The Barcelona Open, an ATP 500 clay-court tournament, has ended its 30-year association with IMG, opting instead to enter into a three-year management contract with emerging tennis agency Tennium.
Tournament organisers weighed final-phase bids from IMG, Tennium and Kosmos Tennis, according to Spain’s Palco23. Kosmos is the group founded by FC Barcelona player Gerard Piqué that was behind the recent revamp of the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid, and organisers waited for the Davis Cup to conclude before making a decision.
Octagon, RPM-Mktg and Mediapro are also reported to have tabled early offers for the contract to manage the tournament’s €10m ($11.02m) annual budget.
IMG is set to manage the event for the last time in 2020.
The three-year deal, starting in 2021, represents a coup for Tennium which is trying to build up a portfolio of ten tournaments on the male and female tennis circuits. The company already manages two ATP 250 tournaments in Buenes Aires and Antwerp as well as the Senior Masters Cup in Marbella. The Barcelona Open is the first ATP 500 tournament in its portfolio.
The company was founded by Belgian businessman Kristoff Puelinckx and former French player Sebastien Grosjean in 2015. Eric Molina, the founder of the Momentum Talent Sports agency, joined in 2018 bringing a roster of tennis clients with him, including Spanish players Feliciano Lopez, Marc López, Tommy Robredo and Lara Arruabarrena.
The agency will look to increase revenues from sponsorship and draw on its relationships with leading players to drive ticketing revenues. Its remit will include renewing title sponsor Banco Sabadell, whose 12-year association with the tournament expires in 2021, and retaining the financial backing of Barcelona City Council, which provides €1m of funding a year.
The loss of the tournament will come as a blow to IMG which has managed the event since the nineties, especially given its own strengths in tennis talent management. The agency’s portfolio of tournaments includes ATP 1000 tournament the Miami Open, the ATP 500 Rio de Janeiro Open, and ATP 250 events the Chengdu Open and Pune Open.
In an interview with Palco23 earlier this year, Josep Jordi Cambra, the president of Barcelona Open organiser, the Real Club de Tenis de Barcelona, hinted that a change might be imminent when he said: “The IMG model has been excellent but the sports and tennis industry has changed and the revenue and expense distribution model must be adapted.”
In the same interview he said he was looking to sign a management contract “in which there are no shadows, trust prevails, and in which everyone wins.”