Mark McCormack, the sports marketing pioneer who was widely regarded as the most powerful man in sports, died on Friday. He was 72.
The founder and CEO of sports marketing powerhouse IMG had been in a coma after suffering a heart attack in January.
The world’s foremost sports and lifestyle marketing company has a roster that includes sports figures (Tiger Woods and Venus Williams), Hollywood talent (Elizabeth Hurley and Liv Tyler), musicians (Itzhak Perlman) and models (Tyra Banks). But IMG began in 1960 as nothing more than a handshake between McCormack and golfer Arnold Palmer.
Today the Cleveland-based company has 80 offices in 32 countries.
IMG broadcast division TWI is the world’s largest independent producer of televised sports programming and distributor of sports TV rights.
In 1990 Sports Illustrated named McCormack “the most powerful man in sports.” So great was the reach of IMG that in 1991 the London Sunday Times listed him as one of the 1,000 people who most influenced the twentieth century.
McCormack was also a prolific author. His 1984 book “What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School” was a bestseller.
After the popular sports agent movie “Jerry Maguire” came out in 1996, McCormack said people started referring to him as “the original Jerry Maguire.” But he objected to that, at least in part.
“If Jerry Maguire was the stereotypical fast-talking, finger-snapping, always hustling sports agent, I preferred to think of myself as the head of the monolithic, well-oiled sports marketing firm that Jerry left,” McCormack wrote in a June 29, 1999, column that appeared in The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.
The Chicago native said he would never retire and was working when he was stricken.
He is survived by his wife and four children. There will be a memorial for McCormack in New York on Wednesday.