On January 31, 2011, IMG Worldwide announced that one of its most loyal and dedicated employees was being promoted to Senior Vice President of Clients. Roughly 3 years and 3 months later, Alan Zucker, also referred to in 2011 as one of IMG’s top sales people, has left the company to begin work for competitor Excel Sports Management. Movement of key individuals within the sports and talent representation industries is par for the course; however, the departure of Zucker from IMG to Excel is notable because of the sheer power that will shift based on Zucker’s departure along with the proximity to a major event in IMG’s life as a corporate entity.
At the end of 2013 it was declared that talent agency William Morris Endeavor (WME) and private equity firm Silver Lake would purchase IMG’s assets for approximately $2.3 billion. While it was understood that today’s IMG is very different from the IMG of the past (with less of a focus on athlete representation), agent Alan Zucker’s relationships with Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Joe Mauer, Matthew Stafford, Maria Sharapova, etc. were notable and worthwhile, since the aforesaid athletes are widely marketable and they often open doors to other revenue generating opportunities. Insiders speculate that the Manning brothers will follow Zucker to Excel, but that Mauer, Stafford and Sharapova will remain IMG clients for the time being.
The news of Zucker’s departure is particularly noteworthy, because it comes in close proximity to what is suggested to be the date that WME and Silver Lake receive final approval to purchase IMG. It has led some insiders to wonder whether Zucker leaving IMG is the beginning of an expected exodus or simply a predicted bump in the road that is bound to occur whenever one behemoth acquires another gigantic corporation. What is certain is that the IMG that WME eventually incorporates into its framework will look very different from the IMG of recent past.
Zucker, a graduate of Florida State University, now heads to Excel Sports Management and joins many former colleagues who worked with him at IMG. Those former IMG employees include Mark Steinberg, Casey Close and Jeff Schwartz.
Steinberg joined Excel in 2011 after meeting with a number of agencies and businesses. He immediately became partners in the venture with Close and Schwartz. Steinberg is widely known for his robust golf representation practice, which includes Tiger Woods as a marquee client.
Close joined Excel only months prior to Steinberg and has been a major catalyst for the rapid growth of Excel’s baseball division. Close represents Derek Jeter and recently experienced an off-season to remember after negotiating multiple extremely lucrative deals for his clients. Those negotiated contracts for players including Clayton Kershaw, Masahiro Tanaka and Freddie Freeman resulted in an estimated total of $700 million over the terms of the respective deals.
Finally, Schwartz is the President of Excel and has overseen his company’s growth from primarily representing some of the top basketball players in the world to now working on behalf of the best athletes in a variety of sports such as baseball and golf. Importantly, Schwartz has built his company by surrounding himself with not only successful people, but individuals he could trust and had grown to enjoy being around after spending much time with them as colleagues at IMG.
Immediately after Mark Steinberg joined Excel Sports Management, Casey Close commented on Steinberg, Schwartz and him coming together and said, “[t]he three of us have worked in parallel paths in our respective sports and I am excited for us to come together to build something very special.” null Alan Zucker will join the crew and certainly add value to Excel’s operation. Meanwhile, WME and Silver Lake have to wonder if Zucker’s departure is the end or merely just the beginning of a diaspora of talent from IMG to other entities.