Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 2

Marketing and Sponsorship

Jim Pyne, the brother of IMG Sports & Entertainment President George Pyne, is taking legal action against IMG, alleging that it owes him millions of dollars in commission for a sponsorship he sold last year.

Jim Pyne was a vice president at
IMG College until late last year.
An IMG spokesman said, “The matter is in litigation. Therefore, we’ll have no comment.”
Jim Pyne didn’t return phone calls or emails seeking comment.

According to multiple sources familiar with the dispute, Jim Pyne claims he is owed as much as $6 million in commission on a sponsorship IMG College sold UPS last year. When IMG closed the UPS deal late last summer, the company’s college division called it the largest college sports sponsorship ever, a four-year pact that included rights across 68 colleges, reportedly worth $100 million. The exact amount Pyne, who played a central role in the agreement, claims he is owed could not be confirmed. Standard sales commissions are approximately 10 percent in the sports business industry.

Pyne, who was vice president of national sales at IMG College, left the company abruptly late last year with no public explanation. The circumstances surrounding his departure have since been much discussed among sales and agency executives.

Documents relating to the litigation could not be found. It’s possible the case could be under seal.

Having it sealed would not come as a surprise to Christopher Chase, an attorney with Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, New York, whose sports clients include the NHL and Dunkin’ Donuts, a large sports sponsorship buyer. Chase said, “You are looking at a case where someone’s looking for what they believe is fair compensation, which means there will be information about pricing that might not otherwise become public.”

Chase said that while he had no specific knowledge of this case, in his experience, mediation and arbitration, both binding and non-binding, are more typical in compensation disputes.

Former IMG employee Rob Prazmark, the founder of 21 Marketing, said he had a complex contract with the company that included a dispute resolution clause. He said that the company took employment contracts seriously and frowned upon employees who disputed areas of their contract.

“It’s a spider web of legality and it’s filled with catch-22s,” said Prazmark, who left IMG in 2006. “The company defends the position it takes with an employee because, if it didn’t, it would set a precedent that would allow floodgates to open for things that would be harmful for IMG, like agents leaving with people or property.”

Prazmark pointed to the recent case of former IMG agent Matthew Baldwin. The coaches agent left IMG in 2010 to join CAA and filed a lawsuit seeking a court order invalidating his non-compete and non-solicitation agreements with IMG. But IMG countersued in Ohio. The lawsuits were settled, but Baldwin ultimately left CAA.

Jim Pyne joined IMG in 2008, two years after his brother was named president of IMG Sports & Entertainment, and worked as director of corporate partnerships for the Southeastern Conference, which IMG represents. He transitioned to national sales at IMG College in 2010, and his most noteworthy deal was the UPS sponsorship.

Prior to joining IMG, he worked in management consulting at the Elevation Group of Companies. He’s also a former NFL offensive lineman who played eight seasons in the NFL.