INSIDEOUT SPORTS MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 8, 2005
RANDY WALKER: Hi, everybody, this is Randy Walker calling, and I want to introduce, calling in from Houston, Texas, site of the Stanford Financial Champions Cup Houston a tennis event which starts on Thursday, Jim Courier, former No. 1 player in the world, and partner, InsideOut Sports & Entertainment. Jim has a big announcement today, and I'll turn it over to Jim to break the news.
JIM COURIER: Absolutely. Thanks, Randy, and thanks everyone for joining us today. I'm very pleased and proud to announce that InsideOut Sports & Entertainment is launching the Champions Cup Series, a series of tennis events in the U.S. featuring some of the greatest champions in tennis over the age of 30. This will be for 2006. Our first event, as Randy alluded to, in the Champions Cup schedule is happening this Thursday through Sunday in Houston, the Stanford Financial Champions Cup, and we're pleased and proud of that, as well. We're going to have four events in 2006. They will be starting with Champions Cup Naples in Naples, Florida, which will be held March 9 through 12, and we will follow that with Champions Cup Boston, which will be April 27 through 30. On October 5 through 8 we'll host the Stanford Financial Champions Cup Memphis, and the final event will see us back in Houston for the Stanford Financial Champions Cup Houston. I'm excited to be playing against some of my greatest rivals and some of the greatest players of the last 20 years of pro tennis in the 2006. Michael Chang will be playing in select events in the series next year; Todd Martin and another contemporary of mine will be making his Champions Cup debut in Houston this week. I'm proud to have Todd on board. Former world No. 1 players John McEnroe and Mats Wilander as well as Wimbledon champion Pat Cash are all committed to play the entirety of the series next year in 2006, and he will be playing all four events, and we'll be announcing the specific fields for each event in due time. Not surprisingly, I will be playing all four events, as well. Eligibility to play on the Champions Cup Series is pretty strict. You have to be over the age of 30 and you have to have reached a Grand Slam singles final or have been in the Top 5 in the world or played singles on a winning Davis Cup team to qualify. Our matches are best of three sets with the final set being a ten-point super tie break, and obviously each match of the series will feature marquee players since you can't get in unless you are one. I think I can say I speak for all the players in saying how excited we are that we can finally play here in the U.S. Most of us, if not all of us, have been playing worldwide for the past few years and the opportunities have not been great here in the U.S., so to finally have a cohesive series is something that we are all excited about. The fans have been asking for it; they've been wondering why it's been going on around the world and not in the U.S. The players have certainly been clamoring for an opportunity to come back and play in the United States, and we at InsideOut are proud to be able to provide that for the fans and for the players, and it's great to have another high quality property here in the United States for tennis fans that will complement all the different ATP and WTA events that are played in the U.S. You'll notice with our scheduling that we are trying to be complementary to the other events that go on. With that, I'd also like to mention that we have our website, www.championscuptennis.com that is up and active, and certainly you can go there for more information, and with that we can open up the question-and-answer portion of this.
Q. I, like you, being on the host side and also owner of the men and women's event in February am very excited to be partnering with InsideOut and especially with the team you put together. One question I had, Jim, this is a series -- are you going to do any kind of a format so that you are doing something at the end of the series that there is a special incentive with the final event of the year?
JIM COURIER: We have a point system that we have developed that will be in place, a Race for the Champions Cup inaugural title, and that's certainly something we're looking at. We're in the initial stages here, as you know all, seeing as we're going to be coming to the Racquet Club of Memphis for the Stanford Financial Champions Cup Memphis, a billing the Champions Cup Series out, and clearly we would look to provide an incentive for the players to finish No. 1 in North America.
Q. I was going to ask you how it came about choosing the four sites you did, and what made Memphis an attractive option?
JIM COURIER: Certainly when we looked at the North American landscape, we certainly looked towards places that are tennis friendly, there's no question about that. So many of us, if not all of us, on the ATP side of the coin have played in Memphis, and I'm a winner of that tournament and have fond memories of Memphis and know how well supported it is. When you look at Memphis, look at a place like Naples and Boston and Houston, you look at places that have supported tennis in the past. I played Davis Cup in Boston in '99 and it was a monster event. I played in Houston and in Naples and had success in the past with events like this. So we look for the opportunities and we look for where the fans are.
