets will increase by more than 1100%. He also takes credit for the two successful year-end Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London, as well as the small reduction in the tour's calendar.
Helfant was seen in some quarters as a consummate dealmaker who rarely tried to pick sides if disputes arose between players and tournaments, or smaller and larger tournaments. However, many of the 42 tournament directors of the ATP’s smaller yet vital 250-level events were odds with Helfant over a variety of issues, including the ATP’s ongoing exhibition rules, which allow players to play exos during 250-level tournament weeks. Star players such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal can earn much more money for much less work playing a one-day exhibition, where they are often paid in the seven figures and do not have to spend a week at a tournament site.
Few 250-level tournaments can afford to pay such a high price in the form of a guarantee. One tournament, the Farmer’s Classic in Los Angeles, has decided not to pay guarantees this year and its tournament director, Bob Kramer, has complained that the tour has doubled its prize money while doing no better in providing star players.
Some 250-level tournament directors have also complained that Helfant was invisible to them and was only concerned about 500-level and 1000-level tournaments, which pay out significantly more prize money than 250s.
The ATP will begin the search process for Helfant’s successor in the near future.