SBJ/October 24 - 30, 2005/Labor Agents

Owner taking Kain’s spot at IMG

IMG owner Ted Forstmann will take over as president of the sports marketing and management giant when Bob Kain, longtime leader of the company, steps down Nov. 1 to become vice chairman.

Kain is expected to stay with the company for at least a year after that. IMG was expected to send out a companywide e-mail during the past weekend notifying employees of the change.

“I am not leaving,” said Kain, who has led the U.S. operations of IMG since the mid-1990s, in an e-mail response to questions about the change. “I am resigning as president and I will step out of my day-to-day management responsibility. I will remain on the IMG board of directors and continue my close relationship with [IMG client] Wimbledon.”

Forstmann, senior partner of Wall Street buyout firm Forstmann Little & Co., which bought IMG for $750 million in October 2004, was not available for comment by press time for this story. Kain is one of a group of senior executives who was hired by late IMG founder Mark McCormack, who died in May 2003.

Senior IMG executives, including Bill Sinrich, CEO of IMG media arm TWI; Peter Johnson, president of IMG’s non-media business; CFO Mark Ryder; and IMG’s co-directors of its golf business, Mark Steinberg and Bob Ryder, all of whom reported to Kain, will now report directly to Forstmann, Kain said.

The transition of leadership of the world’s biggest and most powerful sports agency will begin next month. “I will be very involved in our 2006 business plans and then really turn over all management responsibility to Ted and other members of the Office of the Chairman,” Kain wrote in his e-mail. Forstmann created the office of the chairman earlier this year. Its members include Sinrich, Kain, Forstmann and Ryder, who joined IMG as CFO this year after serving as CFO of American Greetings.

Forstmann discusses changes at IMG

IMG owner Ted Forstmann, who has become increasingly involved in running the sports television, marketing and management giant since he bought it a year ago, said his role will increase with Bob Kain’s move from IMG president to vice chairman.

Kain’s move, which will happen Nov. 1, comes as the company has completed a financial turnaround, Forstmann said. “Now that we together have accomplished what we have accomplished, this company is extraordinarily financially sound,” he said.

Forstmann would not provide any details, but said 2005 will be the most profitable year — “by a huge margin” — in IMG’s more than 40-year history.

Forstmann said he has no plans to replace Kain. Rather, he said, IMG will be run like a lot of the companies his firm, Forstmann Little & Co. has acquired, including Gulfstream Aerospace. That means without a president, but with an Office of the Chairman, which includes senior executives of a company who report directly to Forstmann.

That group will now include Chris A. Davis, a senior executive Forstmann has known for 15 years who has worked at other companies he has controlled, including Gulfstream, where she was chief financial officer. In 1990, Forstman bought Gulfstream for about $850 million. He sold it in 1999 for $5.5 billion.

IMG was sold to Forstmann Little in October, 2004 for $750 million.

Davis will handle day-to-day issues at IMG, while Forstmann will handle strategic planning and growth opportunities, he said.

Longtime IMG employee Peter Johnson will also be added to the Office of the Chairman. The other members are Forstmann, Kain; Bill Sinrich, CEO of TWI, IMG’s media arm; and Bob Ryder, CFO.

In his new role as vice chairman, Kain will no longer be responsible for running day-to-day operations, but will be involved in strategic planning, including creating new lines of business for the company.

“The most important thing he is going to do is he is going to help me and help this company grow very significantly financially from where it is now,” Forstmann said. “He is not leaving anything. [He] is going to go from one task to a different task.”

Sources told SportsBusiness Journal that Kain plans to stay with the company for at least a year, but Forstman said, “I can only assume, since Bob tells me he is very happy, that we will go on together for quite a while.”

- Liz Mullen

Kain said he has been planning this move for years. “In 2002, I had agreed with Mark McCormack that I would work closely with him through 2004 and then probably retire from IMG,” he said. After McCormack died, though, “it was incumbent on me to do whatever was needed to protect IMG, so my personal plans had to be deferred.

“When Forstmann Little bought IMG a year ago, I told Ted Forstmann I would continue as president through a ‘transition period,’ which would be between one and two years,” Kain wrote. “It is clear to me that the transition period is complete.”

Since Forstmann bought IMG, many in the sports industry, and particularly executives at IMG’s rival companies, have speculated that the change in ownership would cause a mass exodus at the agency, which has been known for its private, cliquish culture. Kain, Johnson and Vice Chairman Alastair Johnston are among many IMG executives who have worked at the company for decades.

Asked if his stepping into a less significant position at the company meant that other top IMG managers would be leaving, Kain answered, “I am not leaving and Alastair and Peter are very happy at IMG. I do not see any senior executives at IMG leaving in the foreseeable future.”

For the last two or three years, Kain has overseen an effort to cut costs at IMG to make the company more profitable. That process began before McCormack’s death and continued under Forstmann. McCormack was described many times as an empire-builder who was focused on consolidating power in the sports world, but not on the bottom line.

IMG is a private company and does not release financial information, but Kain said last week, “The 2005 earnings will be the highest in our company’s history. Our 2006 preliminary plan assures us that next year will be significantly better. This is another reason why it is the perfect time for me to be transitioning out of the management of the company.”

The company made another personnel move last week when Chris A. Davis joined Forstmann Little to work on three companies it controls: Citadel Broadcasting, 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide Inc. and IMG. Davis has worked in senior financial positions at some major corporations, most recently as chairman and CEO of McLeodUSA, a Midwest telecommunications company. It was not immediately clear what role she would have at IMG.

Kain joined IMG in 1976, while in his mid-20s, and quickly became a major tennis agent, signing Bjorn Borg and Chris Evert, among other stars. He was named director of IMG Tennis in 1983 and launched IMG’s figure skating division in 1984, signing Olympic champion Scott Hamilton, with whom he created the acclaimed Stars on Ice professional tour.

Other clients that Kain has represented as an agent over the years include Vitas Gerulaitis, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Billie Jean King and Dorothy Hamill.

Kain led IMG’s acquisition of the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in 1985, which became a major pipeline for the agency to sign tennis prodigies. It later became a major training center for many major professional sports, which has helped IMG recruit world-class athletes at young ages.

By the mid 1990s, Kain was promoted to senior officer and was responsible for all of the agency’s operations in North and South America. In 2001, he was promoted to president and chief operating officer of IMG Americas.

In January 2003, McCormack suffered a cardiac arrest and fell into a coma. In April 2003, Kain and Johnston, who long headed the golf division, were promoted to co-CEOs by the board of directors.

They remained co-CEOs after McCormack’s death and led an unsuccessful effort for a management-led buyout of the company from McCormack’s heirs. Forstmann bought the company in October 2004.

In February 2005, Forstmann announced in a company memo that he was making changes to the management structure that included eliminating the co-CEO structure. Kain was made president of IMG, while Johnston was named vice chairman.

“I was able to build a great tennis business, skating business and IMG Academies business,” Kain said. “I think my greatest achievement was stepping in with a couple of other senior executives when Mark McCormack passed away and successfully keeping all of our top management, our top clients and our top properties together, and directing the company to an unbelievably strong position financially.”

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