2005: Els leaves IMG, will join Chandler

Virginia Water, England

Ernie Els has left IMG and will join Andrew “Chubby” Chandler’s International Sports Management group June 6, the world’s third-ranked player revealed after the opening round of the BMW Championship at Wentworth.

The South African said he recently ended a one-year contract he had with IMG, his first year with the sports management giant. Els and IMG are in the process of working out financial details before he can formally sign with Chandler’s group.

“There’s no rumor to the story, as it’s true,” Els said May 26.

“I wrote IMG a letter about two or three weeks ago indicating my plans. I had a one-year deal with IMG but there was a clause in my contract where I could get out, and I’m getting out. I am leaving them.”

Els wouldn’t elaborate on why he is departing IMG, other than to say, “I can’t give you a reason why I am leaving, but I guess you can make up your own mind.”

In March, the South African had voiced his displeasure about being included in a letter IMG sent to select PGA Tour tournament sponsors regarding corporate outings. The letter listed Els and other top pros as being available to play corporate events during tournament weeks for a price of $100,000-$200,000 per outing.

“I made it very clear to IMG and to the Tour here (in the U.S.) that I’m not for it,” Els said in March. “I’m not standing for it, OK. And for people to speak on my behalf without talking to me, I don’t like that very much. So I made that very clear to IMG.”

Before Els’ departure, IMG, which manages No. 1 Vijay Singh and No. 2 Tiger Woods, had the top three players in the world.

Chandler’s ISM group oversees the interests of Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood, Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell, among others.

“I have decided to go with Chubby’s management team as I do a lot of things on my own anyway,” Els said. “I have known Chubby for an awful long time and we’ve always had a good relationship.”

Chandler landed Els thanks largely to Mark Bell, who runs Chandler’s South African-based operation and was instrumental in persuading Els to come aboard. Bell is a longtime friend of Els, and he looks after the affairs of the seven South African-born players on ISM’s books.

“My decision to sign with Chubby will be a big blow to IMG, I realize that,” Els said. “I’m sure they might fear it, or maybe they won’t, but it’s not a personal matter, and it’s just that my arrangement with IMG just didn’t quite jell.

“Otherwise, I would still be with IMG and not seeking to opt out of my contract, which is unfortunate. But I believe I will have a better relationship with ISM.”

Els, who tied for 39th at the BMW, said he will not sign a long-term deal with ISM, but plans to stick to his preferred one-year contract.

“I haven’t signed with Chubby, not just yet, and I won’t until this whole issue with me leaving IMG is sorted out,” Els said. “It’s just that IMG needs to inform me what I owe them and what they owe me and things like that.”

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