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Volume 21 No. 2

People and Pop Culture

Annika Sorenstam walked away from competitive golf near the top of her game, but that didn’t mean she planned on retiring. “I think I’m busier now,” she says with a laugh. At 41, Sorenstam is building a business whose breadth could soon rival the empires created by Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, golfers who have thrived as much off the course as they have on it. In her three years away from life as the most dominant figure in women’s golf, Sorenstam has established a line of perfume, a licensing deal with a winery, a financial group and a course-design business, and she’s a fledgling TV star with a regular spot on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive.” Retired? Hardly.

Sorenstam recently talked about her new life juggling business and family with SportsBusiness Journal’s Michael Smith.

The retired golfer is finding the success she enjoyed on the links in a variety of ventures.
Other than being a mom to two children, which aspect of your business takes up most of your time?

SORENSTAM: It depends on the time of year. In the spring and fall, it’s course design. In the fall, a lot of it is the academy. Fall is for the wine — harvest time is very important. And my foundation, that’s really all year ’round. I’m working on something almost every day. The course-design business is overseas, mostly in Asia, so that takes a great deal of time and travel.

How much of this were you doing while you were still playing competitively?

SORENSTAM: I planted the seed for a lot of this at the end of my playing career. Most of the things I’m working on started when my playing days ended. The one exception was the clothing line [with Cutter & Buck]. That started in 2004, 2005, and I was playing in my own collection.

Do you own these businesses or are they mostly licensing deals?

Sorenstam’s foundation is a year-round effort.
SORENSTAM: It’s a little of both. The clothing line with Cutter & Buck is licensing. The winery, I’m a part-owner, but it’s mostly a licensing deal. The financial group is our own with the people I have worked with for years, using my philosophies. The course design is my own and the academy is my own.

Is there a golfer who’s been an especially good role model for you in business life after golf?

SORENSTAM: Oh, sure. If you look at Palmer, Nicklaus, Norman, they’ve all been very successful. When you look at them and what they’re doing, that kind of thing — being competitive from a business standpoint — is what excites me now. … The competitive part of you doesn’t ever go away. When you put your name on something, you’re building a brand. You want everything you touch to be first class because it represents me and I want to make sure we’re delivering something very promising and very inspirational. When people come to the academy, I want them to say, “Wow, this is the best academy out there.” When they drink the wine, I want them to think it’s top notch. … I’m competitive, I want to succeed, and that comes from being the best in something at one time, working hard and setting goals. That’s how I get my competitive fix, and it’s one reason I don’t miss being out there competing anymore.

Come on. Really? You don’t miss playing competitively at all?

On the course:

72 LPGA victories
89 victories worldwide
10 major championships
Inducted into World Golf Hall of Fame
8-time LPGA Tour player of the year

Off the course:

The Annika Academy provides individualized golf instruction and fitness programs.

Annika Vineyards:
A partnership with Northern California-based Wente Vineyards to make a syrah in her name.

Annika Collection: Her own clothing line by Cutter & Buck since 2004.

Annika Fragrance: A signature perfume created by Boston-based SA Fragrances, which also produces a perfume bearing Danica Patrick’s name.

Annika Academy: Offers playing experiences with the golfing great as well as instruction from her swing coach and tips on fitness from her personal trainer.

Annika Financial Group: A financial services company employing her own team of experts on accounting, tax services, planning, bookkeeping and other areas.

Annika Course Design: Five of the seven courses she has designed are based in Asia.

TV: Serves as a weekly co-host on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive.”



SORENSTAM: No, I really don’t. It’s been three years now and I feel like I achieved what I wanted to achieve. Now is the time for other things in life, and my family is No. 1. I had my time. It’s been Annika time. Now it’s time for family and for business.

You and Jack Nicklaus both have very successful course-design operations, but the two of you weren’t selected to build the course in Rio for the 2016 Olympics. How did you take that news?

SORENSTAM: I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t disappointed. I was very disappointed. I thought we had something really good to offer. Jack and I were both very involved in getting golf into the Olympics and for us, this felt like the natural next step. We thought it was a wonderful match. … But after it’s all over, I look back and really enjoyed working with Jack. His knowledge and what he has done is so impressive. It was still a great experience and it’ll be the memory of a lifetime, even though the result was not what we wanted.

