Stanley Schwartz, Hardy Katz, Michael Keighley: Pioneers in tennis
Racquets were being made of wood and Billie Jean King was still a year away from playing Bobby Riggs when three guys named Stanley Schwartz, Hardy Katz, and Michael Keighley had an “a-ha” moment that would shape the industry: Tennis was big business, but it didn’t have its own business magazine.
Their concept was a business-to-business publication that would connect manufacturers, clubs, teaching pros, retailers, pro shops, stringers and others, and provide them with information about industry developments.
The three friends’ backgrounds couldn’t have been more dissimilar, says Keighley. “Stanley was working for Golf and Esquire magazines, Hardy was a successful accountant and I was a teaching pro working at the local country club in Miami.” (In fact, the three men met because Keighley gave their wives tennis lessons.)
Tennis Industry magazine debuted in 1972. “Michael was the editor and he dealt with the retailers,” says Schwartz. “Hardy did the operations and I did the marketing.”
But a second “a-ha” moment was in store. From their immersion in the b-to-b of tennis came the realization that the sport, which was, in Katz’s words, “like a family” in its close sense of community, had no one-stop shop where manufacturers could connect with buyers such as retailers and sporting goods stores. The three men looked to another successful show of the time, the PGA’s golf show, as a business model. Tennis Industry’s National Tennis Buying Show made its debut in 1974, at the Doral Country Club in Miami. The show was unlike anything the industry had ever seen, and it gained support quickly, bringing together all aspects of the industry for a common purpose.
“To me, it was one of the glues of the industry,” says Jim Baugh, former president of Wilson Sporting Goods and now a private industry consultant. “All the brands were there on equal footing; unfortunately, it’s not quite the same today.”
In part, the show succeeded because it was a product of its time. “It was a growing industry, a young industry, and it also had a lot of small mom-and-pop manufacturing companies. There weren’t that many big companies,” says Keighley.
By the mid-1980s, with the show was firmly rooted in the industry’s consciousness, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association approached the trio with a proposal. Since the late 1950s, SGMA had sponsored its own convention to showcase new merchandise. SGMA wanted the three men to sell the rights to the tennis show in exchange for a 24-year management contract. Schwartz, Keighley and Katz agreed, and in 1986, the tennis show became part of the aptly named annual event, The Super Show. At its peak in the mid-1990s, The Super Show was the country’s best-attended sports and fitness marketing event, drawing upwards of 90,000 visitors.
The three men spent nearly two decades working with The Super Show, but eventually, they say, their interests diverged from those of SGMA, which released them from their management contract.
The men have been busy in the interim. After having scored with Tennis Industry and the show, they (in Schwartz’s words) “wanted to see whether we knew what we were doing or were just lucky, so we started up some other magazines.”
Eventually, the three moved on from Tennis Industry, which merged with RacquetTech and became Racquet Sports Industry magazine. Citing declining attendance caused in part by the rise of other shows and the explosion of e-commerce, the SGMA discontinued The Super Show after 2006.
These days, Keighley is retired from the industry, but Schwartz and Katz are still in the game, putting on the annual Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show with their company, Communications and Show Management Inc. And all three stay in touch, and talk about the old days and the new developments.
They agree that the sport needs new heroes, young blood. “Not old fogeys like us,” adds Keighley. “We’ve been out of it for a bit. But … “ he pauses and sounds thoughtful, “if anyone were to ask us to give an old-timers’ perspective, we might have a suggestion or two.”
“Pioneers in Tennis,” an occasional column in RSI, draws attention to trailblazers in the sport. Have someone to suggest? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
See all articles by Mary Helen Sprecher
About the Author
Mary Helen Sprecher is the managing editor of Sports Destinations Management Magazine, a niche business-to-business publication for planners of sports travel events, in addition to being an RSI Contributing Editor. She is the technical writer for the American Sports Builders Association and works as a newspaper reporter in Baltimore City.