SBD/Issue 163/Sports Industrialists

Industry Remembers IMG Founder Mark McCormack

IMG Founder Mark McCormack

With the passing Friday of IMG Founder MARK MCCORMACK, IMG Vice Chair Jay Lafave said that the death is unlikely to prompt major changes at the company in the foreseeable future, according to Liz Mullen of the SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The company installed executives Bob Kain and Alastair Johnston as co-CEOs shortly after McCormack suffered cardiac arrest on January 14. McCormack's wife, Betsy Nagelsen, and his three adult children, Breck, Todd and Leslie, all executives at IMG, joined the BOD shortly after McCormack fell ill. The members of McCormack's family own most of privately held IMG. Lafave said Friday, "We have met frequently in the last few weeks, and I don't detect any (plan) other than trying to have the company continue with the people in place because the guys who are running the company have been really involved in running the company for the past 10 years, if not longer." Kain and Johnston were not immediately available for comment, but in an internal e-mail sent Friday to IMG employees worldwide, they wrote: "His death is a great loss to all of us; but, in true McCormack fashion, he prepared the company well for this unthinkable eventuality. IMG will continue to succeed and set the standard for business in the future as a tribute to our founder and all the people who have helped him over the years" (SPORTSBUSINESSJOURNAL.com, 5/16). Many industry personalities offered their respects to McCormack over the weekend:

CLIENTS: Tiger Woods said, "He was a genius when it comes to sports marketing. If it wasn't for him obviously we wouldn't be in the position we are right now." Arnold Palmer, when McCormack was first hospitalized, said, "I think through the years, he has had probably as much influence on sports, generally, as anyone. He's done a tremendous job representing athletes and various types of businesses. He's touched on just about everything in the sporting world" (GOLF WORLD BUSINESS, 5/16). Jack Nicklaus: "He's had more impact than probably anybody in the game from a business standpoint. He made golf a business." Butch Buchholz, Founder & Chair of the NASDAQ-100 Open, a tennis tournament owned and operated by IMG, said, "Sports today is a multimillion-dollar business, and Mark McCormack had the foresight to make that happen during his life. Athletes, franchises, television executives and sports promoters all owe a debt of thanks to Mark McCormack for his contributions to the business" (AP, 5/17).

McCormack’s First Client

EXECS: ProServ Founder Donald Dell said, "He was a pathfinder. He was the icon. ... A giant, and a good friend of mine." Dell added, "He would sell (Palmer) on a piecemeal basis around the world. He was very good at limiting what the buyer was getting, so you go to four or five buyers. ... He was a very creative, really well-organized, good guy. He was the number one influence on the whole market" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/17). Nike Chair & CEO Phil Knight: "In business dealings we were almost always on the opposite side of the table but I can sincerely say he always operated with the utmost integrity and competence on behalf of his clients" (Nike). NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer: "He is the original article. He represented people with elegance and with intensity and with intelligence and with sensibility for the entire time since he created the genre. To have lost Roone Arledge and Mark McCormack in the same year, we've lost two of the real giants of the sports profession." CBS Sports President Sean McManus: "I don't think it's an overstatement to say that kind of like Henry Ford and Bill Gates, Mark McCormack literally created and fostered and led an entirely new worldwide industry. ... I never had a conversation with him where I didn't learn something new." ABC Sports/ESPN President George Bodenheimer: "He was a visionary who never stopped innovating. Our industry has lost a true leader and a great friend to many." Millsport CEO of Sports Marketing Bob Basche: "He meant so much to the popularity of Wimbledon. He was critical to its becoming the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. Mark is Wimbledon in many respects" (SPORTSBUSINESSJOURNAL.com, 5/16). IMG's Hughes Norton: "He realized that athletes retired and athletes go into slumps and athletes get injured, so he went beyond representing the athletes and began representing the sports entities. In other words, Bjorn Borg might retire at 26, but Wimbledon goes on. Arnold Palmer might go into a slump, but the British Open goes on forever" (L.A. TIMES, 5/17). Horrow Sports Ventures President Rick Horrow: "(McCormack) took the concept that athletes needed help, galvanized that into a principle where corporations would see the value of athletes being involved in their whole business mix and basically took (sports marketing) to an art form and a juggernaut firm that everybody, frankly, since then has emulated and copied" ("Moneyline," CNNfn, 5/16). Univ. of OR Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Dir Rick Burton: "He changed the athlete/agent landscape more dramatically than anyone." The Bonham Group Chair Dean Bonham: "He (knew) how to connect the image of an athlete with the image of a company and have them affect each other from a positive perspective" (L.A. TIMES, 5/17). Former Nets President Michael Rowe: "Mark McCormack recognized the formula for how you could package the athlete and the event and the sponsorship and the television rights before anyone else did" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 5/17).

MEDIA: In DC, Eric Fisher wrote, "McCormack accurately foresaw the explosive growth of TV sports and the utility of sports for corporate America to reach male consumers. He used both as potent tools to strike ever-increasing salaries and endorsement deals and in turn helped change the economic landscape of pro sports" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 5/18). In Columbus, Todd Jones wrote he was the "Pied Piper who led sports into the widespread commercialization that we now sometimes loathe but also take for granted. The corporate tent, for example, was an IMG creation" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/17). In Cleveland, Susan Vinella: "McCormack's belief that professional athletes should be generously paid as product pitchmen revolutionized the advertising industry" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 5/17). In N.Y., Frank Litsky wrote, "Before Mr. McCormack, athletes who made appearances and television commercials were customarily rewarded with watches or supplies of products or small amounts of money. Starting with the golfer Arnold Palmer, McCormack changed that. ... Palmer, his first full-time client, saw his annual income of $50,000 rise to $500,000 within three years and eventually to more than $10 million" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/17). In Orlando, David Whitley wrote, "Corporations had long used athletes to endorse their products, but McCormack envisioned opportunities that had never been exploited" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/17). In Boston, Jim McCabe wrote, "McCormack opened doors, started marketing trends, and made it fashionable to turn sports into big business — and athletes have enjoyed huge financial rewards because of his foresight" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/18). In Oakland, Art Spander: "McCormack took the endorsement concept to another level" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 5/17). The FINANCIAL TIMES' Peter Chapman: "A renowned salesman and negotiator" (FT.com, 5/18). N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica: "He was as much a visionary as Pete Rozelle or the great Roone Arledge" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 5/18).

MEMORIAL: A memorial service is planned for Wednesday in N.Y., and all members of the IMG family are welcome. Burial will be private today in Chicago. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in McCormack's name to any of the following:

Mark H. McCormack Memorial Fund at The College of William & Mary
c/o President Tim Sullivan
The College of William and Mary
P.O. Box 8795 Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795

Mark H. McCormack Scholarship Fund at the House of Hope
c/o Founder & Presidents Office
2036 36th Street Orlando, FL 32839

The McCormack Foundation
c/o Chris Pauletta
IMG Center Suite 100
1360 East Ninth Street Cleveland, OH 44114

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