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Legends Behind the Lens: Mark McCormack

29/05/2020

Legends Behind the Lens: Mark McCormack One of the industrys all-time businessmen painted a prosperous future for sports on television By Brandon Costa, Director of Digital

Friday, May 29, 2020 - 12:00 pm

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Story Highlights

The story of American sports television is engrained in the history of this nation, rising on the achievements of countless incredible men and women who never once appeared on our screens. During this pause in live sports, SVG is proud to present a celebration of this great industry. Legends Behind the Lens is a look at how we got here seen through the people who willed it to be. Each weekday, we will share with you the story of a person whose impact on the sports-television industry is indelible.

Legends Behind the Lens is presented in association with the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame and the SVG Sports Broadcasting Fund. In these trying times - with so many video-production professionals out of work - we hope that you will consider (if you are able) donating to the Sports Broadcasting Fund. Do so by visiting sportsbroadcastfund.org.

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One of the world's most successful sports businesses started with a handshake.

Mark McCormack was a 29-year-old Cleveland lawyer looking to get a startup business off the ground in 1960. Seeing the rising value of athletes in the budding television age, he pursued the opportunity to represent and maximize the earnings of golfers, and, needing to make a big splash, he eyed one of the game's emerging superstars, an old college opponent from Wake Forest named Arnold Palmer.

[McCormack] asked for a contract. I said, We don't need a contract. We'll just shake hands, and you've got a client,' Palmer said in a 2004 interview with Businessweek. That kind of shook him up a little, but he did it.

Superagents are as much of a part of sports these days as coaches and game plans. McCormack essentially invented the field of sports marketing as the founder and CEO of International Management Group (IMG), which today is the world's largest athlete-representation firm and the largest independent producer of sports-television programming and distributor of sports-television rights.

Without Mark and without his vision, there's no way that IMG would be where it is, says Sandy Montag, senior corporate VP of IMG Sports and Entertainment, who joined the company in 1985. He truly was way ahead of the industry.

Born in Chicago in 1930, McCormack always loved sports. He was only 6 years old when he was struck by a car and suffered a fractured skull that kept him from being able to play contact sports as a child. So he gravitated towards golf, which quickly became his passion, and he played collegiately at the College of William and Mary, qualifying as an amateur for the U.S. Open in 1958.

After his undergrad years, McCormack spent time in the U.S. military before acquiring a law degree from Yale and working as a lawyer at a Cleveland law firm. He was drawn back to the sports world when he reconnected with Palmer. Shortly after the famous handshake, IMG added two more superstars in Jack Nicklaus and South African Gary Player, completing what was affectionately referred to around the industry as The Big Three.

A Global Vision

Aggressively promoting the Big Three led to a dramatic increase in each golfer's exposure and value while launching IMG as a corporate superpower. McCormack's foreseeing a global sports industry made IMG a pioneer institution.

The company expanded into tennis, acquiring such big names as Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors - for whom he arranged a series of matches throughout China. Throughout his career, McCormack represented athletes across numerous sports - Pele, Charles Barkley, Monica Seles, Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods - while coordinating special projects for global leaders, such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Pope John Paul II.

He never became just an administrator or a CEO that just pulled the strings and told people what to do, says Bob Kain, a founding member at IMG who spent 31 years at the company. He always kept a few of his own projects, and, up until the end, he would still call me to brag about a deal that he did. It was, like, Mark, you don't have to prove to me that you know how to sell, man!' He was always earning his stripes; he never just wanted to be the overhead guy.

Changing the World of Broadcasting

McCormack also took advantage of the burgeoning television industry, becoming one of the first to truly utilize the marriage of sports and TV to its fullest potential.

Mark McCormack was a genius, said Barry Frank, Executive Vice President, Media Sports Programming at IMG. Mark realized that in order to capitalize on the value of his big-name clients that television was the main outlet for this kind of growth.

To tap that market, McCormack started a television division at IMG called Trans World International. It has grown into the largest independent producer, packager and distributor of sports programs in the world. Some of its most popular programming includes Big 3 Golf, American Gladiators, and Battle of the Network Stars, as well as shows promoting Barclays Premier League soccer, the ASP Tour, and World's Strongest Man competitions.

Mark McCormack was a genius. Mark realized that in order to capitalize on the value of his big-name clients that television was the main outlet for this kind of growth. Barry Frank

Trans World International also negotiated television rights deals for the All England Tennis Club, the British Open, the NFL, Major League Baseball, and the NBA.

Mark's vision of where broadcasting was going to go was just light years ahead of any one else, Peter Smith, Senior Vice President, Director International Sales at IMG. I asked Mark for a job definition
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2020/05/29/legends-behind-the-lens-mark-mc...
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