Mark Steinberg Leaves IMG, Expected To Take Tiger Woods With Him
Mark Steinberg, the longtime agent of Tiger Woods, has left IMG, where he headed the golf division, and Woods is expected to leave with him. "Mark Steinberg is no longer employed by IMG," IMG Senior VP/Corporate Communications Jim Gallagher said in a brief interview last night. He declined further comment. Steinberg's deal with IMG expired on June 30, but he was free to talk with other agencies starting on June 1, sources said. One source said, "They have mutually decided to part ways." Another source, however, disputed that, saying, "There was nothing mutual about it." It is not clear if Steinberg will join another agency or start his own firm. Because he was not yet free to talk to other agencies and sources said he abided by his contract, he may not know what interest there is from other agencies to hire him. Woods, as well as fellow longtime client Annika Sorenstam, are expected to go wherever Steinberg decides to go. IMG issued a press release stating that its global golf business would now be run by Senior VP/European Golf Operations Guy Kinnings and Senior VP/Asia Pacific Golf Operations Robbie Henchman. IMG Vice Chair Alastair Johnston will oversee the business of the division (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).
NEGOTIATIONS ON NEW DEAL BROKE DOWN: The AP's Doug Ferguson cites sources as saying that Steinberg was "negotiating a new deal with IMG on Tuesday when talks broke down." At a press conference earlier yesterday, Woods said, "I'm committed to both, with IMG, and Mark's my agent. It's been a great relationship." Ferguson noted if Woods "were to leave IMG and stay with Steinberg, it likely would not make much of a difference in his golf schedule or even his endorsements, as Steinberg did most of that work" (AP, 5/24). IMG sources indicated that Woods and Sorenstam "will leave IMG and go with Steinberg." But Sorenstam's husband, Mike McGee, said last night, "We just heard about this tonight and don't know what we will do" (GOLFWEEK.com, 5/24). Golf Channel's Gary Williams notes the relationship between Woods and IMG Chair & CEO Ted Forstmann is "apparently not very close," and if it is considered that Woods "has been with Mark Steinberg since 1999, and if you consider the last 18 months, my inclination is that ultimately he will go with Mark." Golf Channel's Erik Kuselias: "If Mark's been his guy, you go with your guy. You don't stay with the company" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 5/25).
NOT AS SURPRISING AS IT SEEMS: GOLF WORLD's Ron Sirak wrote, "Two recent developments make the departure of Steinberg less surprising than it would have been even two years ago." The first is the "scandal involving Woods' personal life." While Woods has said that "no one in his inner circle knew about his infidelities, that was hard to believe for several reasons." More recently, Forstmann was diagnosed with a brain tumor. When his Forstmann Little Inc. purchased IMG for $750M in '03, it was assumed that it was "doing so in order to turn the company over at a profit." Forstmann "streamlined the company, laying off people and jettisoning unprofitable divisions, but had yet to sell it before his illness forced him to step aside as head of IMG." Sources also indicated that Forstmann and Woods "were not close." Sirak wrote the "departure of Steinberg -- and the assumed departure of Woods -- clears up that matter from hanging over any impending sale." If Forstmann Little "wants to sell IMG, it now can do so with the knowledge that Woods will not be part of the deal" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 5/24).