Naomi Osaka leaves IMG to create her own agency, Evolve

The tennis career of Naomi Osaka, one of the world’s biggest sports celebrities, has taken on some familiar characteristics over the pas...


The tennis career of Naomi Osaka, one of the world’s biggest sports celebrities, has taken on some familiar characteristics over the past 16 months.

Her achievements were limited on the pitch due to a series of self-imposed layoffs to deal with her mental health issues, motivational issues and occasional physical issues, but she was wildly successful off the pitch, cementing her status as one of the highest paid athletes in the world and by far the highest paid female athlete.

As she sits out the Italian Open nursing an Achilles injury and preparing for the second Grand Slam event of the year, the French Open, scheduled for later this month, Osaka announced that she was going to set up a representative agency to gain more control over her editing. business portfolio. Osaka and her longtime agent, Stuart Duguid, left IMG, the sports and entertainment conglomerate, to launch Evolve, which will manage Osaka’s business interests and potentially those of other clients the agency may sign.

News of Osaka’s decision to launch Evolve was first reported by Sportico.

A four-time Grand Slam singles champion, Osaka, 24, earned an estimated $60 million last year, according to Forbes, with approximately $55 million coming from more than a dozen corporate sponsors. She was tied for 12th on the Forbes list of highest-earning athletes with Tiger Woods. Conor McGregor, the mixed martial artist, topped the list, earning $180 million.

In an interview on Wednesday, Duguid said Osaka’s top priority remains winning tennis matches and tournaments. He said her typical day includes training and treatment with her physiotherapist in the morning followed by lunch, but once that’s over she almost always wants to engage in her cultural or business interests.

“He’s not someone who likes to play video games and binge on Netflix all day,” said Duguid, who has worked closely with Osaka since he was a teenager.

Osaka’s rankings have dropped over the past year and a half, largely because she has played so little. She was ranked second in the world at the start of 2021, but has fallen to 85th this year. She did the Miami Open final in April, and is in 38th place, and she hopes to move up into the top 10 by the end of the year.

“I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to be No. 1 anymore,” she said at the Miami tournament.

A spokesperson for IMG declined to comment.

Losing a star of Osaka’s stature is a significant loss for the company, though she will most likely continue to make money from existing endorsement deals she brokered on her behalf. She is one of a handful of transcendent tennis stars that IMG has represented over the past two decades. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal left the IMG fold in recent years to start businesses with their agents, Tony Godsick and Carlos Costa.

For Osaka, Evolve’s goal is not just to save money on paying third-party commissions, but also to grow its business portfolio to $150 million a year in the coming years. to come, up from about $50 million today, but not by signing deals that put more corporate logos on his tennis outfits.

Duguid said Osaka might actually shrink his endorsement portfolio. Evolve’s model is similar to businesses started by several of Osaka’s role models in the sports industry, many of whom have become close friends, including LeBron James and Stephen Curry. Osaka was also close to Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in 2020 and was one of his early mentors.

She’s been considering a business like Evolve since the Tokyo Olympics, where she lit the Olympic cauldron and was the face of the games in Japan, his country of origin. Osaka wanted more latitude to invest in companies, own a stake in them and develop its own. She launched Kinlò, a skincare product company focused on people with melanistic or darker skin tones, last year.

This announcement came a few days after Osaka left the US Open after being upset by unranked Canadian Leylah Fernandez in the third round. She announced in a tearful post-match press conference that she planned to take an indefinite hiatus from tennis. She had previously taken seven weeks off after abandoned Roland-Garros last spring following a dispute with the tournament organizers. Osaka had said she would not attend the mandatory post-match press conferences. The organizers had threatened to expel her from the tournament if she did not fulfill her media obligations, so Osaka withdrew.

Neither the breaks nor his drop in the rankings seem to have affected his ability to grow his business off the pitch. Now, Duguid said, she will try to maintain her leadership position off the pitch while trying to recapture the one she once had.

“It’s something itchy on her side,” he said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Naomi Osaka leaves IMG to create her own agency, Evolve
Naomi Osaka leaves IMG to create her own agency, Evolve
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