Tired Allaster quits to stay healthy for family

Among outgoing WTA chief executive Stacey Allaster's achievements are the five-year agreement for the WTA Finals in Singapore and the mega media deal to widen the reach of women's events.
Among outgoing WTA chief executive Stacey Allaster's achievements are the five-year agreement for the WTA Finals in Singapore and the mega media deal to widen the reach of women's events.ST FILE PHOTO

NEW YORK • Stacey Allaster's ATP tennis counterpart Brad Drewett died in 2013 of Lou Gehrig's disease at age 54. Her brother-in-law Greg Milkovich died of brain cancer in March at age 49.

And when Allaster, the chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association Tour, returned home to St Petersburg, Florida, this month after her latest road trip to the US Open, she said she turned to her husband, John, and said: "I just can't do this any more."

On Tuesday, Allaster, one of the world's most prominent female sports executives, announced that she would step down as head of the WTA, effective next Friday.

"I don't want you writing an obituary that Allaster had a stroke or a heart attack," she said in a telephone interview from Florida.

HEALTH IS WEALTH

I don't want you writing an obituary that Allaster had a stroke or a heart attack... If you don't have your health, you have nothing.

STACEY ALLASTER, who says she is not sick but just extremely weary

"If you don't have your health, you have nothing. And I want to make sure I'm healthy for my kids and my husband."

Allaster, a 52-year-old Canadian and mother of two young children adopted from Russia, said she was not ill, just profoundly weary.

She was convinced that she no longer had the requisite drive to perform her globe-trotting duties - which involve approximately 160 days of travel a year - to the level the women's Tour deserved.

She had originally planned to continue until the end of her contract extension in 2017.

But she revised her timeline, calling Drewett and Milkovich's deaths "a wake-up call".

"It is the combination of the personal tragedies that have happened to our family and the stresses of the business and the physical travel," she said. "The travel is incredibly tough on the body."

Allaster helmed the WTA for more than six years.

Among her highlights was the signing of a five-year agreement with Singapore to stage the season-ending WTA Championships.

The deal, which runs till 2018, was worth, according to industry sources, more than US$70 million (S$99.4 million).

It is a vital figure considering that the event is one of the Tour's primary revenue streams.

The Singapore move represented part of her - and the WTA's - push into Asia.

"The fatigue is a little bit Stacey's fault," said Chris Evert, the former No. 1 player, on Tuesday in reference to the long-haul travel.

"The tennis growth in Asia has been a lot because of her. That's her big contribution if you look at her tenure. I think she was a very proactive and progressive leader."

Others have criticised the Asia-centric strategy as risky and described the hard-charging executive as difficult to work for.

Another key agreement was a 10-year, US$525 million media deal announced last year that Allaster has said will lead to greatly expanded worldwide viewership of the WTA tournaments.

Her successor has not yet been chosen. The possible candidates include Micky Lawler and David Shoemaker.

Lawler, a former executive of sports marketing group Octagon and long-time WTA board member, was hired as WTA president last October.

Shoemaker, a former president of the WTA, is the chief executive of National Basketball Association China and was a finalist for the ATP Tour post that went to Chris Kermode.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2015, with the headline 'Tired Allaster quits to stay healthy for family'. Print Edition | Subscribe