Charleston businessman Ben Navarro has reached an agreement to acquire the Western & Southern Open ATP Tour event in Cincinnati, and the lease to the WTA Tour event in the same city, according to multiple people familiar with the deal.
Navarro, whose Beemok Sports already owns a WTA event in Charleston, has agreed to pay just under $300 million, according to one of the people, who was granted anonymity because the details are private.
A representative for Beemok declined to comment. The USTA, which took the event’s ATP sanction to market earlier this year, confirmed in a statement that it had reached an agreement. It did not name the buyer.
“Following a comprehensive process led by Bank of America, the USTA Board of Directors has approved in principle the sale of the men’s ATP Masters 1000 and the transfer of the lease for the concurrent WTA tournament held in Cincinnati,” the statement said. “Prior to formally announcing a new owner, the USTA must conclude the final terms of the agreement, and the ATP and WTA Tours must approve the transfer of the two sanctions. Once these processes are completed, a formal announcement will be forthcoming.”
The USTA currently owns 93.8% of Cincinnati Tennis LLC, which holds the sanction to the ATP event. The governing body initially paid $12.6 million to buy an 80% stake in 2009, according to its annual financials. It later upped that to 93.8% in a $5.8 million cash deal. Cincinnati Tennis LLC currently leases the women’s sanction from Octagon.
The event had operating revenue of $35.7 million and operating expenses of $28.6 million in 2021, according to the financial statements. That was up from $9.8 million in revenue and $25.4 million in expenses during the COVID-disrupted 2020 season. The remaining shareholders are TCI Ventures and Octagon.
The Western & Southern Open, which is a Masters 1000-level event, is one of just a handful of stops on the tennis calendar that feature concurrent top-tier ATP and WTA tournaments at the same venue.
Navarro, the founder and CEO of Sherman Financial Group, purchased the WTA’s Charleston Open in 2018. He was among the bidders for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers in 2018, an auction eventually won by David Tepper.