Three-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams testified Monday during a breach-of-contract case that her father was never her manager and had no authority to enter her into an agreement for a 2001 "Battle of the Sexes" tennis event.
"My dad was my coach. My dad was my dad. My dad supported me all my life, but he was not my manager," Venus Williams told jurors.
Promoters Carol Clarke and Keith Rhodes, owners of a company called CCKR, allege that Venus Williams' father, Richard, committed his daughters to play in the match, and that they failed to live up to the agreement. The promoters are suing the sisters, their father and his company, Richard Williams Tennis & Associates, seeking unspecified damages.
Serena Williams was expected to testify Tuesday. Richard Williams concluded nearly four days of testimony on Monday. He, too, insisted that despite entering into contract negotiations with the promoters, he never had authority to commit his daughters to play in the match.
The dispute centers on whether Richard Williams was acting as the sisters' manager at the time of the agreement. He acknowledges drawing up terms of a potential contract for the 2001 event, but he insists he told the promoters they would have to go through the IMG sports agency, which represents Venus and Serena, to complete any agreement.
Richard Williams also testified that he lied when he told the promoters in 2001 that his daughters were aware of the deal.
The promoters claim the tournament could have made about $45 million (Ђ34.3 million), of which 80 percent was to go to Richard Williams' company.
The Williams sisters never signed any contract with CCKR and insist their father does not manage them, and therefore has no authority to commit them to any deals.
"I make my own decisions," Venus Williams told jurors.
The promoters' attorney, Jim Beasley, noted that Venus Williams' tax returns show she paid her father nearly $1.6 million (Ђ1.22 million) between 1999 and 2001 for "manager and coaching fees."
"How much of that was for managing and how much was for coaching?" Beasley asked.
"They were all for coaching," Venus Williams replied.
"Do you know why it says manager and coaching?" Beasley prodded.
"No," she said.
During previous testimony, promoters' attorneys showed jurors copies of tax returns from 1998 to 2000 for Richard Williams' company that indicate he was paid nearly $2 million (Ђ1.53 million) in "management fees" from his daughters.
Attorneys for the sisters and their father claim the payments were mischaracterized for tax-deduction purposes and that Richard Williams was paid merely for coaching services, reports AP.
A first trial in the case ended in a mistrial in December. This second trial, before Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey A. Winikoff, began Nov. 17 and was expected to last five weeks. Jurors have the option of finding Richard Williams liable, alone. They also could find the sisters and their father liable or dismiss the allegations.