ATP Tour, Inc., et al. v. Deutscher Tennis Bund, et al.Annotate this Case
ATP Tour, Inc. (ATP) operates a global professional men’s tennis tour. Its members include professional men’s tennis players and entities that own and operate professional men’s tennis tournaments. Two of those entities are Deutscher Tennis Bund (DTB) and Qatar Tennis Federation. ATP is governed by a seven-member board of directors, of which three are elected by the tournament owners, three are elected by the player members, and the seventh directorship is held by ATP’s chairman and president. In 2007, ATP’s board voted to change the Tour schedule and format. Under the board’s “Brave New World” plan, the Hamburg tournament, which the Federations owned and operated, was downgraded from the highest tier of tournaments to the second highest tier, and was moved from the spring season to the summer season. Displeased by these changes, the Federations sued ATP and six of its board members in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, alleging both federal antitrust claims and Delaware fiduciary duty claims. After a ten-day jury trial, the District Court granted ATP’s and the director defendants’ motion for judgment as a matter of law on all of the fiduciary duty claims, and also on the antitrust claims brought against the director defendants. The jury then found in favor of ATP on the remaining antitrust claims. Four questions of Delaware law were certified to the Supreme Court from the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware when the Federations appealed. The questions centered on the validity of a fee-shifting provision in a Delaware non-stock corporation’s bylaws. The provision, which the directors adopted pursuant to their charter-delegated power to unilaterally amend the bylaws, shifts attorneys’ fees and costs to unsuccessful plaintiffs in intra-corporate litigation. The federal court found that the bylaw provision’s validity was an open question under Delaware law and asked under what circumstances such a provision was valid and enforceable. Although the Delaware Supreme Court could not directly address the bylaw at issue, it held that fee-shifting provisions in a non-stock corporation’s bylaws could be valid and enforceable under Delaware law. In addition, bylaws normally apply to all members of a non-stock corporation regardless of whether the bylaw was adopted before or after the member in question became a member.