American billionaire Larry Ellison has given his backing to the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) planned revamp of the Davis Cup national team event, and says he hopes that Indian Wells can stage the tournament.
The ITF announced earlier this year that it had signed a 25-year, US$3 billion deal with Gerard Piqué’s Kosmos investment group to transform the 118-year-old men’s competition into an 18-team, one-week season finale.
Ellison, who has owned the Indian Wells Tennis Garden facility since 2010 and is listed by Forbes as the eighth wealthiest man in the world, is said to have invested heavily in the new event to be known as the World Cup of Tennis. Indian Wells, which is based near Palm Springs, California, includes the 16,100-seater Stadium One court, which is the second largest tennis-specific arena in the world.
"I am very excited about the new format that the ITF and Kosmos have developed for the 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 is being considered to host 18 national teams and their associations in the new Davis Cup Finals event in 2021."
Along with Pique, Kosmos is backed by Rakuten chairman Hiroshi Mikitani, and the company is looking to build a portfolio of sports, media and entertainment ventures. Pique, who acts as founder and president of Kosmos, welcomed Ellison’s involvement.
“I personally want to publicly welcome Mr Ellison to this project," the Barcelona defender said on Twitter. “We are pleased and proud to have him financially backing our commitment for boosting and reinforcing the Davis Cup.”
The proposal to shake up the Davis Cup still needs to be ratified by national associations at the ITF annual general meeting on 16th August and will need a two thirds majority. If approved, the tournament would be due to start in November 2019.
The idea has, however, recently been undermined by men’s tennis governing body, the ATP, which announced plans in July to introduce a rival 24-team World Team Cup into the tennis calendar from 2020.