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Volume 21 No. 6
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Excel’s Schwartz: Day 1

Jeff Schwartz, Casey Close and Mark Steinberg met 22 years ago this summer, when they were starting out in their careers in the sports industry at IMG’s Cleveland headquarters. Schwartz remembers what it was like:

“It was September 1992, and getting a job at IMG was major. IMG was the cornerstone of sports management and marketing, and Mark McCormack was the guy everyone talked about that created the industry with that handshake with Arnold Palmer. 

“I was a lawyer. I thought I wanted to be a lawyer in sports. I was clerking for a federal judge in California, and a friend of mine, just through coincidence, was friends with Wayne Gretzky. Through them I met Mike Barnett [Gretzky’s agent], who ran the [IMG] ice hockey division. And when I tell you I bugged him for a job, I mean I bugged him for a job. And when my clerkship was over, I remember calling him one last time, because I wasn’t getting anywhere with it. And he happened to be in Cleveland, and he said, ‘OK. I’m in Cleveland, when can you be here?’ I happened to be flying to Ohio the next day. It was just a weird coincidence.

“I went in, and they set me up with [former IMG executive] Peter Johnson, and I interviewed with Peter. Nothing happened, and I went to the [Connecticut] law firm [of Cummings & Lockwood] to work, and about three months later I got a call from them. And it still took a long time; it took another year. [I took] a huge pay cut. I accepted the job there: Left the law firm, drove to Cleveland, and I remember my first week there I was walking in a hallway and Mark [Steinberg] was walking the other way in the hallway. We stopped and said, ‘Hello.’ We both had just started. He had just moved from Chicago; I had moved from Connecticut, where I was working at the time. Two new guys; we just hit it off. … 

“Casey came in like three weeks after that. Mark was down the hall one way and Casey was down the hall the other way. We were all young guys in Cleveland. We were all transplants there. So after work we would go out for drinks or go out for dinner or figure out what everyone was doing. We played sports together and hung out on the weekends.”