Regulator investigating Tennis Australia’s rights deal with Seven – report

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has placed Tennis Australia under investigation over allegations the national governing body’s rights deal with commercial broadcaster Seven for the Australian Open may have broken the law, according to Fairfax Media.

Fairfax said ASIC is probing Tennis Australia’s decision to sell the rights for the 2015 to 2019 cycle to long-time partner Seven in 2013 without launching a competitive bidding process.

Seven agreed a contract worth a total of about Aus$200m (€140.8m/$151.3m), but the deal is estimated to have cost Tennis Australia up to Aus$50m in lost revenue.

Fairfax said current and past directors of Tennis Australia have been served with notices to produce documents and answer questions about the negotiations and the board’s decision-making process.

Seven’s commercial director Bruce McWilliam denied an investigation by the regulator was underway and said the broadcaster had not been asked to participate.

“Tennis Australia has secured an amazing uplift in earnings from local and international rights at the same time as they have massively upgraded Melbourne Park to secure and enhance the longevity and pre-eminence of the Australian Open,” McWilliam said.

“A disaffected former board director has made the allegation notwithstanding they voted for the deal. The deal was a fantastic deal unanimously approved by the board.”

The latest news has emerged after Fairfax this month reported that Tennis Australia president Steve Healy ordered an independent review into whether a fellow board member had a conflict of interest during the rights talks.

The existence of the review into an unnamed board member was disclosed in a defamation lawsuit filed in December in the Supreme Court of Victoria against Healy by former Tennis Australia board member Janet Young, who is not thought to have been the subject of the original investigation. Tennis Australia has not revealed what the review found.

The 2017 Australian Open is due to draw to a close in Melbourne on Sunday.