Q. I'm wondering, are you possibly going to have events in other cities, possibly -- I know Charleston has been interested in having a tournament such as this. Any chance of other cities?
JIM COURIER: Sure, I can address that. We have been contacted by several other markets that are very interested in hosting a Champions Cup event, and although it's premature to discuss most of them, Charleston has been one of the locations that we have been in talks with, and it's certainly a market that has supported tennis beautifully and something that we're looking at very seriously, but it's really premature to go much further than that.
Q. Do you have any relationship with the tournament in London -- (inaudible).
JIM COURIER: We're not tied in into the Delta Tour of Champions, which is the European Tour that the ATP has their sanction of, so we are operating independent of the European Tour.
JIM COURIER: Well, Pete and I have had conversations over the last year that have gone from personal to professional, and certainly he's interested and curious as to what I've been doing because we're contemporaries, because we played so much together and have a similar mindset. I can't tell you what Pete will do. I can tell you that he's interested in what's happening here, he's very well aware, and he has an open invitation to come play, and if he decides to, we would love to have him.
Q. I just wonder what you think of the idea of not having bonus points?
JIM COURIER: Talking about the WTA and ATP Tour bonus points now?
Q. Now they just go round by round.
JIM COURIER: Yeah, shifting gears out of Champions Cup for a second, I think that bonus points actually are a very good thing, and I think that -- I know they've done studies, the ATP wanted to do a study to see how much they impacted the ranking system and they said it was nominal, but I still feel like they're valuable for the mindset of the players, and if you beat a Top 3 player or a Top 5 player in the world in the first round versus beating a qualifier, there should be extra reward for beating a top-ranked player. That's my take.
Q. One of the questions about the previous two years that the Tour that was here wasn't serious. Can you just speak to that?
JIM COURIER: Yeah, I think it's a critical component of this conversation that everyone be aware that this is extremely serious competition. You don't know who's going to be in the final, let's put it that way. We will open our events in the round-robin and may the best man win, and everyone is incentivized financially to win, and so there is extra money if you're winning, no question about it. This is competition, and let's be very clear about that.
Q. Do you have any sense of in the past, the other Tour, and why it hasn't been working here?
JIM COURIER: I can't tell you because I wasn't involved in that. I can say that because of the fan demand here, people want to see it, and that our Champions Cup Series is starting this week and we're ready to go, and the players are all ready to go, and we think it's going to be very successful.
Q. Do you have a ceiling in terms of age for the upper range?
JIM COURIER: (Laughing) no, I think it's a great question. We can say that John McEnroe at 46 is playing marvelous tennis. There's no way around it. That's certainly I'm sure surprising to some people that John is working just because of the age thing, not because of the job he's been at; he's been an important player and still is. He's working hard to stay quick on the course and to keep up with players that are now coming out and playing, Muster and other big-hitting players. There's no ceiling. The competition is the ceiling. If you're no longer competitive, then you won't be out here.
Q. Congratulations on this. My question was the tournament McEnroe did out in the Hamptons in the summer, is there any chance of them incorporating that into this series, and are there any other players you think might be interested down the line? I know you already spoke about Pete.
JIM COURIER: Thank you for the congratulations. Certainly I know the guys who do the event in the Hamptons. They do some events in Europe that I participate in, and we have a terrific relationship. It's one of the things that is important to me is to maintain great relationships with everyone in tennis and try and remember that we're all on the same time. But there's no intention right now for that to be a part of the Champions Cup Series, but again, we keep our options open.
Q. As far as Sampras goes, because I read he was quoted as saying he eventually will probably do a senior, is it a wait-and-see sort of thing or he just isn't ready now?
