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MCCORMACK, MARK HUME

MCCORMACK, MARK HUME

McCORMACK, MARK HUME (Nov. 6, 1930 - May 16, 2003) was called "the most powerful man in sports." Beginning in 1960 - when he spotted the underutilized endorsement potential of his friend, golfer Arnold Palmer, his first client -until his death, McCormack became a major figure in sports management and in global sports marketing. He eventually expanded from his base in golf and tennis, into team sports, music, broadcasting, fashion, book deals, and other realms. McCormack's career coincided with the explosion in the popularity of televised sports in the latter decades of the 20th century, a trend that he as much as anyone helped broker and shape. He was founder and chairman of INTERNATIONAL MANAGEMENT GROUP, a billion-dollar sports and entertainment conglomerate, started in Cleveland, representing athletes and other celebrities. As of 2014, IMG, had roughly 3000 employees in 130 offices in 30 countries around the world.

A Chicago native, McCormack was the son of Ned and Grace Wolfe McCormack. His father was a publisher and his mother the daughter of the Commissioner of Public Works in Chicago. His father introduced him to golf. McCormack attended the College of William and Mary where, as a member of the golf team, he got to know fellow competitor Arnold Palmer from Wake Forest University. After graduating from Yale Law School, McCormack began working as a corporate lawyer, with the Cleveland firm of ARTER & HADDEN . Meanwhile he stayed active in golf. He was a good enough player himself to qualify for the 1958 U.S. Open, and, as a sideline, he started a company that arranged golf exhibitions, featuring Palmer and other stars. That led to the 1960 deal representing Palmer with endorsement contracts. From there, McCormack signed the other two members of golf's "Big Three" emerging superstars, namely Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, and his new career as a sports dealmaker and impresario took off.

McCormack's success was based on the idea that top athletes are hugely marketable assets, but typically, and especially at a young age, they and their families need business guidance amid the torrent of big-money contract offers. This is especially true in individual sports, like tennis and golf, where players are not supported by a team structure and are essentially franchises unto themselves. Moreover, McCormack understood that corporations are eager to be associated with - and were willing to pay handsomely - successful sports figures, particularly in sports with appeal to high-end consumers (again, such as tennis and golf).

Over time, IMG expanded considerably from its core business of representing athletes. McCormack's worldwide activities and innovations came to include: tournament marketing, promotion and management; television production and distribution; merchandise licensing of logos; real estate development; corporate tents and billboards at sports venues; the Official World Golf Ranking; golf's World Match Play Championship; and made-for-TV events like the Skins Game. In 1994, Sports Illustrated magazine included McCormack as one of its "40 most significant sports figures of the past 40 years." Posthumously, McCormack was inducted into both the World Golf Hall of Fame and the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

McCormack was also the author of several books, featuring his views on business, marketing strategy, negotiating, and interpersonal relations. Among his better-known titles was What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School.

McCormack was divorced from his first wife, Nancy Breckenridge, in 1986. He later married Betsy Nagelsen, a former tennis player who had been managed by IMG. McCormack was survived by four children: Breck (born 1957), Todd (1960), Leslie (1966), and Mary Elizabeth (1997). He is buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery just outside of Chicago.

By Benjamin O. Sperry