SBJ/April 2-8, 2012/People and Pop Culture

Sorenstam finds competitive fix in business

Annika Sorenstam walked away from competitive golf near the top of her game, but that didn’t mean she planned on retiring. “I think I’m busier now,” she says with a laugh. At 41, Sorenstam is building a business whose breadth could soon rival the empires created by Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, golfers who have thrived as much off the course as they have on it. In her three years away from life as the most dominant figure in women’s golf, Sorenstam has established a line of perfume, a licensing deal with a winery, a financial group and a course-design business, and she’s a fledgling TV star with a regular spot on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive.” Retired? Hardly.

Sorenstam recently talked about her new life juggling business and family with SportsBusiness Journal’s Michael Smith.

The retired golfer is finding the success she enjoyed on the links in a variety of ventures.
Photo by: CHRIS STANFORD
Other than being a mom to two children, which aspect of your business takes up most of your time?

SORENSTAM:
It depends on the time of year. In the spring and fall, it’s course design. In the fall, a lot of it is the academy. Fall is for the wine — harvest time is very important. And my foundation, that’s really all year ’round. I’m working on something almost every day. The course-design business is overseas, mostly in Asia, so that takes a great deal of time and travel.

How much of this were you doing while you were still playing competitively?

SORENSTAM:
I planted the seed for a lot of this at the end of my playing career. Most of the things I’m working on started when my playing days ended. The one exception was the clothing line [with Cutter & Buck]. That started in 2004, 2005, and I was playing in my own collection.

Do you own these businesses or are they mostly licensing deals?

Sorenstam’s foundation is a year-round effort.
Photo by: ANNIKA FOUNDATION
SORENSTAM:
It’s a little of both. The clothing line with Cutter & Buck is licensing. The winery, I’m a part-owner, but it’s mostly a licensing deal. The financial group is our own with the people I have worked with for years, using my philosophies. The course design is my own and the academy is my own.

Is there a golfer who’s been an especially good role model for you in business life after golf?

SORENSTAM:
Oh, sure. If you look at Palmer, Nicklaus, Norman, they’ve all been very successful. When you look at them and what they’re doing, that kind of thing — being competitive from a business standpoint — is what excites me now. … The competitive part of you doesn’t ever go away. When you put your name on something, you’re building a brand. You want everything you touch to be first class because it represents me and I want to make sure we’re delivering something very promising and very inspirational. When people come to the academy, I want them to say, “Wow, this is the best academy out there.” When they drink the wine, I want them to think it’s top notch. … I’m competitive, I want to succeed, and that comes from being the best in something at one time, working hard and setting goals. That’s how I get my competitive fix, and it’s one reason I don’t miss being out there competing anymore.

Come on. Really? You don’t miss playing competitively at all?

On the course:

72 LPGA victories
89 victories worldwide
10 major championships
Inducted into World Golf Hall of Fame
8-time LPGA Tour player of the year

Off the course:

The Annika Academy provides individualized golf instruction and fitness programs.
Photo by: CHRIS STANFORD

Annika Vineyards:
A partnership with Northern California-based Wente Vineyards to make a syrah in her name.

Annika Collection: Her own clothing line by Cutter & Buck since 2004.

Annika Fragrance: A signature perfume created by Boston-based SA Fragrances, which also produces a perfume bearing Danica Patrick’s name.

Annika Academy: Offers playing experiences with the golfing great as well as instruction from her swing coach and tips on fitness from her personal trainer.

Annika Financial Group: A financial services company employing her own team of experts on accounting, tax services, planning, bookkeeping and other areas.

Annika Course Design: Five of the seven courses she has designed are based in Asia.

TV: Serves as a weekly co-host on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive.”

Sponsors:

Callaway
Rolex
Oakley
Lexus
Lipton

SORENSTAM: No, I really don’t. It’s been three years now and I feel like I achieved what I wanted to achieve. Now is the time for other things in life, and my family is No. 1. I had my time. It’s been Annika time. Now it’s time for family and for business.

You and Jack Nicklaus both have very successful course-design operations, but the two of you weren’t selected to build the course in Rio for the 2016 Olympics. How did you take that news?

SORENSTAM:
I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t disappointed. I was very disappointed. I thought we had something really good to offer. Jack and I were both very involved in getting golf into the Olympics and for us, this felt like the natural next step. We thought it was a wonderful match. … But after it’s all over, I look back and really enjoyed working with Jack. His knowledge and what he has done is so impressive. It was still a great experience and it’ll be the memory of a lifetime, even though the result was not what we wanted.

You’ve become very active on social media with your blog and Twitter, including posting updates on baby Will after he was born prematurely. How do you try to use those media?

SORENSTAM:
The blog [annikasorenstam.com/blog] is a great way to communicate with everybody — my sponsors, supporters, fans, and keeping the media updated. … I’m learning about new media and social media and the best way to use that as communication. But the blog is something I really value and put a lot of time and effort into to make sure it’s updated.

How often do you tweet?

SORENSTAM:
Every day, anywhere from two to 20 times a day, depending on what’s going on and the things I want to share. It could be very different from one day to another. I might be at a photo shoot with a sponsor, or we might have the family at Disney. But I do want the followers to get a feel for who I am.

One of the developments in your post-playing career has been more air time on Golf Channel, where you fill in as a host once a week on “Morning Drive.” Are you interested in doing more TV?

SORENSTAM:
I don’t do a lot of TV, but I enjoy my short visits on Thursdays to “Morning Drive.” We talk about current topics and players. I have not done any commentating, tournament-wise. I might enjoy working some of the bigger events, maybe the majors, but not as a full-time job.

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