Naomi Osaka has made a bold decision to leave IMG and start her own agency called Evolve, thus becoming the first female athlete at her level to take her business ventures into her own hands.
IMG is a world-renowned agency that represents and manages some of the world’s greatest sports figures and fashion icons, including numerous tennis stars. Naomi Osaka signed a worldwide marketing and management agreement with IMG in 2016, when she was an 18-year-old without a WTA or Grand Slam title to her name. Her contract expired at the end of last year and she hasn’t negotiated the renewal.
The former world No.1 Osaka, currently ranked No.38, feels ready to build her own sports agency, as she told Sportico in an email:
I’ve spent my career doing things my way, even when people told me that it wasn’t what was expected or traditional. Evolve is the natural next step in my journey as both an athlete and businesswoman, as well as a way to continue being myself and doing things my way.
The four-time Grand Slam champion’s business partner in Evolve will be her agent Stuart Duguid, who is also leaving IMG. Duguid and Osaka will have an equity stake in Evolve.
Talking to Sportico via telephone, Duguid mentioned that their agency will likely only consider adding a few clients, explaining that “the core of Evolve is building Naomi’s business from $50 million a year to $150 million a year.” (source: ESPN, photo: Jimmie48)