Steinberg's Road Ahead

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It may have surprised some when Mark Steinberg parted ways with his longtime employer IMG but it comes as no surprise to anyone that Tiger Woods is “staying with Mark Steinberg” as he announced Monday on Twitter.

Woods’ reason for sticking with his man was simple. “I have total confidence in him,” he said.

In an interview with Steinberg on Monday he told me, “I’m flattered and thrilled that Tiger’s staying with me. We’ve been through a lot together and we plan to do some very big things.”

Woods and Steinberg originally formed a partnership 13 years ago. After Tiger parted ways with IMG’s Hughes Norton in late 1998, a 30-year-old Steinberg impressed the 22-year-old Masters champion on a trial run. The rest is history.

The two men share a sharp business mind and a loyal friendship that could lead to becoming business partners. When asked about the possibility of that scenario, Steinberg told me, “yes, there’s a chance.” But he also stated that he’s “absolutely not convinced” they’ll go out on their own.  

It has been reported that IMG wouldn’t renew Mark Steinberg’s contract because his salary and bonuses (an estimated $3 million) exceeded Woods’ 2010 revenue for the company by roughly $2 million.

“I don’t lend any credence to that,” Steinberg added. “I had 19 1/2 years with (IMG) and I wish them well. We couldn’t come to terms on a new agreement.”

For Steinberg, the opportunities are endless. While working as the head of global golf for IMG and spearheading deals for Woods, he developed one of the golf industry’s most powerful contact list, which should be very handy when he makes his final decision about his future. According to Steinberg, he only began talks with potential suitors five days ago. He said the response he’s received is “eye opening and invigorating.”

There is the possibility of forming a partnership with an established agency. Companies like Creative Arts Agency (CAA) and Wasserman have been rumored to be on that list. When asked if he wanted to work for someone else, Steinberg said, “there’s not a mandate for being my own boss. I’m gathering as much information as possible. I’m doing a lot of listening. At some point, something’s just going to feel right.”

Whatever Steinberg decides, the question is, who else will go with him? His other star client is former women’s world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam. Steinberg said Sorenstam wants to wait to see what decision he makes before she commits to following but he did say she’s “interested.” Sorenstam was one of Steinberg’s first clients at IMG. They joined forces in 1994, a year before her historic victory at the U.S. Women’s Open.

On the subject of Woods’ marketability, Steinberg said, “It remains incredibly strong worldwide. People have moved on from November of 2009.”

When asked to comment on the potential for a new endorsement deal for Woods, Steinberg said, “There’s a lot brewing. A new announcement is imminent. We just want to be fair to all companies and get him healthy again.”

There’s no specific timetable for any official decisions from the Steinberg-Woods camp. Both men are dealing with personal issues. Woods is not playing next week’s U.S. Open and he continues to rehabilitate nagging Achilles and knee injuries. Meanwhile, Steinberg is tending to family matters. His mother-in-law is in the critical stages of a hard fought, two-decade battle with breast cancer. 

There’s no doubt Steinberg has a lot on his plate right now. There’s a lot to balance as his career takes a turn, but it’s a turn that he describes as very exciting.