For years, Mark Steinberg was the most powerful golf agent in the game as he led IMG's global golf business. On Monday, the biggest free agent in the sports agency world told CNBC he was joining New York-based Excel Sports Management as a partner.
Steinberg, who left IMG as the head of its global golf business last month, will bring his top client Tiger Woods with him, as non-compete clauses in his contract allowed.
It is not yet known whether he will bring the other client he was permitted to take with him, Annika Sorenstam. Sorenstam's business manager Mike McGee told CNBC that no final decision been made.
Until April of this year, Excel was a strictly basketball agency, representing the likes of Paul Pierce, Kevin Love, Kemba Walker, Deron Williams and Blake Griffin, among others. Then Casey Close, the CAA agent who represents Derek Jeter and Ryan Howard, joined the agency to establish its baseball division.
"I've known Jeff and Casey for close to 20 years," said Steinberg, who spent his entire two-decade career with IMG. "We grew up in the business together and I truly felt Excel was a perfect fit. We intend to be a multi-sport agency that is an ideal destination for top clients and corporations."
As a partner, Steinberg will share in the firm's success. IMG will continue to reap some of the commissions from Woods' endorsement deals from the likes of Nike and EA Sports for a limited period of time.
Steinberg did say that Woods himself has no financial piece in the venture.
Now the question is what will be the business future of his now lone client, who has sat out both the US Open and this upcoming week's British Open due to injury?
Woods still hasn't recovered, both on and off the course from his infidelity scandal. While the Electronic Arts game that bears his name has been selling extremely well, his biggest endorsement with Nike has suffered.
Woods hasn't won since the Australian Masters in November 2009 and Nike hasn't really brought him back in the market fold. The Nike golf was down four percent this past year, though Nike president Charlie Denson told CNBC two weeks ago that it had more to do with the lack of ability to do much business in golf-crazy Japan.
That's where Woods picked up his first post-scandal endorsement deal a few weeks ago, signed a deal with sports pain rub Vantelin.
In order to be an asset to Excel, Steinberg must be able to recruit new business. He said he didn't think the recent troubles with Woods' would hurt his ability to do so.
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