Column: Billie Jean King, riding the wave 44 years later
Billie Jean King, 73, was in the town of Prescott this past week with her life and business partner Ilana Kloss taking care of her parents estate and visiting the likes of our YMCA, the Prescott High School tennis facility and it’s tennis patrons (especially the kids there) in between all kinds of neat things taking place in her life.
It was announced in March of this year that she sold majority ownership of WTT (World Team Tennis), an unusual tennis format where professional men and women are on the same team competing together equally in a summer league, to Mark Ein and Fred Luddy - both team owners of the current 6-team franchise.
Billie Jean and her then husband Larry King started this new league in 1972 and after 42 seasons they feel it’s time to pass the baton to Ein and Luddy, as well as Lion Tree Partners who will inject new energy, strategy and game plan toward expanding the league to 10 teams in 2018, and up to 16 teams in the near future.
King will retain a minority stake in WTT and continue as the majority owner of the Philadelphia Freedoms franchise and Kloss will remain as CEO and commissioner through 2017. Both Billie and Ilana feel the timing was right, that they have the right people taking over and this will make WTT bigger and better going forward.
There aren’t many people who have done more for tennis and women’s rights. Even through the age of 70 she continues to make headway with neat projects, it’s a book in itself, which we may get to read soon as she has been writing her memoirs.
But before that takes place there’s yet another great moment in her life about to unfold, a new movie covering the epic 1973 “Battle Of The Sexes” due to be released September 22nd, 44 years and 2 days after the original battle took place, when Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean played a 3 out of 5 set match in the Houston Astrodome.
Billie Jean will be played by Oscar winner Emma Stone and Bobby by Steve Carell.
Billie has been quoted as saying in People Magazine, “The story is very loose-goosey. It’s the feeling they got right, the sense of the time and what was going on.”
Thirty-thousand people paid to fill the Astrodome and over 90 million people watched the event on TV, where King defeated Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. It was the event of the decade and surly most talked about tennis exhibition ever held in the history of the game.
So between selling the WTT league she co-founded, in the middle of writing your life story with a book due out in the not too distant future, having a major movie about to be released in September and still being young enough to do who knows what else, Billie Jean King must be on top of the world right now.
How lucky we’ve been to have both she and Ilana in and around Prescott the past years with her parents and brother Randy living in the area and we wish them that much more success in the future. What a crazy and profound life - I can’t wait to read what she has written and look forward to her book release - and as Paul Harvey would say, “Here’s the rest of the story.”