Tennis giant Prince moving HQ to Atlanta

Prince Global Sports, a recovering giant in the tennis and racquet sports world, is moving its headquarters to Atlanta as part of a broader shift of operations.

Prince CEO Mike Ballardie told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a telephone interview Thursday that the company’s Buckhead operations center will have about 20 to 25 employees, most hired locally. The roles will include marketing, finance and other positions.

The headquarters could employ about 40 people over the next several years, he said. Prince has yet to sign a lease and declined to identify the location until a deal is done.

Prince, which built its brand as an early innovator with oversized racquets, was founded in 1970 near Princeton, N.J. The brand has been owned by several firms in the past 44 years.

In 2012, the company filed for bankruptcy protection and was bought by Waitt Co. of Omaha, Neb. Prince has restructured operations under Waitt’s ownership.

As part of Thursday’s announcement, the company said it will move its research and development division and player services unit to sports training institute IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where it operates the Prince Innovation Center. There, Prince can work with some of the top young tennis players in the nation.

Ballardie said his company chose Atlanta in part because of the region’s long tennis history, including the BB&T Atlanta Open tournament and the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association (ALTA), which is considered the largest city tennis league in the world.

He said the company wanted to be “located in a community in area that was strongly steeped in tennis.”

“Atlanta checks all the boxes in that regard,” he said.

As a private firm, Prince does not release much financial data. But Ballardie said Prince commands about 20 percent to 25 percent market share in racquet sales and has about $250 million in annual global sales.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport offers the company quicker links to its Florida operations and its international customers, said Ballardie, who splits his time between the U.S. and London.

David Ferrer and former University of Georgia standout John Isner are among the notable tennis stars who endorse Prince products. Isner won last year’s Atlanta Open at Atlantic Station.

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