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Friday, 1 November, 2002, 11:06 GMT
Kingmaker: Mark McCormack
Mark McCormack


The huge 3.2m prize fund for this week's USPGA Tour Championship has a lot to do with the continual influence of one man - Mark McCormack.

McCormack is not so much a kingmaker as the undisputed king of sports marketing.

  Mark McCormack profile:
Born: 6 Nov, 1930
1954: Graduates from Yale law school
1960: Arnold Palmer becomes first client
1968: Signs tennis' Rod Laver
1990: Named "Most Powerful Man in Sport" by Sports Illustrated
1996: IMG sign new pro called Tiger Woods
Dubbed the most powerful man in sport, it is McCormack who is in large part responsible for the amount of money that professional sportsmen can make.

The 71-year-old American is the founder and chairman of International Management Group (IMG), the world's largest athlete representation firm.

His story is a classic case of being in the right place at the right time.

But his energy and entrepreneurial skills enabled him to become chief architect for a burgeoning new industry.

McCormack, a promising college golfer and Yale law graduate practising in Cleveland, realised sportsmen could earn extra money from endorsements and sponsorships.

In 1960 he offered to become the agent to a young American golfer called Arnold Palmer and the deal was done with a simple handshake.

Soon after, McCormack signed a talented South African newcomer by the name of Gary Player and a fledgling American professional called Jack Nicklaus.


Arnold Palmer was a pioneer in the spirit of Thomas Edison, while Tiger Woods is like Bill Gates
Mark McCormack

Either inadvertently, or with incredible foresight, McCormack had signed the "Big Three" players who would dominate golf for decades and lead the game into global consciousness.

Palmer says: "Mark was the right person at the right time for me.

"Working together Mark and I have found success beyond our wildest dreams.

"Through good times and bad, Mark has never broken the faith of our long ago handshake. That's meant a lot to me."

McCormack was quick to recognize the potential of sport as a corporate communications medium and began by negotiating a deal of about $5,000 a year for Palmer to endorse Wilson sporting goods.

Arnold Palmer playing in the 1961 Ryder Cup at Royal Lytham
Palmer playing in the 1961 Ryder Cup at Royal Lytham

Nowadays, IMG are responsible for securing the $100m-per-year contract for client Tiger Woods, golf's world number one, to endorse Nike.

McCormack not only started the globalisation of sport and sports stars, he is still at the forefront of the business.

He says: "To me, Arnold was a pioneer in the spirit of Thomas Edison or Benjamin Franklin, while Tiger is a pioneer in the spirit of Bill Gates."

In 1968, McCormack branched out into tennis, signing Australian great Rod Laver.

He soon added Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

His tennis client list today includes Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Tim Henman and the Williams sisters, while among those in the golf stable are Colin Montgomerie and Sergio Garcia.

The company has also grown to be a major player in the football market as well as representing athletes from rugby, cricket, motor racing and a host of other sports.

Tiger Woods
Woods is arguably the most recognised sportsman on the planet

IMG's broadcast division Trans World International (TWI), set up in the 60s to film a handful of golf events, is the world's largest independent television sports production company and rights distributor.

The group also owns and represents many major sporting events around the world, several sports academies and runs a classical music arm and a branch dedicated to models.

McCormack was voted "Most Powerful Man in Tennis" by Tennis Magazine, "Most Powerful Man in Golf " by Golf Digest and in 1990 Sports Illustrated called him "The Most Powerful Man in Sport".

He will turn 72 in November but refuses to contemplate retiring.

"People retire to do what I do every day," he says.

"Play tennis with Monica Seles or golf with Arnold Palmer. Go to Wimbledon or the Olympics and be treated like a king.

"Write books, make speeches. As long as I can contribute, I'll be around."


This week's golf from around the world

Italian Open

Tour Championship

Southern Farm Classic

Ladies Match Play

GOLF STATISTICS
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