Wednesday, July 30, 2008

ATP vs Hamburg Day 7

posted by Savannah

Zimbalist Testimony Highlights Day Seven Of ATP-Hamburg Trial

By Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer, SportsBusiness Journal

The seventh day of the ATP antitrust trial yesterday featured often contentious testimony from sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, as the case, once hoped to end Friday, now looks all but certain to spill into the early part of next week. Meanwhile, a key source said a settlement, once thought possible a few days ago, looks increasingly unlikely. The German and Arab organizers of the tourney in Hamburg, Germany, are suing the ATP for demoting the event next year. Zimbalist is their key economic witness to testify that the ATP’s actions violate U.S. antitrust law. He testified that the ATP is an illegal cartel that monopolizes top flight men’s tennis. Zimbalist initially began testifying last Thursday, but broke court protocol by bringing an outline of the questions and answers with him to the stand, which could lead the jury to believe he is giving concocted testimony. Judge Gregory Sleet let his testimony stand over the ATP’s objections yesterday. He did allow questioning of Zimbalist about the document, and he disputed Hamburg’s lawyer’s claim that Zimbalist had been told not to bring it up to the stand with him.

ZIMBALIST'S TESTIMONY: The ATP lawyer created several uncomfortable moments for Zimbalist, including bringing up that his witness report earlier this year was disallowed by the court overseeing the antitrust lawsuit filed against NASCAR. That report was similar to the one he prepared for Hamburg in that he argued in each that the sports competed only internally, and not against other forms of entertainment. “In every court case I know of in the United States, [it] has always concluded that sports are in separate markets from each other,” he said. The court in the NASCAR case threw out his methodology for not considering other forms of entertainment as possible competitors, but Sleet did not do so. The ATP lawyer pointed out testimony from the Hamburg organizers citing a local equestrian event as competition. And the ATP counsel questioned Zimbalist’s contention that the only option for fans of the top events are the second tier events, which often are not nearby. The ATP lawyers also reminded him of his recent testimony for the city of Seattle in its effort to enforce the final two years of the lease on the Sonics, in which some of his expert report was copied from a previous one. Notably, asked if his opinion could change on whether the ATP controlled the market for players if they played a handful of more tournaments, he said it could.

OTHER ACTION: Also testifying was the current tournament director of the Hamburg event, Carl Uwe Steeb. He conceded that a ticket consulting firm, G2, had told the tourney to stop over-announcing ticket sales by 30%, and that he had considered reducing the seating capacity on center court significantly because of poor attendance. Expected to testify today are ATP Tour Chair & President Etienne de Villiers; ATP BOD Tournament Rep Zeljko Franulovic, who opposes the ATP in the Hamburg matter; and the tournament’s expert on damages. The plaintiffs are then expected to rest their case.

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