Wimbledon Bonds Fetch Princely Sum

Tennis tournament tickets fuel ‘bizarre bond mania’

Forget the euro debt crisis; relief might be one ground stroke away, as investors looked for an ace opportunity in a Wimbledon debt racket.

Bad tennis puns aside, the action over the weekend wasn’t only on Centre Court. A bizarre ‘bond mania’ was also the talk of the All-England two-week tourney, in part fueled by a desire for tickets.

The club’s 375 members of course get tickets, and the rest are distributed through a lottery system, with demand far outstripping supply.

But what to do if you’re not one of the chosen few? Buy their bonds, as each includes a coveted ticket.

The bonds, which according to The Wall Street Journal’s Brett Arends have been sold since the 1920s, are used to pay for maintenance and upkeep, as well as larger projects like the recently added retractable roof (the loveably awkward ‘sun dance,’ traditionally performed by line judges and umpires, will be missed).  

Sounds like a win-win, except that the bonds actually pay a negative return. However, while tickets issued to club members and distributed via the lottery are non-transferable, not so for tickets that accompany the bonds’ purchase, hence the opportunity for a big payoff. What’s more, the potential run-up in ticket prices has driven up the price of the underlying bonds, which Arends notes have recently sold for $66,000 after being issued for $43,000 two years ago: "It's one of the biggest and most bizarre bond manias in the world."

As long as the ravens remain at the Tower, we’ll always have England, so little concern about the opportunity to at least use the tickets, but these are strange times indeed. If only the Chicago Cubs could be so clever.  

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