The owner of Family Circle has sold a majority stake in the operator of the Daniel Island tennis center that bears the magazine's name to an investment group with expertise in sports and entertainment.
The deal was valued at $9.1 million by media company Meredith Corp., which disclosed it for the first time in a filing this week. The sale of Charleston Tennis LLC closed July 1, the company said.
The buyer is a group that includes Jeff Moorad of California-based investment firm Moorad Sports Partners. The lawyer and ex-agent is a former co-owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Diego Padres. The other lead investor is the Whitener Co. of Knoxville, Tenn.
Among the local backers are musician Darius Rucker of Hootie & the Blowfish fame, restaurant operator Mark Cummins and local entrepreneur John McGrath of JEM Management.
"We are confident that the combined background and relationships of the investor group will provide unique growth opportunities moving forward,” Whitener CEO Gordon Whitener said in a statement Friday.
The day-to-day management hasn't changed at the Family Circle Tennis Center, site of the annual Volvo Car Open, concerts and other outdoor events.
The new majority owners are "involved in lot of companies in our space," said Bob Moran, the longtime president of Charleston Tennis.
"Our new partners provide a wide array of marketing, management and promotional opportunities that add great value to the goals we have developed for the facility," Moran said in a statement. "In short, they are helping open more doors for us on the sponsorship, ticketing and operational fronts."
He added the sale would result in "increased opportunity" for the WTA's annual Volvo Car Open, formerly the Family Circle Cup.
"The new investor team has strong relationships within the sports and entertainment world ...," Moran said.
Meredith sold 70 percent of Charleston Tennis to Moorad, Whitener and their backers for $600,000 in cash and an $8.5 million note to be repaid over eight years. As part of the deal, the Family Circle publisher keeps one seat on the company's board of directors and has "approval rights over certain limited matters," according to the quarterly filing.
The acquisition gives the new majority owners an influential role at one of South Carolina's three biggest annual professional sporting events. The others are the Heritage golf tournament on Hilton Head Island and the Southern 500 NASCAR race at Darlington Speedway.
Greg Byrnes, a Chicago-based partner in Moorad Sports, said the handover on Daniel Island has been "completely seamless and business as usual."
He called the investment "a unique opportunity" for his firm, citing Charleston's history, the longevity of the Volvo Car Open and the physical venue.
"We want to do what we can to enhance what is already a great experience and event for the fans and the athletes," he said Friday.
He also said the investors are exploring ways to schedule more events for the city-owned tennis center.
"We think there's demand for more events," Byrnes said.
The city of Charleston spent about $9 million in 2000 to build the public tennis complex, which became the permanent home to the Family Circle Cup the following year. The women's tournament had been played on Hilton Head Island since 1973.
Meredith took over management of the local tennis center when it acquired Family Circle magazine in 2005. Volvo obtained the naming rights to the tournament and the center court stadium two years ago, after it announced it would build its first U.S. plant in Berkeley County.
Byrnes said the April event "is doing well," noting that the Tennis Channel signed an eight-year broadcast rights agreement in 2016.
Nancy Weber, Meredith’s executive vice president of marketing and integrated communications, said the sale of most of Charleston Tennis to the new investors creates “an ideal partnership" because they "really complement one another.”
“We bring, obviously, our media and national sponsors to the tournament and other events we do down there,” Weber said Friday. “The clients they work for and the sponsors they work with super-complement what we’re doing. Our whole goal has been to grow the tournament and bring more new fans into Charleston.”