Friendly Buyer to Purchase IMG


There is a shift occurring in the tectonic plates of the power structure of golf. And Vijay Singh is right at the epicenter.
No, were not talking about Singhs recent ascendancy to the top of the Official World Golf Rankings. Were talking about the fact that Singhs long-time pro-am partner, Wall Street leveraged buyout king Teddie Forstmann, has agreed to purchase the International Management Group for a reported price of more than $700 million.
IMG, which represents Singh, Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam and many other prominent athletes inside and outside golf, has been without a chairman since the death of its founder, Mark McCormack, in May of 2003.
Forstmann and McCormack were friends and sources say that friendship factored into Forstmanns fund group, Forstmann Little & Co., winning the highly-competitive bidding war for IMG. It should be noted that IMG is not a publicly held company and this was not a hostile takeover.
In fact the early reports at IMG are that the arrival on the scene of Forstmann will be for the better. IMG employees received a copy of the press release announcing the purchase attached to a cover memo informing them, basically, that this was a good thing.
The assumption is that he (Forstmann) will be chairman and remain chairman as long as he owns the company, said an IMG source.
Forstmann, 64, is taking pains to point out that he will continue to run Forstmann Little. My professional responsibility is to make a return for investors, he told Reuters. But theres no rule against having a good time while youre doing it. And I expect to have a very good time with these guys (IMG).
Singh and Forstmann are partnering this week at the dunhill links Championship in Scotland. Forstmann is also expected to attend the Champions Dinner next week at the HSBC World Match Play Championship at the Wentworth Club in Surrey, England.
And oh-by-the-way, IMG runs the World Match Play.
The long term effects of Forstmann on IMG arent completely clear. But his golf background has everybody breathing a little more easily. Comfort is also being taken from the fact that Forstmann Little enlisted the services of Gleacher & Company, an acquisitions advisory firm, to dot the Is and cross the Ts on the acquisition. Eric Gleacher, the companys head, is a former college golfer and USGA secretary.
In any event, its suddenly amusing to certain individuals in golf that Singh is more likely to have his phone calls returned by the top guy at IMG than Woods is.
The fact of the matter is that Alastair Johnston and Robert Kain, IMGs current co-chief executives, will continue to run the day-to-day business of the company. To the extent that Forstmann will have influence, it will be on decisions to grow the company and determine new directions.
Depending on how seriously he takes that charge, and how much he applies his contacts in the business world, Forstmann could one day become one of the two or three most powerful figures in golf.
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