Billie Jean King said Monday she is selling World TeamTennis 42 years after the sports icon co-founded the league that features men and women competing together.
King sold her majority interest in the league to Mark Ein and Fred Luddy. Ein is the founder and owner of the Washington Kastles, and Luddy owns the San Diego Aviators.
King will retain a minority stake in WTT and continue as majority owner of the Philadelphia Freedoms franchise.
Ein will become chairman of WTT and Ilana Kloss will remain CEO and league commissioner through this year.
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The league had a franchise in Sacramento, the Capitals, for 28 years before moving to Las Vegas after the 2013 season. Following a year hiatus, WTT brought the California Dream to Sacramento, but that team later folded due to financial issues.
An advocate for gender equality, King co-founded the league in 1973 with her former husband, Larry King, who supports the changes.
Ein and Luddy plan to add four teams in major-market cities in 2018, which would bring the league to 10 teams.
Now 73, King said she and Kloss have been talking for years about what the league’s next step would be.
“It’s always been about getting the right people,” King said. “The timing was right. This is perfect.”
Since Ein founded the Washington franchise in 2008, the Kastles have won a league-best six championships, including five in a row. Luddy’s San Diego franchise won its first title last year.
“This is the easiest giving up for me that I’ve ever been through,” King said. “We know we’re passing the torch to someone who can make it much bigger and better than we can.”
As part of the deal, LionTree Partners has invested in the league along with Ein and Luddy. LionTree is expected to help attract new team owners, new media partnerships and sponsorships.
Ein is founder and CEO of Venturehouse Group LLC, and Luddy founded the enterprise cloud company ServiceNow.
The WTT season runs July 16-Aug. 5. Team lineups will be finalized at the roster draft on Tuesday in Indian Wells.
The Sacramento Bee contributed to this report.