AP – What does a billionaire do with his time? Try and buy iconic events that aren’t really for sale, of course.
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and tennis billionaire Ion Tiriac have revealed they hatched a plan in the mid-1990s to attempt to buy Wimbledon for more than… one billion dollars.
Tiriac, a former player and current boss of the Madrid Masters, said he and Ecclestone were sitting through a Wimbledon rain delay when the idea came up.
They also considered making an offer for the ATP.
“I was sitting with Bernie Ecclestone, we were watching Goran Ivanisevic playing on number one court and there were three rain breaks,” Tiriac said as he received the Lawn Tennis Writer’s International Award.
“He said, ‘How much do you think Wimbledon makes?’ I said, ‘Maybe 50, 60 (million)’.
“He said, ‘We should buy it out, 600 million pounds, you and me. We can get a roof on the court in two months’.”
London’s Telegraph reported that Ecclestone called the yarn “100 per cent” a true story.
“At the time, we were looking to try and take over the ATP and run the tennis,” Ecclestone confirmed.
Ecclestone said that eventually the pair could not make the proposed deal happen.
“Ion is a very good friend of mine. He used to run a lot more tennis tournaments than anybody. That’s how it all happened,” he said.
“We were very serious. I don’t think in the end we made any sort of offer.
“We were looking to see if it was possible and how we would do it. Until we got everything lined up properly, we couldn’t make a bid.
We needed to make sure all the other people were on board.”