Leading sports agent McCormack dies aged 72

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The Independent Online

Tiger Woods paid tribute to Mark McCormack, who died yesterday aged 72 without regaining consciousness after a heart attack in January, describing him as the genius "who started it all". As the head of the International Management Group, a company he founded in 1960, McCormack effectively invented the sports agent business.

After doing his first deal with Arnold Palmer on the strength of a handshake, McCormack worked for most of the top sportsmen and women of the last four decades, including the world's current best golfer, Woods, and the Williams sisters in tennis. He represented many other stars of the entertainment business, and even the Pope.

"It's a loss for everybody," said Woods. "He had a genius for sports marketing. He was the one who started it all. Without him we wouldn't be in the position we are now."

Woods added: "I first met Mark when I was 18 or 19. I was playing a practice round at the US Open and he came up and said hello. Mark was very good to my father and I. We had numerous dinners together; it became a British Open tradition."

Ken Schofield, the executive director of the European Tour, said: "His legacy is international sport as we know it. Golf and tennis would have developed without him, but the reality is that they would not have developed as quickly or efficiently without him.

"He was both intuitive and calculating in business," Schofield added. "He followed his instincts but at the same time had the ability to calculate the odds and make sure the table was stacked in his favour. His sheer force of presence was very inspiring. The name and reputation went before him and he was no disappointment in reality. He was larger than life, an icon in our times."

McCormack's death was an issue discussed at family meetings and was known as "The Event". But he had no intention of retiring as chairman and chief executive of IMG despite passing his 70th birthday. The company has 25,000 employees in over 80 offices in 33 countries. The World Match Play Championship at Wentworth, which will be played later this year for the 40th time, was one of his most proud creations.

But, even yesterday at the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open, his legacy was obvious. Two of his clients topped the leaderboard, in Padraig Harrington and Retief Goosen, while Trans World International, a subsidiary of IMG, was broadcasting picture of his most famous client, Woods, all round the world.