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VP Heaton latest to leave IMG, joining Excel Sports

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Jon Heaton, a vice president in the golf division of International Management Company (IMG), became the latest to leave the shrinking giant firm. He gave notice July 4 that he would be leaving the company, according to Golfweek.

Heaton, who managed Steve Stricker and Annika Sorenstam for the firm and represented Luke Donald in the U.S., is the latest big name to leave the firm in the last 14 months. Mark Steinberg departed in May 2011. Jon Wagner, a senior vice president, left in May. Vice president Kevin Lynch and Jeff Stacy soon followed.

Heaton is planning to join Steinberg at his current firm, Excel Sports Management.

IMG filed a lawsuit against Heaton in  Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Common Pleas Court on July 6 and obtained a temporary restraining order to enforce a non-compete clause in Heaton's contract.

Heaton is expected to be added to a lawsuit IMG initially filed in May against Wagner asking the same court to bar the departed employee from representing their IMG clients or competing against the Cleveland-based agency at their new firms. Lynch and Stacy were added after they announced their intention to leave.

Pertaining to the Wagner suit, a pre-trial hearing is scheduled for July 10 related to allegations Wagner defied the temporary restraining order placed against him when he was photographed speaking with former client Trevor Immelman at a corporate event at CordeValle near San Jose on the Monday after the U.S. Open.

Sorenstam has told IMG she will remain with the firm, which has shifted its focus to event management over the last decade. Stricker's plans are unknown.

Donald, currently ranked No. 1 in the world, will perhaps be most impacted by Heaton's departure and ensuing legal battle. Sponsorship deals with Mizuno, Titleist and Royal Bank of Canada are all set to expire at the end of the year.

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