Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Ana Ivanovic: Last Post For Now (But Maybe Not!)


To the dismay of many of you, I have to get on to covering something other than Ana Ivanovic, so today will be the last day (at least until next week, if she makes a run at the U.S. Open) I'm going to focus on her story. First, to the business. If you haven't already, or would like to look again, check out the beautiful slide show we made.


Now to the business. As I was telling you yesterday, Ivanovic--who whipped Aiko Nakamura, 6-1, 6-1 last night--was bankrolled by a Swiss entrepreneur named Dan Holzmann. Last week, we sat down with him to tell his part of this amazing story.

Me: So someone you know told you about Ana in Serbia. How did you feel about sponsoring a tennis player like this?

Holzmann: I was not really excited in the beginning. I said, "Ok, let me meet the family and lets see what kind of people they are." So I invited them to Switzerland and I met them and we just had a great day and evening with Ana and her mother. I just really liked them. It clicked right away and I decided to help them, that night, straight away.

Me: What did they want from you?

Holzmann: The thing that they needed most was financial help. I’m not a good tennis player so they didn’t ask me how to hit the forehand. They just asked me about financial help. So I said I’m going to help them financially, I agreed to a loan. A loan that they needed to pay back one day. And I told them that I would give them two years time so that they don’t need to be under pressure to pay it back. I also wanted to be involved in their decision making. I realized Ana was young she really didn’t have a professional environment. No fitness coach, no real place to train. She was still in Belgrade and the infrastructure was not good.

Me: What did you see in Ana?

Holzmann: She’s nice, she’s modest, she’s humble. I had seen a girl that has this dream of becoming in number one in the world. She confirmed it to me that evening and she said it so convincing that I just wanted to be involved in that success story.

Me: How costly did it get?

Holzmann: It was monthly payment of sometimes $10,000, sometimes $20,000 per month that she needed. This is what these girls or guys need if they want to go professional

Me: Were there any things that weren't included in those costs?

Holzmann: For me, it was also important that she felt professional. So I bought her a laptop, I gave her pocket money without putting it on the loan. It was my own decision because I wanted her to really feel like somebody independent and like a real person.

Me: How much of this was about making money?

Holzmann: I didn't need the money. I just wanted to do something with people, something with a human. Something that you cannot watch the shares in the stock exchange, but is the people business between me and somebody.

Me: How has it worked out financially though?

Holzmann: She paid back everything (about $500,000). I’m in plus now, not in the minus. – not in minus--she paid back and she paid back much more than that or lets say her business paid back much more than that (since Holzmann now manages her career and Ivanovic endorses his product, Juice Plus). It took her about two years to pay the money back.

Me: You now have the ultimate return in that you are using Ana to sell your pill Juice Plus.

Holzmann: Of course we’re going to use Ana’s potential, I mean not only for Juice Plus. I think every endorser, every company, that is involved with Ana made a decision maybe a year or two or three ago that was a a very visionary decision at that time when she was maybe 100th in the world or 50th in the world. She jumped so quickly and now it pays off for them.

Me: What has been the interest from the corporate world?

Holzmann: Before it was more me calling the companies and telling them about Ana. Now they call us. But we're not completely booked yet. So if blue chip companies are reading this, we still have some space left.

Other Quick U.S. Open Tidbits
The most amazing financial stat I've seen here is the monetary difference in career earnings between Serena and Venus Williams. There was once a joke that their father Richard predetermines who wins and who loses when they play each other. I don't subscribe to that. But as my producer Tom Rotunno points out: Over the course of her career, Serena has won $17,805,626 and Venus has won $17,801,117. To play for that long and to only be A $4,509 difference? That's amazing.

Going through all the pictures of the champions from this tournament makes me realize how the Sergio Tacchini brand has fallen off the face of the earth. John McEnroe wore the brand when he won here in '79, '80, '81 and '84--though he wore Nike shoes and socks. Mats Wilander ('88), Gabriella Sabatini ('90) and to my shock even Pete Sampras wore the brand in 1993 before winning in all Nike in 1995. The last U.S. Open champ to win Sergio Tacchini was Martina Hingis, who sued them for $40 million in 2001 after she claimed they fitted her with defective shoes.

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