Sports business agency Sportfive has been on a tear the last six weeks. It is home to the last two major championship winners, with Phil Mickelson (PGA Championship) and Jon Rahm (U.S. Open), as well as last week’s Tour winner Harris English. The agency, rebranded from Lagardère Sports last year, signed current No. 1 amateur Davis Thompson and former top-ranked amateur Kevin Yu this month as new clients.
Sportfive is now expanding its golf event management business with the acquisition of Global Golf Management in a deal that closed last week. The firm’s principals, Mike Harmon and Jeff Raedle, along with their team of 25 employees, will join Sportfive and report to Steve Loy, who heads Sportfive’s global golf division. The company would not comment on financial terms.
“We knew each other, and we felt like if we put their engine in our race car, we thought they could do some pretty good things and maybe win a couple of races,” Loy said in a phone interview.
Sportfive has a diverse golf business built around talent representation, event management and commercialization, largely focused in the U.S., but the agency elevated golf in February to be a key global business leveraging Sportfive’s worldwide infrastructure.
Global Golf Management has staged more than 1,000 events around the globe since its founding in 1989, including major championships on the PGA, LPGA and PGA Tour Champions. It has operated Olympic Golf competitions, along with collegiate and charity tournaments. It currently manages 30 to 40 events a year, including the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship and Puerto Rico Open.
Harmon says they had been approached in the past by bigger sports agency about an acquisition, but that Sportfive represented “the perfect marriage for us.” Raedle sees his company as a complementary piece to what Sportfive was already doing in golf. “This was an obvious next step for us to grow, as Sportfive has a global footprint,” said Raedle. “I think it is really going to be one plus one equals three.”
Sportfive currently operates existing PGA Tour events, The American Express and the Fortinet Championship, and co-manages the The Match series of golf events with Excel Sports Management. The fourth iteration of The Match takes place next week and features Mickelson and Tom Brady squaring off against Aaron Rodgers and Bryson DeChambeau. The series raised more than $25 million for charity during its first three events.
Golf rounds soared last year during the pandemic, but the tournament corporate hospitality business was hammered with restrictions on gatherings. Raedle says it is slowly climbing back to normal, but it varies significantly by locale.
Golf events provide a springboard for other opportunities that filter through a company like Sportfive. “Events are an opportunity to create hospitality for corporate relationships; corporate relationships create corporate sales; and eventually gets to corporate consulting, so we have really gone strong to invest not just in the U.S. but doing so globally,” said Loy.
It has been a whirlwind few weeks for Loy since his long-time client Mickelson made history in May at the PGA Championship as the oldest major champion in golf history at age 50. “My phone literally blew up,” said Loy. He says he received so many messages at once that Verizon thought his phone was under some kind of cyberattack and shut it off for around eight hours. When he was able to turn it back on, Loy had 3,111 text messages waiting for him.
“I think it reconfirms Phil’s relevance in golf history,” said Loy, who thinks Mickelson still has a lot of golf left in him. “I told him I’ll keep the saddle on you and keeping riding you as far as you can take me.”
Mickelson was the one who pointed out Rahm to Loy when the Spaniard was a freshman at Mickelson’s alma mater, Arizona State. Mickelson thought Rahm was a top 10 player then, according to Loy. The now 26-year-old has fulfilled the lofty expectations with 13 tournament wins worldwide, the No. 1 world ranking last year, and the U.S. Open win this month. Rahm was the first golfer in nearly 40 years to win the Open with birdies on the last two holes. Both Mickelson ($46.1 million) and Rahm ($16.9 million) ranked among the top 10 in Sportico’s look at the highest-paid golfers on and off the course, and Rahm is due for a big bump.
“Having clients win back-to-back has been the most sensational experience of my 30 years as a business manager slash agent,” Loy said.
(This story has been updated in the first paragraph to clarify that Sportfive was formerly known as Lagardère Sports.)