Speculation abounds with Tiger, Steinberg

By Randall MellMay 27, 2011, 1:51 am

With Mark Steinberg’s split with IMG official and with the company’s announcement of a reorganization of its golf division, the focus is now on Tiger Woods.

IMG has confirmed that Woods is free to leave with the agent who has represented him for a dozen years.

But will Woods leave with Steinberg?

“I'm committed to both, with IMG, and Mark's my agent,” Woods said Tuesday before news broke of Steinberg's departure.

If Madison Avenue laid odds, it would heavily favor Woods leaving with Steinberg. While more than one media outlet is reporting Woods will leave, Woods has yet to confirm he’ll do so.

“With most professional athletes, the relationship with their agent is typically a personal one,” says Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor who specializes in sports at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. “It’s a matter of comfort. I don’t know Tiger Woods or what’s going on in his head, but my instinct tells me if he’s comfortable with Mark Steinberg, he’s going to stay with him. They’ve gone through wars together. If he wasn’t comfortable with him, he wouldn’t have stayed with him as long as he has.”

There’s some speculation within the industry that Steinberg could join Creative Arts Agency if he wanted and take Woods with him, but Zimbalist says industry instincts point away from that.

“My guess is that Mark Steinberg feels like he’s a big enough name that he can start his own agency,” Zimbalist said. “I think it’s reasonable speculation he is going out on his own.”

With Woods in tow, Steinberg has considerable options.

Steve Rosner, co-founder of 16W Marketing, which represents Phil Simms, Howie Long, Cal Ripken and Nick Faldo, said Steinberg’s decision likely hinged on knowing Woods would join him before he decided to leave IMG. Rosner sees Steinberg with four options:

1. Steinberg could set up his own sports representation/marketing business with Woods as his star client.

2. He could go into business with Woods, striking out on their own as partners.

3. He could join an established, smaller company where Steinberg could negotiate more freedom and power than he had at IMG and benefit from the company's established resources, or could even negotiate part ownership in the company.

4. He could join another large conglomerate.

“My guess is that at this point in his career, Tiger wants more control of his destiny,” Rosner said.

Rosner isn’t privy to the deals Steinberg negotiated for Woods with IMG, but he said IMG would continue to take a percentage of the deals inked under its umbrella through the life of those contracts, unless Steinberg negotiated specific provisions to the contrary, should Woods leave the company.

If not for the scandal that beset Woods, and now the injuries plaguing him, Steinberg might be striking out on one of the richest ventures in sports representation and marketing history.

As it is, Steinberg may be setting up his own shop with a damaged product with an uncertain future.

CNBC reported that IMG financial records showed that Woods lost between $23 million and $30 million in endorsement income last year. Woods lost Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade and Gillette as sponsors in the wake of personal woes that unfolded in Woods' life late in '09. The Associated Press and CBS Sportsline have reported that Steinberg’s been actively seeking a sponsor for Woods’ golf bag since last fall with no takers yet to his terms. Still, Woods continues to make an estimated $70 million annually in endorsements.

“I don’t think these two are going to go hungry,” said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, in reference to a new Steinberg/Woods venture.

Swangard said he wasn’t surprised by news of Steinberg’s departure.

“I don’t think it really had anything to do with IMG,” Swangard said. “I suspect it’s just Mark Steinberg thinking he has a better way of doing things.”

A better way to manage Woods even with their new challenges.

“While we would describe Tiger as a distressed product, he’s still a premium brand,” Swangard said. “If you were going to strike out on your own with Tiger Woods, you would be able to do some pretty good things. And being on their own, they’re going to be able to do some things they might not be able to do with IMG, possibly push the envelope as sole proprietors of a business, if they wanted, things IMG might be averse to doing, or things that might conflict with businesses that IMG has.”

Of course, Swangard said the reach of a new Steinberg/Woods business would be linked to Woods' success on the course. Woods hasn’t won a tournament in 18 months. The value and extension of current deals with Nike, EA, Upper Deck and other companies depend on Woods’ success on the course. Woods’ knee and Achilles injuries cloud the picture.

Business decisions are no small matters for athletes who resemble small corporations. Trusting a new business model for a successful professional golfer can be as daunting as trusting a new swing. There’s bound to be new demands and challenges for Woods in changing course with so many uncertainties in his game affecting his business.

While Woods is financially set for life, so much of his legacy hinges on the continued success of his brand.

As rich as Woods is, there’s still pressure to win.

As Woods thrives, so do his business partners and the charitable endeavors linked to the Tiger Woods Foundation.

“I think everyone feels he needs to win soon,” Swangard said. “The core brands maintaining associations with Tiger, led by Nike, are dependent on his ability to be a good golfer. If Tiger isn’t the player he was, there’s clear risk in that.”

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMellGC
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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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