A handshake with Arnold Palmer led to the creation of IMG. It also produced thousands of boxes containing letters, memos and other documents that help explain how the late Mark H. McCormack build the largest sports management company in the world.
Todd McCormack describes his father as a “pack rat to the first degree.”
Turns out that’s not such a bad thing.
Those boxes, sitting in a Cleveland warehouse since his death in 2003, have been given to the University of Massachusetts to be used for research and education at the Isenberg School of Management.
“There’s a wealth of knowledge in the entire collection,” said Lisa Masteralexis, the associate professor who helped secure the McCormack archives. “You can see how the man was thinking beyond his books.”
McCormack also was the author of the popular “What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School” series.
That handshake with Palmer in 1960 is what started IMG, and McCormack soon signed Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Bjorn Borg, Chris Evert, Derek Jeter and a host of other athletes and celebrities all the way through Tiger Woods.
Along the way, McCormack kept meticulous records and had a unique way of keeping track of them. They are referred to as the “Chron Files” -- short for chronology -- and include memos, letters, business schedules, agendas and everything else in a certain month and year. Masteralexis said he would send them to his children to read so they could understand the business.
His vast archives will now be housed at the renamed Mark H. McCormack Department of Sports Management at Isenberg in honor of the family’s support. The family also has given $1.5 million to endow an executive-in-residence program and an international partnership program, both named after McCormack.
Just how big is the collection?
Masteralexis estimates up to 48,000 boxes were stored in Cleveland, and the staff will start sorting through them early next year. A big part of the project -- and another reason UMass was selected for the gift -- is to digitize as much as it can through the university’s W.E.B. Du Bois Library.
Some of the files are duplicates -- a memo from May 1974 might also be stored in a file devoted to Palmer. When it all gets compiled, Masteralexis believes it will amount to some 16,000 linear feet of material.
“There will be a museum piece down the road,” said Mark Fuller, dean of the Isenberg School. “There’s also some video, audio and interviews with him, as well as memorabilia. It’s quite an exciting life he lived. Part of the agreement with the family is to pull that all together. Our goal down the road is using this as a platform to educate people around the world.”
McCormack had no connection with UMass. His son contacted the Sports Business Journal with the idea, and it gave him the names of some of the top programs, including the Isenberg School. Instead of splitting up the collection, the various schools submitted proposals.
Fuller described the archives as one of the last examples of a true paper trail, especially in this era of technology.
“Mark was all about keeping records, and I think he knew he was onto something,” Fuller said. “You can see a life live through documents. I saw the first meeting minutes—Mark, Jay LaFave and their two wives at a kitchen table. To go through and see the behemoth we know of IMG, with 80 offices in 35 countries is impressive.”
Not all the correspondence and such material will be made public, especially related to clients. Masteralexis said there are privacy issues, and that no document can be published without the permission of whomever is involved.