Andrew “Chubby” Chandler, the founder of International Sports Management (ISM), manages the current holder of the US Masters (Charl Schwartzel), the US Open (Rory McIlroy) and the British Open (Darren Clarke), so the fourth and final major championship of 2011 offers a unique opportunity. In the modern era, no player has completed the “grand slam” of four majors in the same calendar year, but instead the so-called “Chubby Slam” is now on.
The run of success for his players has led to Chandler being dubbed a “super agent” by golf writers, with some commenting that the former player-turned-businessman could do no wrong. But in commercial terms, has Chubby duffed his chance of maximising the big payday?
Companies House documents reveal that on 14 July 2010 Chandler sold most of ISM Group – the holding company of ISM. Just one day later, Louis Oosthuizen strode out for the Open at St Andrews and teed off an incredible run for Chubby’s boys: within 72 holes the South African had become the first player in ISM’s stable to win a major in 20 years of trying, just as Chandler had relinquished control of 75% of a business that was about to see its prospects transformed.
Chandler admitted: “I don’t live my life [regretting things]. I’m not a person that looks backwards. Maybe this run started because of that [deal]. If I lived my life wondering what would have happened and about ‘what ifs’ then I wouldn’t get very far. The life I lead is very much a precarious one. There’s nothing to say that five of these guys won’t lose form. You tend to look forward not back. I’m not very grown up about a lot of things, but I’m very grown up about that.”
According to Oliver Hunt, a partner at sports law firm Onside Law, ISM’s run of winners could have been worth at least an extra £1.4m to ISM. He said: “There are so many factors to consider such as bonuses, player profiles and the timings of deals, but very roughly, a major winner will have about four main contracts worth, say, an average of $750,000 (£450,000) a year. So as a rough generalisation the four winners will get fees totalling $12m, of which ISM will get around 20%, or $2.4m, and this figure should only rise once Rory starts entering into new deals.”
The deal Chandler signed last year to sell ISM saw a consortium of investors acquire three-quarters of the company’s shares for a price that remains undisclosed. They included Leonard Ryan and Mickey O’Rourke, the founders of broadcasting group Setanta; their business partner Mark O’Meara, and Shane McMahon, a former American wrestling star.
At the time, the new partners’ involvement was portrayed merely as ISM attracting investment and not the company being sold – but only around $2m was raised for a business that had made pre-tax profits of £400,067 the previous year.
What had never been unearthed was that the proceeds of the sale went to settle a loan that Chandler had taken out from the company, which had stood as high as £2.6m during the previous financial year, while also funding the agent’s divorce.
The deal also included paying off Chandler’s former business partner, David Brookes, for his stake of around 30%, even though there is no record at Companies House of Brookes owning any ISM shares. O’Meara added: “Brookes was Chubby’s partner originally. He was effectively bought out as part of this transaction. The shares were held in trust … [ISM] raised a couple of million dollars [at the time of the sale] and there has been another million dollars since.”