SBJ/Aug. 18-24, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Pyne leaving IMG, looks to launch company

George Pyne is leaving IMG to start his own sports and entertainment business.

The senior IMG executive has hired Allen & Co. to assist in raising $500 million to fund a limited liability company that will acquire sports, entertainment, media and lifestyle businesses. The investment bank is in the early phases of fundraising, and it’s unclear when Pyne’s new venture will launch.

George Pyne has been at IMG since 2006.
Photo by: IMG

Pyne, who is currently president of IMG Sports & Entertainment, will remain a senior adviser to the company and a shareholder in WME-IMG.

“I have no plans to compete with IMG,” Pyne said. “I love the company, and I really like [co-CEOs] Ari [Emanuel] and Patrick [Whitesell]. I look forward to working with them for years to come.”

In a joint statement, Emanuel and Whitesell said, “George has been a true partner to us these past few months and we’re grateful for all he has contributed to the company and our industry as a whole. We look forward to working with him in this next chapter.”

Pyne signed an agreement in May to stay with IMG through the end of the year, but he began discussions this summer with Emanuel and Whitesell about leaving earlier than he planned. He moved forward with efforts to raise money this month to start his own company.

Pyne has been interested in becoming the head of a company for several years. He hoped to become CEO of IMG in 2011 after the company’s late chairman and CEO, Ted Forstmann, was diagnosed with brain cancer. The CEO position instead went to Mike Dolan.

After the company was sold to WME last year, Pyne remained interested in a CEO role with IMG, but Emanuel and Whitesell took responsibility for leading the combined companies and didn’t fill the vacant CEO position at IMG after Dolan left the company in May to become CEO of Bacardi Limited.

The fund Pyne is raising will allow him to build and lead his own business.

“After working in the business for 20-plus years, this is the next logical step,” Pyne said. “I had a great run at NASCAR. I had a great run at IMG. I want to acquire, own and operate businesses, recruit and lead talented people and develop a culture and business that reflects my values and what I’ve done over time. This is a great opportunity for me.”

Pyne’s departure comes six months after WME closed its $2.4 billion acquisition of IMG. The company, which funded the acquisition with $2 billion of debt, outlined an aggressive cost-cutting plan for IMG that called for eliminating $151 million in costs in the first 18 months of ownership.

In addition to Pyne, WME-IMG Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein and David Abrutyn, IMG senior vice president of consulting, have left the company.

The company has offset those departures by hiring former Microsoft and General Motors CFO Chris Liddell and former Turner sales executive Greg D’Alba as head of global sales. But it doesn’t plan to fill Pyne’s position.

Pyne has been with IMG since 2006 when Forstmann recruited him to lead the company’s sports and entertainment businesses. Those business units, which include consulting, IMG Academy, licensing and client representation, earned $119 million last year.

Forstmann and Pyne built IMG’s college business by acquiring Host Communications, Collegiate Licensing Co. and ISP. The acquisitions helped consolidate the college business and created a new division at IMG that earned $66 million last year.

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