In 2014, we profiled IMG founder Mark McCormack, once called “the most powerful man in sports” (Sports Illustrated), “the most powerful man in golf” (Golf Magazine) and the “most powerful man in tennis” (Tennis Magazine). After his sudden death in 2003, his second wife, Betsey, inherited the controlling interest. With no management experience, she had to contend with an estimated $200 million of debt, in addition to estate taxes and deep conflicts with her stepchildren.
The sports and media company soon fell into the hands of a leveraged buyout firm, which put an end to IMG’s trademark personal service in the hopes of turning it into a profit machine. And then Ari Emanuel, CEO of the William Morris Endeavor talent agency, showed up on the scene. The notorious Hollywood agent thought to be the inspiration for Entourage’s ruthless Ari Gold has had his sights on IMG for years. WME purchased IMG less than two years ago, and Forbes is already reporting that “A big pile of debt and a challenging business model….are the two bombs inside IMG that appear to be simultaneously exploding.”