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Game, set and match to Alexander in White City battle

Game, set and match to Alexander in White City battle
June 3, 2010

The long dispute over the redevelopment of Sydney's White City tennis complex has been resolved in favour of former tennis star John Alexander in the High Court of Australia.

In a reversal of fortune for long time owners the White City Tennis Club, the High Court of Australia overturned a 2009 decision by the NSW Court of Appeal and decided in favour of Poplar Holding Ltd, John Alexanderâs private company and the Walker Corporation. The decision by the High Court brings to an end the 80 year-old tennis club with WCTC Directors announcing that the club has been placed in Voluntary Administration.

Alexander is now expected to proceed with plans to redevelop the site with a mixed tennis, aquatic and fitness club backed by residential development. Similar plans for the site have existed since the mid 1990s with the Packer-family ACP and Next Generation Clubs Australia, for whom Alexander was a former Chief Executive, having been interested in the site.

After the NSW Court of Appeal's 2009 decision, WCTC President Geoff Simpson announced that the Club has entered into an agreement with Next Generation Australia to build and manage a new facility on the White City Tennis Club site, pending the outcome of Alexander's appeal to the High Court Of Australia.

Alexander and the WCTC signed an agreement in 2004 that provided for Alexander to raise money to buy the club and vest ownership in a company, White City Holdings, in which the members could become shareholders. But the club claimed it was evicted three years later when Alexander went into business with property developer Walker Corporation.

The club sued Alexander for breach of contract, and the NSW Court of Appeal ruled in its favour last June and restored control of the clubhouse and the grounds to the club. It ordered Alexander to transfer all his rights to the land and ordered the club to pay him $6.73 million, the price he paid in 2007. That decision has now been reversed.

Located in the suburb of Paddington, White City was the long time home of Tennis NSW and the Australian Open, prior to relocation to their Homebush Bay as part of the development of Sydney's Olympic Park precinct.

Alexander's plans for the site are understood to include 15 full size tennis courts, including two grass show courts and two synthetic terrace courts within the centre of the building, four lit clay courts and seven grass courts to the north of the club building, and three practice wall clay courts. The plans also include an eight-lane 25-metre pool, two squash courts, a day spa, a gym, a creche, offices, shops, restaurants and underground parking for 256 cars.

In December last year, Alexander won a Liberal Party preselection contest for the Federal seat of Bennelong, lost by former Prime minister John Howard to Labor's Maxine McKew in the 2007 election.

Whether Alexander's political aspirations have been damaged in Sydney's Liberal heartlands by this highly public battle with WTTC, which has inspired an internet message board 'Why is John Alexander such a dumbass?', remains to be seen.

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