Golfer Rory McIlroy's departure from Int'l Sports Management for Horizon Sports Management "can't be disguised as anything other than a huge blow to ISM, after an incredible year in which their players won three majors," according to Karl Macginty of the BELFAST TELEGRAPH. It is understood that McIlroy believed ISM's Chubby Chandler had too many top names on his roster." McIlroy also thought "more could be made of his 'brand,' and hence increase his revenue supply." A source said that Chandler had been "busily assembling McIlroy's own 'board of directors' to keep tabs on his sponsorship deals and career plan." McIlroy had "personally chosen Dermot Desmond, the Irish financier who is the majority shareholder of Celtic, as the chairman" (BELFAST TELEGRAPH, 10/23). In London, Peter Dixon writes for Chandler, McIlroy's departure "was a particularly hard blow and one that came out of the blue." Chandler reportedly said, "I don’t know whether it was his girlfriend (Caroline Wozniacki, the world No 1 tennis player) getting in his ear or someone else, but I thought we were doing a pretty good job to be honest and I think that’s how the outside world saw it." Chandler added six weeks ago, McIlroy had told him he "was not happy with his brand, sponsors, website or his public relations image." Chandler said, "I thought we were sorting things out to his liking. I was shocked" (LONDON TIMES, 10/23). Golf.com Exec Editor Charlie Hanger wrote McIlroy's defection "must be a real blow to Chubby and ISM." Hanger: "Losing the guy with arguably the most upside and marketing potential in the game is going to hurt bottom line" (GOLF.com, 10/23). ISM client Lee Westwood in a tweet wrote McIlroy's move was "bizarre." Fellow ISM client Darren Clarke said, "I didn't see this coming. I thought Chubby was doing a great job for him" (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 10/24).
SOMETHING'S NOT RIGHT: YAHOO SPORTS' Jonathan Wall wrote, "There's clearly something going on within Chubby's stable of golfers." Ernie Els "departed ISM last month for ProsInc, and with McIlroy walking away, the group has now lost two of its biggest names" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/21). In Ireland, Dermot Gilleece wrote McIlroy has been "looking increasingly out of place in an organisation which seemed to thrive on a beer-swilling, big-spending image." Gilleece: "The challenge now for the Irish agency is to retain the intimacy which made it so appealing in the first place." One reason for McIlroy's departure "being floated in golf circles was that the Manchester company had become a victim of its own success" (Irish INDEPENDENT, 10/23). SI Golf+ contributor Stephanie Wei believes close friend Graeme McDowell, who is also repped by Horizon, "had a lot to do" with the move." Wei: "I've also sensed a bit of tension between Rory and [Westwood], even though Chubby claimed they were the best of friends." SI's Adam Shipnuck: "This is like early-period Tiger, when he fired a bunch of people before getting the business side of this career in order. It shows a certain ruthlessness by Rory, which is probably necessary" (GOLF.com, 10/23).
NOT QUITE GONE: In London, Oliver Brown noted McIlroy's "lucrative sponsorship deals negotiated during his four years at ISM run until 2015 and must continue to be honoured," and Horizon "cannot expect to start maximising their star client’s commercial value until 2016 at the earliest." Under the terms of his relationship with Santander, the Spanish bank "will continue paying ISM a share of to £1 million annually for the next four years." McIlroy's contract with Audemars Piguet, the "luxury watch manufacturer, runs until 2014, while his three-year deal with Dubai-based Jumeirah Group "was signed only last year." ISM also "brought in the sponsorship of Oakley, Footjoy and Titleist" (London TELEGRAPH, 10/23). Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte reported McIlroy "was not happy with his brand, his sponsors and/or his public relations." Rosaforte: "But if you look at him on-screen now, the guy looks like a NASCAR driver. He’s got logos head to foot. ... When you sign all those deals, there are obligations involved too. It’ll be interesting to see where all this goes from a brand standpoint” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 10/24). Meanwhile, in London, Derek Lawrenson wrote, "While Chandler licks his wounds, McIlroy's new manager, Conor Ridge, can reflect on the biggest coup imaginable" since he "set up his business five years ago when he poached Graeme McDowell from Chandler" (London DAILY MAIL, 10/22).