SBJ/May 7-13, 2012/Labor and Agents

Wasserman is ‘doubling down’ on golf business

Wasserman Media Group is expanding its golf business by forming Wasserman Golf, giving the practice its own balance sheet while pressing forward with new hires and potentially new lines of business within the sport, such as event management and ownership, media rights and content creation.

In the last month, Wasserman Golf has made three key hires for newly created positions, including Barry Hyde, who was lured over from the U.S. Golf Association after seven years as CMO of the governing body. More hires are coming, both in the U.S. and internationally.

Wasserman Golf President Malcolm Turner, who is spearheading the new moves in the space, said the agency is “doubling down on that commitment to golf,” which over the last five years largely has been built with acquisitions in the consulting and player management business, where the agency has established a foothold in the sport.

Turner
Turner, who came over with the OnSport acquisition five years ago, will continue to oversee the golf consulting, while John Mascatello, executive vice president of player management, will oversee the agent business.

Hyde, also an executive vice president, will be in charge of business development, seeking new lines of revenue for Wasserman’s golf practice.

“Golf has been a significant part of our business and, given the opportunities we see in the marketplace, we’re looking to assert ourselves even more,” said Turner, who did not discuss details about the size of Wasserman’s golf business.
Wasserman’s “doubling down” comes at a time when the agency landscape in golf is changing.

The longtime leader in the space, IMG, is going through changes that have many in the industry wondering where the company’s golf division is headed. In the past year, IMG has parted ways with three longtime key players: Mark Steinberg, Bart Kendall and most recently its co-chief of IMG Golf Americas, Jon Wagner.

CAA Sports, like Wasserman, charged into golf last year with the addition of former USGA executive Pete Bevacqua and the October acquisition of MG Sports, which immediately gave it a deep stable of consulting clients in the sport.

GMR Marketing, another agency that has played on the fringe of golf, also has expressed an interest in moving deeper into the space. GMR is scheduled to host an industry party during The Players Championship this week as a way of proclaiming its desire to do more in golf.

“There is a significant opportunity right now in the agency space for somebody to take advantage of these changing times,” said Tom Knapp, senior vice president at Golf Channel. “There’s no question the sphere of influence has shifted.”

Wasserman’s Turner said the move to a specific golf division follows the successful model the agency created for action sports and soccer.

“We have a very strong core foundation within [player] management and consulting, but we believe there is a lot of room for growth in other areas,” said Turner, who cited media rights, events, licensing and unique content as areas where Wasserman Golf will forage for new business. “As we build our team, we’re also going to be active in exploring growth opportunities internationally.”

One event already is emerging from the broader focus. Wasserman will manage the new Suzann Pro Challenge, a four-player event in Oslo, Norway, in September. Wasserman is selling the title sponsorship and other sponsorship packages. Proceeds from the event will benefit Right To Play, an international humanitarian organization for disadvantaged children. Tournament host Suzann Pettersen is an ambassador for the nonprofit.

“We expect a variety of business development initiatives to grow out of this new structure,” Turner said.

The projected growth in events, media rights, content and other lines of business is intended to take Wasserman Golf beyond its core strengths in consulting and player representation.

Wasserman’s golf practice was built primarily through the acquisition of Gary Stevenson’s OnSport in 2007 and SFX’s agent business last year, giving it a stronghold in consulting and player management. Through the SFX acquisition, Wasserman brought about 20 new employees on, and three new positions have been created and filled in the last month in New York.

Wasserman continues to build out the practice by realigning certain executives internally and making “both strategic and opportunistic hires,” the agency said.

The consulting business in golf — clients include Northern Trust, Nationwide, Travelers and American Express, among others — used to roll into the larger Wasserman consulting practice. Similarly, the agency’s golfers — Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, Kyle Stanley, Zach Johnson and more — formerly rolled into the larger athlete representation portfolio.

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