SBD/January 21, 2011/People and Pop Culture

Bob Kain Writes Letter Responding To Recent USA Today Article On Forstmann

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Kain responds to recent article on IMG
The following is a letter to the editor concerning a USA Today item summarized in SBD on Jan. 12. A portion of this letter can be found in Friday's edition of USA Today.

January 13, 2011

Michael McCarthy’s January 12 article about Ted Forstmann and IMG [cited in SportsBusiness Daily] re-writes history. As an executive at IMG for 31 years and co-ceo when founder Mark McCormack died in early 2003, I was among the key people charged with selling the company for the McCormack Family Trust. We ultimately did so in November 2004 to Forstmann Little (FL), Ted Forstmann’s private equity firm. I resigned from IMG in 2006.
 
I think I speak for thousands (3,000 in 2004) of IMG employees in wanting to set the record straight about the historical growth and direction of the company. Mr. McCarthy writes “…and now he’s [Forstmann] transformed IMG into a global sports, fashion, and media empire with ownership stakes in India, Brazil, and China.” IMG had, in fact, been long recognized as the global leader in those arenas (operating out of over 65 offices in 30 countries) by the time Forstmann-Little acquired it. Almost 50% of its revenues came from outside the U.S. It owned, operated or represented 2,000 events annually and was the world’s largest independent sports TV distributor and producer (10,000 hours of content, much of it owned by IMG, sold to 160 countries.) It was also the #1 modeling agency in the world.

Contrary to what the article suggests, IMG operated in China and India for over 25 years before the Forstmann Little acquisition. It helped the Chinese create their current professional soccer and basketball leagues, not only representing them but also owning two teams in the basketball league. It ran three golf tournaments in China in 2004. In India, IMG represented the national governing body of cricket, that country’s #1 sport, and created the first ATP Tour tennis event there.

Mr. McCarthy writes that “He [Forstmann] wants to be an owner not a middle man….” Mark McCormack recognized the merits of the same by the late 1970’s, creating and owning countless properties globally including World Match Play, partnering with the European PGA Tour, Stars on Ice, The ATP/WTA event in Miami, N.Y. Fashion Week, etc. It is this foundation, coupled with the long-term relationships IMG had established with iconic athletes and models from Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam to Venus Williams, Rafael Nadal, Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning and Gisele Bundchen, and iconic events (Wimbledon, WTA Tour, the British Open, World Cup of Rugby, etc.) that helped make it possible for Mr. Forstmann to form joint ventures in China, India and Brazil. And didn’t that foundation compel him to acquire IMG in the first place?

We applaud Mr. Forstmann for consolidating the College sports marketing business, for which he has spent around $300 million. Mark McCormack’s IMG was certainly not capital-rich, relying more on organic growth which was, nonetheless, highly successful and profitable, growing in value 43 out of 44 years.

Most IMG alumni are cheering for IMG’s continued success, especially those of us who are also stakeholders. But we are strongly motivated to honor the extraordinary vision of Mark McCormack and accomplishments of his loyalists. IMG’s history should be enhanced by the company’s current operations. It shouldn’t be re-written.

Bob Kain
Former co-CEO of IMG
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