Huge $7.7 billion shake-up on the cards for Federer, Serena

The company that makes the Wilson tennis racquets used by Roger Federer and Serena Williams is the subject of a mammoth AU$7.67 billion takeover bid.

China’s Anta Sports Products announced it had joined buyout firm FountainVest Partners to offer AU$64.90 per share for Finland’s Amer Sports, one of the world’s biggest sports equipment firms.

Best known around the world for its tennis racquets, balls and other equipment, Wilson also manufactures basketballs, American footballs and volleyballs, which were made famous by Tom Hanks in the 2000 film Cast Away.

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The American company has been owned by Amer Sports since the late 1980s.

“Of course, if the price is right, everything is for sale,” Amer Sports head Timo Maasilta told Reuters.

Anta, a home-grown Chinese sports company with a market value of AU$17.4b, has been seeking acquisitions of international brands.

Wilson tennis racquets, used by Roger Federer and Serena Williams, could have a new owner. Pic: Getty

Chinese brands saw an explosive presence in the 2018 World Cup in Russia following years of effort to cement a presence on the world sporting stage.

While the deal will take months to proceed as the companies evaluate and investigate the offer, it would mark another significant change in the landscape as Asian sporting companies continue to make a splash.

Tennis Australia announced this month it had dumped Wilson as its balls provider to link up with the Japanese-owned sports company Dunlop.

Dunlop has also signed Rod Laver as a promotional partner, reigniting a relationship that began when the Australian tennis great was a teenage racquet salesman and continued throughout his historic career.

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Earlier this year, Roger Federer made the shock switch from American giants Nike to Japanese retailer Uniqlo just before Wimbledon.

“We tried to work it out for a year, maybe even more than a year – and from my point of view, I thought I was being reasonable,” the Swiss tennis great told the New York Times this week.

“But everybody sees it differently. And what you see as your value may be not what they see. I’m happy to be proven right, with this long-term deal with Uniqlo.”

Federer’s new 10-year deal with Uniqlo is worth AU$425m and has reportedly made him world sport’s top off-field earner.

When negotiations with Nike spanned over a year in total, his agent started to put feelers out with other sponsors – initiating the conversation with Uniqlo.

The 37-year-old said he was thrilled that Uniqlo recognised the 20-time grand slam champion as more than a tennis player, backing him to continue to build and develop their brand well beyond his retirement.

“Very often at the end of your playing career, people say, ‘Well, he’s going to be a retired tennis player at some point, and that will be it’,” Federer said.

“It felt like they didn’t see me as a falling star, but a star that is always going to be up there, shining brightly.”

Serena Williams remains with Nike but the woman who defeated her in a controversial US Open final is about to cash in on her rise to stardom.

Naomi Osaka, who competes under the Japanese flag, is set to sign a new contract with Adidas worth more than AU$14 million per year, a significant increase on her previous six-figure deal.

It is expected to be the biggest deal the German company has ever given to a female tennis player.

That move comes after Adidas let its contract with world No.1 Simona Halep – another player who uses Wilson racquets – lapse at the end of 2017.

The Romanian reached the Australian Open final while wearing plain red dresses ordered online – and she made Adidas pay for their decision.

While Halep missed out on the title in Melbourne in January, she was snapped up by Nike the next month and then went on to win the French Open in June.

with AFP, Reuters