Interesting choice by the WTA Tour, as Steve Simon is announced Monday as the new CEO.
Simon, the longtime tournament director at the peerless ATP-WTA Tour event at Indian Wells, will take up his new duties at the end of November.
The Indian Wells tournament already has the announcement up; the WTA Tour site has nothing yet, only a smaller “breaking news” banner on its home page.
It did issue a statement, in which there are words of praise from no less than Billie Jean King, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
From Serena Williams, who hadn’t been to Indian Wells since 2001, but returned this year.
“When I returned to Indian Wells this year, Steve could not have been more helpful, professional and supportive. I know how much he cares about the opinions of the players. he is a good listener and he has our best interests in mind.”
From Caroline Wozniacki:
“He has the right business skills, player relationships and smarts to run this tour. The tour is already very successful and I’m sure it will be even more so now. I think he and (president) Micky Lawler will make a great mixed doubles team.”
(I don’t know about you, but if Wozniacki actually said that, exactly that way, I’ll buy the beers).
Simon had been with the BNP Paribas Open for more than 25 years, beginning in sponsorship sales, after six years with adidas. He became tournament director and COO in 2004.
“Steve Simon has done an outstanding job in his role as Tournament Director,” Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore said in a statement. “His commitment, hard work and vision will leave a lasting impact on our tournament for years to come. He is very passionate about the health and growth of the sport of tennis, and the WTA has made a fantastic choice in placing him in the role of CEO. I am confident in the team here at the BNP Paribas Open, and we will continue to focus on delivering a terrific tournament in 2016.”
Despite the fact that he now seems to operate with pretty much an open wallet, thanks to benevolent tournament owner Larry Ellison, it wasn’t always the case. The Indian Wells event, through Simon’s years, wasn’t always the jewel in the ATP’s crown that it is now; far from it.
Simon reportedly was a finalist for the top job at the WTA once before, when Larry Scott (Stacey Allaster’s predecessor) was hired. He has been a board member at the WTA, and also with the ATP. He also was very interested in the ATP Tour top job the last time it became available, but that job went to Chris Kermode.
In an interview a few years ago, Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore was convinced Simon would never leave Southern California. It turns out he may have received an offer he couldn’t refuse this time.
The lightning-quick announcement of Allaster’s replacement – her last day on the job was officially Friday, and on the next business day, the new appointment was announced – doesn’t lend much credence to Allaster’s official reasons for her quick and unexpected departure, as legitimate as they may be.
Simon is a born-and-bred Southern Californian, who already had a pretty great job he had only in recent years been able to enjoy the full benefits of. These types of moves aren’t negotiated and concluded in a matter of weeks.
Simon will leave Indian Wells and join the WTA Tour at the end of November.
What’s in store? Well, grunting doesn’t bug him (he’ll no doubt hear from PLENTY of fans about that one).
Here’s an interview with Inside Tennis. Not much to move the noise-o-meter there.
(Photo of Simon used with permission)