KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP)-Outgoing WTA Tour chief Larry Scott says he began thinking about leaving tennis when his proposal for a merger with the men’s tour was rejected last year.
Scott will become Pac-10 Conference commissioner this summer after six years as chairman and chief executive officer of the WTA Tour.
Long an advocate for merging the women’s tour with the men, Scott met with the ATP board of directors in December to discuss his plan.
“For a variety of reasons it wasn’t accepted,” he said Wednesday. “It’s clear that tennis, for whatever reasons, isn’t ready for that vision to be realized.
“And then I realized, you know, I’ve done most of the major things that I could want to do. And if this coming together of the men’s and women’s tours is impossible right now, maybe it is a time to think about what else I could do that could be gratifying.”
Scott’s departure on July 1 was announced Tuesday. With three small children, he said the amount of travel was another reason for his decision.
“This Pac-10 opportunity really affords me the opportunity to sort of put away my passport for a little while,” he said.
Several top players said they were sorry to see Scott leave, and they praised his leadership in the growth of the sport. The women’s tour says revenue has increased 250 percent under Scott.
“We’re all sad,” Venus Williams said. “He had a special vision and the personality and character and talents and abilities to carry it out. It takes someone special like him.”
Scott said his greatest achievement was equal prize money for men and women at the sport’s 10 biggest events, including the four Grand Slam tournaments. He said he leaves the women’s tour in good shape financially despite the recession.
“All our major revenue contracts are long-term agreements that aren’t coming up soon,” he said. “We haven’t lost any tournaments or title sponsors. I think women’s tennis is holding its own extremely well compared to other sports.”
Speaking at the Sony Ericsson Open, Scott said he favors a merger of the tours because he believes both are hurt by differences in rules, branding and sponsorship.
“The easier we make it for fans to follow tennis and understand, the more following there will be, and the stronger we’ll be commercially,” he said. “We would present the sport in a less fragmented way if it was together.
“An example: This tournament, if you’re a fan in Europe, you watch the men’s matches on one channel, the women’s matches on a different channel. That can’t be the smartest way to present the sport.”