The Tennis Space: People of Influence:
Number 12: Larry Ellison
Sphere of influence: The Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
What he has done:
According to Forbes, who know these things, Ellison is the third richest man in the United States with a fortune valued at $33 billion, at least as of September, 2011. Only Bill Gates and the legendary investor Warren Buffett could consider themselves richer, which probably makes the estimated $100 million he spent in late 2009 buying the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and the tournament that goes with it some kind of small change.
At 67, Ellison is a tennis fanatic of the good kind. He has poured his money into tennis in Palm Springs, securing the long-term future of the tournament, the combined men’s and women’s event it stages each March. The tournament is a rung below the four grand slam events in terms of importance but it is often thought of as “the fifth slam” due to its size, prize money, fan friendliness and reputation for innovation.
The stadium court in Indian Wells seats 16,100 people – the second-biggest capacity in the US – and Indian Wells is the only tournament in the calendar to offer the Hawk-Eye electronic challenge system on every match court. That doesn’t come cheap.
Did you know?
Ellison is famous as the co-founder of Oracle, the “enterprise software” company, building software used by governments and business. But in recent times, he has become more associated with sport. He financed the BMW Oracle Racing team, which won the America’s Cup in 2010, even joining the crew himself at one stage.
Now, it seems that tennis has captured his heart. When asked to describe his own playing standard, he said it was something akin to college level in the States, which is some going. We dare say that might have been a few years ago now but he is still a regular on the court. “I play five days a week,” he said recently. “It’s usually on clay. I love it.”