It’s the tennis world’s version of the classic Cinderella story. A passionate group of investors spends several years revamping an iconic but endangered United States tournament. The refurbished event then catches the eye of a billionaire, who buys it for $100 million and then spends the same amount bringing it to a state of splendor that matches its history.
Tennis fans will recognize this tale as the recent history of the BNP Paribas Open, which Oracle cofounder and former CEO Larry Ellison purchased in 2009.
George Mackin was one of the group of investors that oversaw the tournament’s dramatic turnaround. A coowner of Tennis Media Company—the publisher of Tennis Magazine and Tennis.com—Mackin recognized that the story behind the event’s rebound could serve as a business case that would benefit sports business organizations and students all over the world.
Enter the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center (WSMC). Aware of the Warsaw Center's preeminence as a sports business think tank, Mackin connected with Managing Director Paul Swangard, who put out a call for Oregon MBA students in the program's sports business track to volunteer for the assignment.
And so it was that, in March 2014, three MBAs flew south from overcast Eugene to sunny Southern California to spend four days at the 2014 BNP Paribas Open.
Immediately after landing in Palm Springs, California, the students—Jeff Angus, MBA ’15; Lena Macomson, MBA ’15; and Andrew Green, MBA ’15—were whisked to the tournament site in the historic Indian Wells Tennis Garden. There, they had full access to the event and the people who make it run.
Going behind the scenes, the MBAs conducted an extensive set of interviews with the tournament’s director, its head of media and public relations, its director of business development, and many others. Among the many highlights of the MBA students' experience was the chance to interview Charlie Pasarell, one of the event’s cofounders, who was recognized during the 2014 tournament for his dedication to the sport with an International Tennis Hall of Fame ring.
Accompanying the Oregon MBA students was 15-year-old Lucas Mackin, who had his own assignment from his dad George—to observe the graduate students at work and write his own report on what a case study is.
For the MBAs, the extracurricular excursion provided a hands-on learning experience of extraordinary magnitude.
“The amount of information we absorbed in two days was probably enough to fill an entire 10-week course,” said MBA student Jeff Angus. “We learned about negotiations, sponsorship deals, technology and infrastructure, leadership, and more.”
Available for download here and on the Tennis.com website, the case study and it accompanying teaching notes will provide tools and inspiration to those in the business of sports for years to come.
Read MBA Student Angus's Story on Our Blog
Download the Indian Wells Case Study
Download the Teaching Notes