Nov 13, 2006

The Annika Brand

News & Tours

Annika's beau to help build her brand

Sorentstam appoints Mike McGee as managing director of her business affairs

November 13, 2006

There is a delicious irony in the fact Annika Sorenstam this week became the first woman to play in Greg Norman's Shark Shootout, though some grammatical purists might call it merely a coincidence. The event, which now goes by the name Merrill Lynch Shootout, was the extracurricular brainchild of Norman when he was still an active member of the PGA Tour, and it was one of the building blocks to what Norman has established as perhaps the most successful business career of any former professional golfer. Sorenstam is now poised to try to replicate that success.

The Shark is the head of an empire that includes golf-course design, clothing, wine, a turf company, restaurants and event management, such as the Shootout. Like Norman, Sorenstam, at just 36 years of age and with at least a couple more competitive years left in her at peak form, seems well prepared for life after golf. She will release a fitness DVD this winter, has several golf-course design projects underway around the world, has clothing and jewelry lines, a foundation, a website and next summer will open a golf academy at the Reunion Resort near her Orlando home.

Sorenstam's longtime coach, Henri Reis, who will move to Florida from Sweden, will run the academy. The fitness component to the school will be handled by Kai Fusser, the trainer who helped sculpt her into the strongest player in women's golf. She added another piece to the puzzle last week when her boyfriend of more than a year, Mike McGee, told International Golf Partners he was leaving to work for Sorenstam.

"I will be managing director for ANNIKA, which is the umbrella company housing all her different entities," McGee told GolfDigest.com. "I will be involved with expanding business development and the enhancement of brand development."

McGee, the son of former PGA Tour player and 1977 U.S. Ryder Cup team member Jerry McGee, has been in the golf business for 10 years, the last four with IGP, whose clients include Duffy Waldorf, Mathias Gronberg, Glen Day, Michael Allen, Dicky Pride and Parker McLachlin.

"Working with Ken Kennerly at IGP has been a wonderful experience," McGee said. "He and all of our clients have been very supportive of my decision. This is a tremendous opportunity, and I'm really excited about the future."

Sorenstam, who has 69 career LPGA victories -- third all-time -- and 10 major championships, is also clearly excited about the future. Last July at the Evian Masters in France, she wandered into the media room at the end of the tournament, asked to borrow a laptop from an LPGA staff member and started fiddling with the keyboard. After some minutes a broad smile crossed her face and she said to someone near her, "Want to see the logo for my company?" -- proudly showing off the ANNIKA emblem.

"She will take the tireless drive that she's displayed in golf the last decade and translate that to the business world," McGee said. "Her passion is truly inspiring."

Since playing in the Bank of American Colonial on the PGA Tour in 2003, Sorenstam has emerged as a one-word superstar, just as Norman is known simply as The Shark and the word "Tiger" leads one to assume the conversation is about Mr. Woods. Her emergence as a brand will make her a pioneer not only in women's golf, but among any female athlete, and will put her potentially on a level with someone such as Norman.

While Sorenstam has achieved most of her goals in golf, there is good reason to suspect she has a couple of vintage years ahead of her. Next year, the Weetabix Women's British Open will be played on the Old Course at St. Andrews for the first time and the Solheim Cup will return to her native Sweden. That should provide plenty of motivation. Another competitive year in 2008 seems likely if for no other reason than because Sorenstam has given no indication that 2007 will be her last.

Then it will be a question for Sorenstam, who will be only 38 after the 2008 season, of whether she is close enough to two milestones -- Kathy Whitworth's 88 career LPGA victories or Patty Berg's 15 career majors -- to keep competing. One thing is certain: Being the competitive person she is, Sorenstam will want to throw herself into a business career as completely as she has into her golf career.

Sorenstam is clearly thrilled about having McGee in her life both personally and professionally. With her travel, his travel for IGP and with him living a couple of hours away in Palm Beach Gardens, they were not able to spend as much time together as they would have liked. That also changes now.

"Obviously, we are very happy to have Mike on board," Sorenstam told GolfDigest.com. "He grew up around professional golf and has been in thebusiness a long time. I think the timing is right for both of us, and he will be a big help with our business development as we move forward. It should be fun."

The creation of the new company and the role of McGee as managing director raise questions about where Sorenstam stands with International Management Group and her longtime agent, Mark Steinberg. When asked if Sorenstam will remain with IMG, McGee said, "Absolutely. Mark has done a wonderful job with her the last 10 years, and that will continue. They have a close relationship, and I look forward to working with them both."

While it certainly is premature to say Sorenstam has retirement in her sights, it is clear that her life after golf -- that of Annika Sorenstam, businesswoman -- is well under way. While there have been some former golfers, a few big names among them, who have not faired well off the fairways and in the business arena, reason seems to lead one to assume that Sorenstam's success will be more like Norman's than those who've failed. She seems off to a good start.

Ron Sirak is the Executive Editor of Golf World magazine

Do you have a question or comment for Ron? Send your inquiries to editors@golfdigest.com with the word "Sirak" in the subject field.


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