The Professional Tennis Players Association has announced Ahmad Nassar as the first Executive Director of the player-focused group started by Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil in the fall of 2020, as well as the launch of a for-profit business to benefit professional tennis players called the Winners Alliance. And the PTPA now has $26 million to fund its efforts for the foreseeable future after a funding raise co-led by Winners Alliance Chairman Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Foundation, private equity firm Prysm Capital, and Nassar. Nassar and the PTPA held a meeting with players Thursday night in New York ahead of the US Open (which begins next week) to better introduce the organization, Nassar, and the group licensing concept.
Nassar, who will serve as CEO of Winners Alliance, founded OneTeam Collective in 2016 and later led OneTeam Partners, before stepping down in June. OneTeam Partners, backed by the NFLPA, MLBPA and RedBird Capital Partners, successfully represented the commercial interests of men and women athletes in many different sports, including the US Women’s National Team, and players from the NWSL, NBA, WNBA, MLS, and NFL, creating better bargaining position in the market by aggregating athletes’ commercial rights. Winners Alliance will try to emulate OneTeam’s success for tennis players, starting with the establishment of a sustainable group licensing program for video games, trading cards, and related areas.
Ackman, Djokovic, and Pospisil reached out to Nassar before he sold his equity stake in OneTeam seeking advice on how to move the PTPA forward. The week after Nassar divested his OneTeam stake, he flew out to Wimbledon and had a three-hour dinner with Djokovic and Pospisil – it was Pospisil’s birthday, so they got him a cake and sang him happy birthday.
“It’s one of those surreal moments in your career where you’re like, ‘what am I doing here?’” Nassar said, chuckling. “I wouldn’t have guessed we’d be having this conversation a year ago, or even six months ago.”
Nassar got confirmations from the PTPA that it would be representing all pro tennis players, including women, and that it wasn’t attempting to launch its own tour. Both would have been deal-breakers, he said. Additionally, Nassar added that the PTPA does not want to replace the ATP Tour Players Council and that the PTPA isn’t concerned with membership numbers; if a person is a professional tennis player, then the PTPA is looking out for their interests, he said. Nassar hopes to meet with key tennis stakeholders during the next two weeks of the US Open.
“My view is that having a truly independent voice and organization representing the voice of all players will help the sport over the long run, and I don’t mean just for players,” said Nassar, whose hire was aided by TurnkeyZRG. “This is not a ‘players out for themselves and everybody else good luck’ mantra. It helps grow the game; it helps attract the best athletes to play the game.”
Nassar will report to the Winners Alliance board, which is headed by Ackman, who has backed the PTPA from its beginning in September 2020, and Prysm, which worked with Nassar previously in several of his players association projects. Prysm co-founders Jay Park and Muhammad Mian will take seats on the Winners Alliance board. They’ll be joined by Christina Francis, President of Magic Johnson Enterprises and former CMO of the Orange Bowl and NFL Players Association.
The PTPA, and Nassar, will be based in Washington, D.C. High on the organization’s to-do list is forming a players’ executive committee and finalizing bylaws before the end of the year. Besides staffing up the organization in the US and globally, likely 10 people in the first year, Nassar said, the PTPA will be launching a Player Services Platform to provide players with discounts, benefits, insurance options, travel and logistics support, player concierge amenities, tax advisory and legal network, discipline appeals support, access to financial planners, player charity support, and media and public relations counsel. While Djokovic is unable to enter the US due to his unvaccinated status, Nassar will be at the US Open meeting with players and tennis stakeholders.