WTA Chairman Steve Simon to relinquish his CEO duties; President Micky Lawler leaving

The upcoming changes in leadership will include a new CEO who will report to Simon, as will the CEO of WTA Ventures, the commercial enterprise with CVC Capital Partners that was formed this year.

Published : Dec 12, 2023 17:45 IST - 3 MINS READ

WTA Chairman Steve Simon
WTA Chairman Steve Simon | Photo Credit: AFP

WTA Chairman Steve Simon | Photo Credit: AFP

Steve Simon will relinquish his CEO duties at the women’s tennis tour while staying on as Executive Chairman under an organizational restructuring of the WTA announced Tuesday that he said has been in the works for several months and is not connected to player complaints that emerged during the season-ending championships last month.

The upcoming changes in leadership will include the hiring of a new CEO who will report to Simon — as will the CEO of WTA Ventures, the commercial enterprise with CVC Capital Partners that was formed this year — and the departure of President Micky Lawler, who will not be replaced.

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Simon said he thinks “our preference is” to “find a female candidate” for the CEO position.

He has led the WTA since succeeding Stacey Allaster in 2015; Lawler was in her role since 2014.

“My focus will go to, obviously, governance. Managing the respective boards and councils. Working directly with the CEOs of the daily business of the tour. I’ll be able to spend more time on the geopolitical issues that remain very prevalent to the sport and do affect the business,” Simon said in a video interview with The Associated Press and BBC from the WTA offices in St. Petersburg, Florida. “I will spend more time working on the strategic direction of the organization and the challenges that face the organization.”

He said that women’s tennis has seen significant financial growth during his tenure.

“I believe we were a $64 million business in ’16, and we’ll be a $128 million business this year,” Simon said. “And we’re due to double that by 2027 with our current business plan projections.”

There also have been difficult issues, such as the suspension — and, later, return — of events in China over concerns about the well-being of former player Peng Shuai; the coronavirus pandemic; and ongoing uncertainty about the staging of the WTA Finals.

During this year’s edition of that event, which was held in Cancun, Mexico, from Oct. 29-Nov. 6 after the site was not announced until September, players complained about the temporary outdoor court created for the competition. Then-No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka calling the conditions “another level of disrespect.”

Players outlined various other concerns in a letter to Simon and during two meetings with tour leadership. Among the topics were establishing a guaranteed income and coverage for maternity leave and injury absences, along with an objection to a planned change in rules governing mandatory tournament appearances.

“We started these discussions (about changing the WTA leadership structure) in the summer time, so they’re not tied to anything that happened in Cancun or ... the perception that it hasn’t been the easiest of years,” Simon said.

He said with “the combined role” of CEO and Chairman, “you’re going to start missing some things at some point in time. There’s just only so many hours in the day that you can get to,” so he thought it “makes a lot of sense to have somebody to deal with the day-to-day business, and ... I can deal with more of the higher-level issues that obviously take a lot of time.”

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