IMG restyles European operations
More signs of IMG’s restructuring in the aftermath of the $2.4 billion acquisition by William Morris Endeavor are becoming evident in Europe, where the company is reshaping its operations amid the departure of three senior executives.
IMG veteran Andrew Wildblood, who has been IMG’s day-to-day contact with Wimbledon and other properties abroad, is negotiating his departure from the company. Wildblood, an executive vice president, has been at IMG since 1989.
This comes after Jeff Slack, formerly IMG’s senior vice president of global football in London, left in September to join TOK.tv, a Palo Alto, Calif., company that creates voice-operated second screens and apps. Slack opened TOK.tv’s first London office. Also leaving was Tom Harrison, a Singapore-based senior vice president for IMG Media, who recently became CEO of the England and Wales Cricket Board.
WME/IMG confirmed the departures.
WME is in the process of evaluating IMG’s businesses as its seeks to cut $150 million in expenses. One of its first major steps was to realign events and media into one London-based division. The company also closed an IMG office in Zurich.
Among the personnel changes, Wildblood’s departure would seemingly have the biggest effect on IMG’s relationships with Wimbledon. But Wildblood might be best known overseas for developing the company’s business in cricket, especially in India, throughout the 1990s.
More recently, he has been IMG’s direct business contact with the All England Club, which hosts Wimbledon. He also worked with IMG Vice Chairman Alastair Johnston on the R&A, the U.K.’s counterpart to the U.S. Golf Association and organizer of the British Open.
Wildblood and IMG already have agreed to part ways and are working on the timing of his departure.
In his absence, IMG’s senior leadership team in London will oversee the relationships with Wimbledon, led by Rupert Hampel. He’s the managing director of European Tour Productions, a joint venture between IMG Media and the European PGA Tour. Johnston will continue to lead IMG's relationship with the R&A.
IMG’s London office is being run by Ioris Francini, president of the recently restructured U.K.-based events and media division.
Michel Masquelier chairs the division, and Sam Zussman, who formerly oversaw IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., works with them in London. Zussman joined the events and media team in the summer, prompting the move to London.
Both Wildblood and Slack were instrumental in IMG’s joint ventures in India and China for basketball, soccer and other events. Those roles are being backfilled by IMG executives.
Slack came to IMG in 2009 from Wasserman Media Group. Before that, he was chief executive of soccer club Inter Milan.
Vice president Andy Knee will now oversee the business in India, specifically the recently launched Indian Super League in soccer. Jason Hughes, another vice president, has taken charge of the joint venture in China, which operates soccer, tennis and other events.
They are part of a broader management team working with Zussman and WME/IMG’s chief operating officer, Jason Lublin. Zussman and Lublin together oversee the joint ventures.
The restructuring in Europe has led to some personnel shake-ups since WME’s acquisition in January, but not a drastic reduction in IMG’s presence.
At the time of the purchase, IMG had 21 offices in Europe. That number now stands at 20. IMG is closing its office in Zurich and relocating that business to a new office in Munich.
Licensing and corporate activities from Cologne will join the fashion team in Berlin, while the media and business development teams in Cologne will go to the new office in Munich.
The events and media group in Paris will join the IMG models team in a new, larger location in the city.
The only tangible business casualty overseas since the WME/IMG merger has been the Spengler Cup, which will reach the end of its deal with IMG this year. The event, an ice hockey tournament held each December in Davos, Switzerland, was managed out of IMG’s now-defunct Swiss office.