JIM COURIER: I wish I knew the answer to that, but only Pete does. My feeling is Pete will really only play when he's good and ready. I don't think he wants to come out and test the waters and see how it is. I think he'll make a decision to do it or to not do it, and that will be his. We certainly respect that. Pete is a friend; I don't push him. He's got my phone number; he knows what we're doing. We talk frequently, but it will be whenever he's ready. If he does decide to come, obviously it will be great for tennis. He's one of the legends of the game and people will always love to see him play, I'm sure.
Q. Talk about Naples having events and also how you selected the venue.
JIM COURIER: Sure. Well, I'm from Florida, so I played in Naples since I was a kid. I think the first time I played down there was when I was probably 11 years old, so I'm pretty familiar with how Naples has grown here in the past, and it's well-supported events there, whether they are charity events or whether they are actual tournaments that have come into the market. Without having another event like this in Florida, it seemed like a logical place to go. The Players Club at Lely, which is where we'll be playing, is just a wonderful site, and they're enthusiastic for tennis, and that's a perfect match for us.
Q. Why are you involved in this?
JIM COURIER: Apart from the obvious, that I'm a player (laughing)? Well, why am I involved in this? I think that I made a decision a few years ago to shift a lot of my attention into the business side of tennis and to really become -- I guess the best way to put it is to be integrated into the game because I play and I always will, whether it's in public for titles or whether it's in private. I certainly enjoy my limited commentating that I do, and I've been putting on tennis events, charity events, for years, and for me this was just a natural segue to get into something a little bit deeper. I'm really enjoying it. It's not without its challenges. It's taken a lot of elbow grease to get where we are right now, to get the Champions Cup Series in position, and I'm enjoying all of the ups and the downs that come with that. I like a challenge; I like to compete. This is another way for me to compete.
Q. Last thing, are you planning on or is the hope that you will sell naming rights to each of the events or something like that?
JIM COURIER: Well, we have title sponsors in both Memphis and in Houston with Stanford Financial Group, and of course we are actively seeking title sponsors for Naples and Boston currently.
Q. I've got to know if you might be trying to bring an event up to Dallas-Fort Worth any time.
JIM COURIER: Dallas-Fort Worth is certainly a market that you scratch your head and wonder why there isn't a major tennis event there. There are a lot of great tennis players and great history there with the WCT Final Eight that used to be played there. It sort of makes you wonder, and certainly, as I said before, we are taking phone calls from people that are interested in the Champions Cup Series, but we're making them, as well, so I wouldn't be surprised.
Q. Good luck with all of it.
JIM COURIER: Thank you so much.
RANDY WALKER: Jim actually made a little history in Fort Worth winning the '92 Davis Cup final there against Switzerland.
JIM COURIER: That's right.
Q. I just wanted to ask, I know that you touched on this a little bit about you're interested in getting into the business aspect of tennis, but how big of a role did you play in organizing this? How important was it, all of your connections that you have with your colleagues over the years?
JIM COURIER: Well, InsideOut is a company that has been around for two years, and I'm a founding partner, and everyone in the company has been pushing hard to make this a reality. Certainly while I would be the front man for the company, there are other -- certainly there are other people that have been pushing just as hard, if not harder, to make this a reality. Sorry, the second part of your question?
Q. Obviously you talked about the connections you have, the set of players and the names that you brought in for this thing. How important has that been?
JIM COURIER: Well, I think that that's been very helpful. Certainly we have the confidence of the players, there's no question about that. And anyone who's -- any player who's played in our event in the last few years, any sponsors that have been around, the fans that have come out and seeing the level of detail that we bring to the table when it comes to putting on tennis events, ultimately all those details are superfluous when it comes to what's happening on the court. You have to have fantastic competition on the court for fans to be totally engaged, but you also have to dot the i's and cross all the t's, which we do a good job of, and we have a fantastic field in Houston. We have fantastic fields for next year developing right now. We have a great base with the four players anchoring the series and other players coming in and out, as well. I think we'll well positioned. I think that my relationships certainly helped. At the end of the day relationships certainly get you somewhere, but they can't be the end-all, be-all.