You’ve become very active on social media with your blog and Twitter, including posting updates on baby Will after he was born prematurely. How do you try to use those media?

SORENSTAM: The blog [] is a great way to communicate with everybody — my sponsors, supporters, fans, and keeping the media updated. … I’m learning about new media and social media and the best way to use that as communication. But the blog is something I really value and put a lot of time and effort into to make sure it’s updated.

How often do you tweet?

SORENSTAM: Every day, anywhere from two to 20 times a day, depending on what’s going on and the things I want to share. It could be very different from one day to another. I might be at a photo shoot with a sponsor, or we might have the family at Disney. But I do want the followers to get a feel for who I am.

One of the developments in your post-playing career has been more air time on Golf Channel, where you fill in as a host once a week on “Morning Drive.” Are you interested in doing more TV?

SORENSTAM: I don’t do a lot of TV, but I enjoy my short visits on Thursdays to “Morning Drive.” We talk about current topics and players. I have not done any commentating, tournament-wise. I might enjoy working some of the bigger events, maybe the majors, but not as a full-time job.

The National Collegiate Equestrian Association named Margaret Bellville executive director.

The Southeastern Conference promoted Greg Sankey to executive associate commissioner and chief operating officer.

Slippery Rock University hired Torry Rollins as associate athletic director. Rollins was assistant athletic director for business affairs at Southeast Missouri State University.

St. Cloud State University hired Heather Weems as athletic director, effective July 1. Weems was associate athletic director and senior woman administrator at Drake University.


Global Spectrum promoted Keith Vaske to general manager for the Tsongas Center at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and Lance Rosenberg to assistant general manager for the Liacouras Center at Temple University.

Horse Racing
The Stronach Group named Mark Verge chief executive officer. Verge replaces Greg Avioli, who stepped down.


SportsOne hired Courtney Jensen as senior project manager. Jensen was program manager for the Safeway Foundation

U/S Sports Advisors promoted Krissi Edgington to vice president of marketing.

Team Epic promoted Casey Lambersky to associate and Brad Burns to manager in its Atlanta office.

Turner Broadcasting promoted Jenn Toner to vice president of Turner Broadcasting ad sales and sports business communications and hired Nate Smeltz as vice president of Turner sports content communications. Smeltz was director of communications for ESPN.

Competitor Group named Scott Dickey president and chief executive officer, and Chief Financial Officer Steve Gintowt added the role of chief operating officer. Peter Englehart will continue as the company’s chairman and in his role as an operating partner of Falconhead Capital.

NBC Sports Group promoted Brian Nyemchek to vice president of NBC Sports Vertical.

IndyCar promoted Tony George Jr. to director of the Firestone Indy Lights series.

Multiteam Companies
Salvi Sports Enterprises hired Beth Heffernan as general counsel and vice president.

Madison Square Garden Co. promoted Beth Collins to corporate senior vice president of business development.

Mario Vazquez Rana of Mexico resigned from his positions as an IOC member, IOC executive board member, Olympic Solidarity president and Association of the National Olympic Committees president.

Sporting Goods and Apparel
Dancin’ Dogg Golf named Joe Moses vice president of international sales.

Sports Commissions and Tourism Boards

Las Vegas Events named Lisa Motley marketing and digital media specialist. Motley was advertising manager for the Golden Nugget hotel and casino.

Fanatics hired Thomas Baumlin as chief financial officer. Baumlin was a managing director for venture capital firm Two Rivers Capital.

Stats LLC hired Christopher McNally as vice president of strategic activation. McNally was vice president of business development for Queue Marketing Communications Group.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hired Chuck Finder as media relations manager to oversee, among other schools/facilities, its Center for Sports Medicine and Concussion Program.

Executive placement firm Witt/Kieffer opened a sports practice, which consultants Greg Santore and Scott Sette will head up.

Awards and Boards
Hulman and Co. named to its board of directors John Ackerman, Cardinal Equity Partners co-founder and managing director; Jeff Belskus, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and chief executive officer; Mark Miles, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership chief executive officer; and Jim Morris, Pacers Sports & Entertainment president.

