Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Rory McIlroy to fire management team and put family in control

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 25: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland is congratulated by his father Gerry McIlroy after his win during the final round of the 2012 DP World Tour Championship on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates on November 25, 2012 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Superstar Rory McIlroy looks set to follow the Woods-Federer model and co-opt closest allies onto a new management team

Suggestions that McIlroy might team up with Tiger Woods and his long-standing business manager Mark Steinberg have, however, been firmly dismissed by insiders.

So, too, is talk of the Holywood native joining one of the major sports agencies like Legardere, who have his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki on their books, or IMG.

Instead, sources reveal the 24-year-old Ulsterman is keen to follow Tiger's example and that set by other sports megastars like Roger Federer in tennis and football's Lionel Messi by choosing to be managed by their closest lieutenants – family and friends.

If Tiger was McIlroy's idol growing up, he aspires to be like Federer, another Nike icon, who has become an international symbol of grace and good taste.

In a recent article in the New York Times about McIlroy's determination to play a proactive role in building his brand image, Karen Crouse wrote: "McIlroy said he discussed the business side of sports management with Federer over dinner in December, while in Brazil to watch Wozniacki."

"He's a role model, someone I can pattern myself after," McIlroy told her. Interestingly, Federer and his long-standing agent Tony Godsick both left IMG last summer and set up on their own.

McIlroy's stock soared as he rose to world No 1 on the back of a second Major title and four other victories last year, leading to three major new global endorsement contracts already in 2013, with Bose, Omega and, of course, Nike, which is reportedly worth $20m-plus a year (£13.07m).

Ridge and the high-powered lawyers and business advisers that consult for Horizon did the spadework on these lucrative deals, but McIlroy did far more than merely sign on the dotted line. He carefully vets each of the many commercial suitors that come to his door.

Meanwhile, McIlroy's decision to switch all 14 of his golf clubs to Nike in one swoosh at the start of the season (Tiger took 10 years to put a full set of Nikes in his bag) gives further indication of the decisive, forceful nature which has helped make McIlroy the man and golfer he is.

Perhaps the greatest example thus far of McIlroy's determination to control his own destiny came in October 2011, when he told Chandler, his agent, manager, mentor and friend during his first four years as a professional, that he'd decided to quit ISM.

At that time, he publicly expressed his thanks to Chandler and his company for "the very important role they played in my success to date."

"I made great progress under their management and for that I will always be grateful," said McIlroy, who had won the US Open, his first Major title, the previous June.

Yet in an interview with Golf.com before the 2012 US Masters, McIlroy intimated that he "felt like the path I was going down (at ISM) wasn't the path I wanted to go down."

By joining his close friend Graeme McDowell on the books at Horizon, McIlroy entered a different environment. Chandler is revered by long-standing clients like Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood for doing business the old-fashioned way ... at Chubby's firm, a friendly handshake was the only contract they wanted.

Horizon are the polar opposite. Every 'i' is dotted and 't' crossed in the contracts drawn up for their clients, with financial and legal matters placed in the hands of internationally respected experts.

For sure, the much-publicised debacle at the Honda Classic – where McIlroy walked off on the ninth hole of a nightmarish second round – caught them on the hop.

Issuing a statement blaming wisdom-tooth pain 45 minutes after the player had told reporters he was not in the right place mentally to compete made a drama out of a crisis.

In-house, Horizon have a team of six people set aside to handle McIlroy's day-to-day affairs, but ironically, by encouraging him to forge a close personal relationship with such distinguished extramural experts, Horizon has actually built a structure for McIlroy which makes it easier for him to move on.

Yet, as with much else in McIlroy's case, he is unquestionably the master in his own domain.

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