Eye of the Tiger

By Smith, Eric L. | Black Enterprise, September 1997 | Go to article overview

Eye of the Tiger


Smith, Eric L., Black Enterprise


Tiger Woods is in an unusual pose for him these days--he's relaxing. Just back from an early morning celebrity auction at Chicago's Planet Hollywood that raised nearly $70,000 for the foundation in his name, Woods is now twiddling with a golf club in a corporate suite inside the Four Seasons Hotel high above Lake Michigan. Dressed in a dark blue Armani suit, he is waiting patiently while photographers run through last-second warm-ups for his photo shoot. In the background, Boris Becker is dismantling his opponent at Wimbledon.

"How old do you figure Becker is?" Woods asks no one in particular. One of the photography assistants glances at the television behind him and gives Becker a good look. "He's got to be 34, maybe 35." Tiger starts shaking his head. "Nah. You'd think that because he's been playing so long. But he started when he was about 18. Becker can't be any older than 29."

Woods, as it turns out, has a deep appreciation for both tennis and its athletes. "What I love about tennis is the timing of it. You have to make your decisions in a split second," he says. "At least with golf, I know the ball isn't going anyplace."

Perhaps not. But now more than ever, Woods has to keep both eyes on the ball. And we're not just talking about golf. At 21, Tiger Woods is a genuine phenomenon--a unique combination of charisma, raw talent and marketing savvy. As CEO of Eldrick Tiger Woods Inc., with a reported $80 million in endorsements from Nike, American Express, Titleist and the All Star Cafe, Woods now sits atop a multimillion-dollar empire that should get larger as his fame grows.

Tiger, the CEO, only attends quarterly review sessions, while his father, Earl Woods, handles the day-to-day operations of ETW Inc.--including regular meetings with Hughes Norton, Tiger's agent at International Management Group (IMG), which represents Woods. This management team handles Woods' schedule, guest appearances, the growing task of handpicking his endorsement prospects and running the overall branding of the Tiger Woods image. "My main priority right now is to play golf," says Woods. "But being CEO has its advantages. I make the overall decisions, while people that I can absolutely trust, like my dad, go out and do the legwork. These are people who will not do anything contradictory to what I believe in. And everything is run through me before anything is finalized," he explains.

Adds Earl: "It's been an educational experience for him because we are on a program to prepare him on how to run a corporation of this magnitude. Unfortunately, there are no courses you can take at Stanford or any other university that will teach you how to run a multimillion-dollar business," he says. Woods' focus on the golf course has paid off. This past summer, he achieved the No.1 world ranking in his 42nd week as a professional. His mere attendance at a golf tournament is likely to add between $250,000-$400,000 in ticket sales to any four-day event, according to the Professional Golf Tournament's Association, which represents the tournament directors from the PGA circuit. Tiger's presence is already changing televised sports. The PGA Tour recently signed a four-year package with six networks that will begin in 1999 and will place tour events in prime time for the first time ever. PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem has said the amount of televised golf coverage is expected to jump by 20% to 413 hours in 1999. As a result of the increased TV revenue, the average PGA tournament purse of $1.7 million this year is expected to rise to $3 million in the year 2000. CBS Sports President Sean McManus was reported as saying he moved to "lock up" negotiations because "unless something bizarre happens, knowing that Tiger Woods is going to be in the event" helps ensure ad sales and viewership. …

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