People news
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What I Like …

An insight: The most powerful question to ask yourself every day: What would you do if you had no fear?

An influential person in my career: Father Hurley: inspiring high school priest who forced me to decide between debating team and newspaper, which led me to forget the law and dive into journalism.

An out-of-the-box idea: How about a game that takes 150 acres, five hours a day and thousands of dollars a year to play. You’ll never get any good, kids and old women will beat you, and once you play, you’ll think it’s the greatest game ever.

Chairman/Editorial Director,
Golf Digest

What I do: I preach golf to the converted.

Where I'm from: A municipal golf course two blocks from my family’s row home in a part of Philadelphia where it’s good to come from but not to be.

Where I Went to School: Northwestern, including winter quarters without a car.

My First Job: Interned at Golf Digest in 1977 and never left; basically the same job I have now. I always had the freedom to fool around in whatever interested me about golf.

A timeless idea: Handwritten thank-you notes.

A business deal: Signing Tiger Woods as a Golf Digest playing editor 1997-2011; not a bad run.

A sports facility: Augusta National, where chicken sandwiches are still $1.50.
A sports event: Open Championship at St. Andrews, where golf has been played for 500 years.
A strategy: Make your mistakes from moving too fast, not too slow.
A hire: Dan Jenkins in 1984, when Sports Illustrated thought he was done. It turned out, he was only getting started.

A brand: Titleist — built on the pyramid of influence.
A trend: Unleashing magazines on tablets: print goes Hollywood.
A pro league or team business initiative: Golf in the Olympics, Rio 2016.
A story that bears watching: Donald Trump buying golf courses.

What I Like About …

My job: The people I get to hang out with.
Competing: Is 100 percent preparation.

Sports: The rule of law.

Sports technology: NBC Golf simulcast on Golf Channel.

The future of sports business: Interactive cable programming.

Keegan Bradley
Sports fans: Coming out to watch Keegan Bradley.

What I’d Like To …

Change: Making everything more affordable.
Change in what I do: Not have to go through airport security.
See: Tiger win and lose gracefully.
See more of in sports: Famous athletes signing autographs for kids.
See different: Athletes saying what they really mean and not being pilloried by the media who asked the question.
Eliminate: Knee-jerk criticism of golf by pandering politicians.

What I Don’t Like …

In general: Having to park in a state other than the one in which the sporting event is being played.

Pet peeve: Golf commentators named “Sir Nick.”
In sports: Repeating the same TV commercials — except for the ones with the baby who talks like an adult.
In business: Agents who tell you they’ve asked their player when you know they didn’t.
About sports fans: Accepting rudeness and mediocrity.


What I Like …

People: Stealing a Dan Jenkins line, I like people who like me.
That would surprise those who know me: Roulette — I have a system!

Above all else: Fealty … or in the absence of that, chicken scarpariello, which is my electric-chair meal.

Hero: Picasso, because the moment he got good at something, he had the courage to stop doing it and move on.
Player: Arnold Palmer, because he unfailingly treats everyone with grace and humility.
Teams: Wake Forest Deacons, New York Yankees, American Ryder Cup team.
City: Clementon, N.J.

Memento: Merion wicker basket. Believe me, it’s really cool.
Time of year: The Masters through British Open, because outdoors is better than indoors.

Music: Jazz.
Magazines: The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Hemmings.
IPad apps: Instagram, Rue La La, GolfLogix.
Hobbies: Fly-fishing, horse racing.
Movie: “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” (It almost never happened — the filming ended 17 days before Spencer Tracy’s death.)
Artist: Anthony Ravielli, the scratchboard genius who drew Ben Hogan.
Food: Snapper soup at Pine Valley.
Dessert: Macaroons at the Links Club.
Drink: Sam’s Special at Cypress Point.
Car: 1952 Ford F-1 pickup
Aftershave: My father’s “Man About Town” cologne. He’d put it on in the upstairs bathroom, and you could smell it down in the cellar.
Singer: Ella.
Quote: “In crisis management, there’s just four rules: Get it right, get it fast, get it out, get it over. … If you try and eliminate one of those steps, you’ve got troubles.” — Warren Buffett