Earlier today (Monday), Tiger's agent Mark Steinberg, former head of IMG Golf, announced that he would be joining Excel Sports Management. Here's our conversation.
Darren: Why Excel?
Steinberg: I spent a lot of time thinking about it and it was just a great fit. You know, since May 24th, I’ve had an opportunity to give considerable thought, my wife and I spent a lot of time talking about it.
And I told her, I said, something is going to feel right. There were great opportunities out there, there really were some wonderful opportunities out there and I got to meet some great people but this was the right fit. I’ve known [agents] Jeff [Schwartz] and Casey [Close] for the better part of 20 years, I got to meet the rest of the staff at Excel, which I like a lot. And its an opportunity to be part of a nimble, agile company with enormous growth potential and where my vision is going to mean something.
Darren: What does it mean that Tiger came with you?
Steinberg: I’m very fortunate that Tiger made the announcement that he did several weeks ago saying I’m gonna stick with Mark. Tiger and I have been through a lot together, ups and downs, and have had a very strong working relationship and he knows how I like to run his business and I know how he likes his business runs. So I don’t think there were any real surprises that he and I were going to stay together because of everything we’ve been through and how strong that bond is so I didn’t really ever think about life without him, I was always very fortunate that I was in a position where we would continue to work together for the long haul.
Darren: What can having Tiger do to Excel's business?
Steinberg: I think our partnership, our collective partnership with Jeff, Casey and I, all the clients and everyone else at Excel, I think it’s an exciting dynamic. I think there’s a lot we can build on together. I think there’s a lot of ancillary business we can do together because of the synergy that we can create together. As I said, it’s a very agile company, 14 employees, and you know, clearly a very strong basketball presence, a strong baseball presence, and now a golf presence. It's my goal to build the golf presence similar to how Jeff and Casey have built the basketball and baseball businesses respectively. And I think we have a real good opportunity there and I want people to know that Excel is a destination for not just athletes but for corporations as well.
Darren: Does having Tiger help or hurt recruiting?
Steinberg: It certainly doesn’t hurt, I never really view it that way.
I don’t intend to walk into a room and say sign with Tiger Woods and I. Here’s what Excel has to offer you, here’s what I have done in the past, here is what my track record is, and this is what we’re going to do for you. And I think its going to be a great destination for top level, top line athletes and corporations.
Darren: What's the state of Tiger's business, having not won since November 2009?
Steinberg: His business is still very strong right now. We still have great partnerships. We’re aligning with new companies as we speak, there’s been a recent announcement. I’m hopeful there’ll be an announcement forthcoming by the end of this year, I know the golf bag is a big question and I’m in discussions regularly, active discussions. But the key for us is to find the right partner. I said that 13 and a half years ago with Tiger and I say that right now. The key is finding the right companies and I’m in discussions with the right companies. Is it predicated on Tiger winning? No, I don’t think so. The companies that I have talked to are confident that Tiger is going to come back and win. Right now, the goal is for Tiger to get back on the golf course. And once he gets back on the golf course, I think everything else will take care of itself.
Darren: Is there a discount?
Steinberg: No. When I’m talking to companies, the financial piece of it is just an element. It’s what are they going to do for Tiger from a marketing and PR standpoint, its what’s he going to do for their brand, what’s the time allocation, what’s the global presence going to be, and then it’s the financial component. But the conversations that I’m having from a financial standpoint are similar to what they’ve been in the past.
Darren: And golf being global means more companies to choose from?
Steinberg: Golf is truly one of the global sports. And Tiger is an icon in just about every market around the world. So for the most part, many of his deals have been global in nature, now there’ve been you know isolated instances of regional deals, ie what we’ve done in Japan, and this is the second time we’ve done that in Japan and Kowa has been a fantastic partner and Tiger is such a huge fan of the country of Japan and has a lot of compassion for what happen to them in the past several months. But to answer your question specifically, yeah the fact that golf is such a global sport allows us to talk to global companies.
Darren: Future of his golf game? Is America is ready for the comeback story?
Steinberg: I mean as he has said it quite succinctly in his last press conference, he’s coming back when he is healthy. Too many times in the past he’s come back when he hasn’t been healthy and he’s listening to his body now and I guess that’s what 35 year olds do, they listen to their body. So I think when he gets back on the golf course, he’ll be ready for the so-called comeback story.
Darren: Thoughts on leaving IMG?
Steinberg: I had a great 19 plus years, almost 20 years, and I love the people there I truly do it was home for me for almost 20 years and I miss some of the people there. Ultimately, we had negotiations that went on for an extended period of time and we just couldn’t come to an agreement. And I don’t have any hard feelings. I know there was a lot said on their end but that’s okay there’s no hard feelings. And like i said it was throughout the process I realized that I want to build something again and this platform and excel allows me to build with people that I want to build with.
Darren: Are there enough good golfers to grow the business?
Steinberg: You know Darren, there are so many unique and talented young golfers, golfers of all ages right now. It’s a very deep sport.
What was once top heavy is now a very very deep sport, so while I have some restrictions with IMG that I will not go into. I will certainly abide by those restrictions, there are plenty of opportunities for me with other golfers and other athletes that I plan to try to take advantage of and show them why Excel is the place to be.
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