It’s the next logical step in her empire!
According to The Bleacher Report, Naomi Osaka has announced her departure from IMG to start her new “EVOLVE” sports agency.
The 24-year-old tennis phenom has accomplished a lot in her time as a professional athlete. Not only is she a four-time Grand Slam champion, but she has also amassed more than $20 million in prize money and ranked number 5 among top athletes with the most endorsement earnings. Over the last year, Osaka has earned $52 million in endorsements, the most of any woman athlete.
Top endorsement earnings last 12 mos:— Kurt Badenhausen (@kbadenhausen) May 11, 2022
1. LeBron: $90M
2. Federer: $85M
3. Tiger: $65M
4. Ronaldo: $55M
5. Naomi: $52M
6. Messi: $50M https://t.co/wSsxDdumCK
Now Osaka has announced that IMG will no longer represent her, set to launch her own sports agency, EVOLVE. At the new agency, Osaka will work alongside Stuart Duguid, her former IMG agent. Sports experts say tennis is a fickle sport, icons like Serena and Venus Williams who have obtained longevity in the sport being the exception, not the rule.
For an example, look no further than tennis player Ash Barty who was celebrating her first Australian Open title this past January, announcing her retirement from the sport at age 25 just two months later in March. Barty noted the mental and physical obligations of performing at an elite level as the reason for her premature departure from the sport.
Osaka too has spoken out about the grueling demand of professional tennis, taking her own hiatus in 2021, backing out of the French Open and Wimbledon due to mental health struggles. She joins a long list of professional athletes who decided to leave major agencies during the height of their careers to create legacies of their own.
In 1970, golfer Jack Nicklaus left IMG to found Golden Bear, LeBron James also starting LRMR in 2006 with friend Rich Paul handling his on-court business and Maverick Carter running things off the court. In 2013, Swiss tennis player Roger Federer launched Team8 with his agent Tony Godsick, and golfer Rory McIlroy stepped away from his management to launch his own firm that same year. Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal also made a similar move, leaving IMG in 2014 with his former agent Carlos Costa and in 2016, Kevin Durant founded Thirty Five Ventures with Rich Kleinman to handle the business of the basketball star.
Osaka said it’s just a logical next step in securing her future so she can always make sure she has the freedom to do things as she sees fit.
“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,” explained Osaka.
Congratulations, Naomi! Keep doing things your way.
Photo Courtesy of Micaiah Carter/Wall Street Journal Magazine