Rory McIlroy made official Friday what has been known in the golf world for several months: The former world No. 1 began his own management company to handle his affairs.
The company, called Rory McIlroy Inc., has an office in Dublin, Ireland. Donal Casey will be CEO of the new operation. Casey is an actuary by trade and, according to a press release on the news, has been a CEO at several different companies. McIlroy’s father, Gerry, will be on the board of Rory McIlroy Inc., as will Casey and Barry Funston, who will run McIlroy’s charitable foundation.
McIlroy shocked the golf world in May when he subtly acknowledged rumors that he would be leaving Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management and its principal Conor Ridge. Ridge, along with Horizon client, good friend and countryman Graeme McDowell, recruited McIlroy to Horizon from Chubby Chandler’s International Sports Management in October 2011.
The Friday announcement makes official McIlroy’s second stunning management change in less than two years. What does it say about Rory McIlroy, the businessman and person?
1. The Tiger Woods model was a McIlroy influence
Many wondered about the odd timing and basis of the relationship between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy when it began surfacing publicly in 2012, but it’s pretty clear it came from a place of mutual understanding. Both players were young phenoms who made enormous splashes inside and outside the sport of golf, giving each an empathy for the other that few could ever have.
Woods likely imparted a lot of wisdom on McIlroy, providing counsel on how to handle all things superstardom. Management could have been one of those topics — one Woods has handled masterfully and efficiently since turning pro in 1996.
Woods has two corporations that manage his affairs, both bearing some derivative of his name: ETW and GTW Corp. Those corporations are separate from his management relationship with Mark Steinberg, now running the golf unit at Excel Sports Management.
McIlroy also borrowed from the model of Masters winner Adam Scott, who has had his father somewhat involved with his personal, unaffiliated management team for years.
2. McIlroy sees a much brighter business future alone
Horizon Sports Management will seek legal damages from McIlroy in upwards of $35 million, according to reports. McIlroy is being represented in Irish court proceedings by A&L Goodbody in Dublin.
Horizon is obviously looking for fees to be paid for helping Rory land deals with Nike Golf and Bose. Horizon was instrumental to both.
While McIlroy certainly cannot expect an Irish court to grant Horizon the full damages they seek, he has to feel that being out on his own — and not with Horizon to the end of a purported five-year contract — is worth up to $35 million.
3. McIlroy values his personal life and privacy over business opportunities
Bringing his representation in-house — quite literally with his father on the board of Rory McIlroy Inc. — signifies Rory McIlroy feels most comfortable with a tight-knit group. He wants to be a part of a small, well-trusted clique, which includes his parents, girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki and the folks he has now entrusted to run Rory McIlroy Inc.
McIlroy has said several times this season that he has had difficulty balancing playing professional golf, preparing properly for tournaments, spending time with family and Caroline, establishing his footing in the United States and — and here’s the kicker — managing commitments to new sponsors.
The former world No. 1 can’t and doesn’t want to cut out family or friends, so he wants to limit the influence business has on his calendar.
However, the split with Horizon may have had some impact on his friendship with countryman Graeme McDowell. McDowell was married over the weekend to Kristin Stape, and McIlroy was not in attendance. Back in June, McIlroy said their relationship was as good as it had ever been. Again, it seems a sponsor commitment, this time to Nike, may have gotten in the way of a fun day.