Osaka leaves IMG to launch Evolve Agency with agent Duguid – Sportico.com

Naomi Osaka breaks down barriers since breaking out on the national radar with her 2018 US Open title over Serena Williams. She was the first Japanese tennis player to win the Grand Slam tournament in singles competition, and later the first Asian player to hold the highest rank. In 2020, she used her platform to draw attention to racial inequality and police brutality, and spent most of 2021 discussing mental health.

Another advance: Osaka is gone IMG launch its own sports agency Evolve, which will be styled as EVOLVE.

“I spent my career doing things my way, even when people told me it wasn’t what was expected or traditional,” Osaka said in an email. “Evolve is a natural next step on my path both as an athlete and a business woman, as well as a way to continue to be myself and do things my way.”

Osaka’s contract with IMG owned by Endeavor expired in late 2021, and as she researched the renovation with more flexibility in the type of partnership she can make, it became clear that the renovation would fail. Osaka launched Evolve with its agent Stuart Duguid, who also left IMG. Both will have ownership stakes in the new company, and there are no outside investors at this time.

Duguid led Osaka’s path to becoming the world’s highest paid athlete. She took 20th place Sporticocensus for 2022 world the best paid athletes with $ 53.2 million. Its $ 52 million endorsement revenue is just at the top LeBron JamesRodger Federer, Tiger Woods and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Athletes have left large agencies to strike on their own for decades. Jack Nicklaus left IMG in 1970 to launch Golden Bear. LeBron James launched LRMR for his marketing work in 2006 and entrusted his close friend Rich Paul with his field contracts, while Maverick Carter ran off-site affairs. Roger Federer started Team8 in 2013 with his longtime agent Tony Godsick, while golfer Rory McIlroy started his own company the same year. Rafael Nadal left IMG a year later with his agent Carlos Costa. Kevin Durant and Rich Kleinman founded Thirty Five Ventures in 2016 to manage the business of the four-time scoring champion.

But Osaka is the first athlete at that level to take complete control of her business ventures and try to build an agency.

“I am excited to start this with my business partner Stuart and our plan is to use the same approach we have taken in authentic and strategic building of my business as the vision of this company,” Osaka said. “I firmly believe in the power of athletes who must use our platforms to run meaningful businesses.”

She added that she wants the new agency “to be at the forefront of breaking down barriers that still exist in sports and the wider culture”.

Athletes like James and Osaka don’t need big agencies to open their doors. They are already business conglomerates. These incredibly marketable athletes also pay millions of dollars in commissions as their out-of-competition earnings grow. They often get a 15-20% reduction break that most agencies take on approvals, but bringing everything in-house allows them to build capital in agency work that transcends their athletic careers.

A commission problem has prevented some athletes and their agents in the past from leaving the home ship. Once an athlete and agent leave the agency, commissions on existing contracts are usually subject to complicated and lengthy negotiations, and the current agent often pays a percentage to continue providing services to those partnerships. Duguid declined to comment on his deal with IMG.

The four-time Grand Slam champion definitely follows the LeBron model with her off-field performance. “We have moved a little away from traditional recommendations and are more focused on true ownership partnerships in which we can add value, along with creating our own businesses at the same time,” Duguid said in a telephone interview. “This provides a platform for greater momentum.”

She has stakes in approximately a dozen brand partners, including Hyperice, Sweetgreen, Modern Health, FTX and Autograph, where she was a first investor and advisory board member. Osaka is the founder and CEO of Kinloa, a startup sun care brand. It became available in 2,500 Walmart stores this month. She also has her own swimsuit line, Frankie’s, and sleepwear with Victoria’s Secret.

The 24-year-old recently began working with Alex Cohen as her investment adviser. In 2021, Cohen started his own company, Heights, after more than a decade at Main Street Advisors, where he oversaw private capital and worked with Paul Wachter, the founder of Main Street. Wachter has been instrumental in leading LeBron’s business career and has invested alongside James and Carter in several of their ventures.

Duguid says his relationship with Osaka has shifted over time from an athlete-agent to a more business partnership, and this will be evident in Evolve where they will invest together in businesses, which was not an option at IMG.

Carter and James have invested in each other’s companies, such as sports technology company StatusPRO – Osaka and Drake are also investors. Federer and Godsick offer a blueprint for Osaka. Their partnership has generated more than $ 1 billion in earnings for the 20-time Grand Slam champion. Federer holds a nine-figure stake in ON Running as part of its support agreement, and Team8 is also an investor. The agency has launched and owns the Laver Cup and is considering an offer for the ATP Tour tournament in Cincinnati, according to a tennis insider. It’s in the block and is one of only nine Masters 1000 tournaments.

Duguid is not interested in building Evolve into a large company and says he would probably consider just taking over one or two more clients. More new ventures around Osaka and the agency will be announced soon.

“The core of Evolve is building Naomi’s business from $ 50 million a year to $ 150 million a year,” Duguid said.

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