Q. I have one about Charleston. How many of these kind of tournaments can the Champions Tour support and what would be the limit that you would like to have?
JIM COURIER: Well, I think that four is a great place for us to start, and I believe that we will be -- we would like to see it grow to six, seven events in North America. I think that would be a very nice number. We can certainly try for a few more on top of that, but again, we want to manage the growth and make sure that everything continues to move along at the right pace.
Q. We've got Jim Courier, we had Jimmy Connors doing this. Any similarities? Is he going to talk to you at all about this? Do you have any intention of going to him and saying what worked well, what didn't worked well?
JIM COURIER: You know, I'm not completely familiar with what Jimmy's role was to be candid with you and everyone here in the '90s when he was involved. I know he was involved at a very high level. I'm not sure exactly what that is. Jimmy and I have not had discussions about this, although I did have a nice chat with him at Wimbledon this year, which was great to have, but this is the Champions Cup Series. This is an InsideOut production, and we are confident and competent and ready to go.
Q. There were some critics that said you had a game that took a lot of energy to play. How eager are you to get out there now and show them that at any age you can play this game and you're high energy with whatever style you have?
JIM COURIER: Some may have heard, some probably haven't, but I had a very serious accident, broke my left shoulder and wasn't sure whether I'd be able to play again. I went through a strenuous rehab to come back and played last year quite a lot in the second half of the year in Europe on the Delta Tour of Champions, ended up No. 5 over there, winning in London and was just thrilled to be able to play again and to play at a high level. I certainly love to compete. I love to get out there and play, and playing against such great players is a challenge for me, and I take it seriously. I have a lot of fun with it at the same time. So for me it's a pleasure and a privilege to be able to go out and play and compete, and I'll continue to do so as long as I'm competitive.
Q. I think everybody has got to be excited to see this group back out there. Great going.
JIM COURIER: Thanks.
Q. Unless Scotland has overnight become a colony called Bermuda, this is Scotland.
JIM COURIER: I don't think you've been colonized.
Q. That's good to know. I was wondering, the choice of the age of 30 and over, the entry for this, what's the thinking behind that?
JIM COURIER: Well, the thinking is that traditionally in Europe it's been 35, and you've seen players leaking through, players like me last year, when I started I was 33, just turning 34, like Bruguera, guys who haven't been on the Tour recently, like a Chang who's not 35 yet. These guys -- I don't see a reason to exclude them, or I don't see a reason for us to wait for 35. It's an obvious segue into -- Andre is 35 and he was in the finals of the U.S. Open, and I think I've been pretty clear about what a tip of the hat -- my admiration for him, and I certainly want him to continue to carry on and do what he's doing, but I think there should be another option for guys that I just mentioned to be able to come out and play and compete and enjoy trying to become the No. 1 in the world in either the Champions Cup Series or in the Delta Tour of Champions or whatever the case may be.
Q. A more general question, I'll just ask you, based on the seasons that they've both had so far, does what happens in Shanghai actually settle whether Nadal or Federer had the better year?
JIM COURIER: Well, I think that you have to clearly admit that they've both had amazing years, but the fact is Federer has won two majors and Nadal has one won, and Federer was in the finals of the two that he lost. Federer has had the upper hand, and that settles it for me.
Q. The Florida connection here, is there an event that's going to be in south Florida?
JIM COURIER: Yes, there is, we'll be playing the Champions Cup Naples March 9 through 12. We will be having an event in Naples, and if you want to do an off-line, certainly Randy and I can make that work for you.
RANDY WALKER: Thank you all for joining us today, and we are going to have a transcript of this interview, this conference call, and if you would like a transcript, you can email me, Randy@levsports.com, or you can call me at (917) 770-0843. I want to remind everyone that Stanford Financial Champions Cup Houston starts on Thursday and goes through Sunday, and catch that on The Tennis Channel if you're not in Houston. Thanks to Jim, and thank you all for joining us today.
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