IMG’s director has built an empire through sports television

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IMG’s director has built an empire through sports television

INCHEON - If you’ve ever watched a sporting event like the U.S. Open, the Wimbledon, the Masters or the LPGA tour on television, it’s likely that the broadcasting deal went through the hands of Peter Smith, the senior vice president and director of international sales at IMG Media.

IMG Media is the world’s largest independent producer and distributor of sports programming under IMG, a global sports, entertainment and media management company.

Smith, whose current responsibilities include oversight of IMG Media’s businesses throughout Canada, Japan and Korea, was at Sky72 Golf Club on Yeongjong Island in Incheon last week for the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship.

“Golf is the most educational sport to teach honesty and etiquette to children,” said Smith, whose golf handicap is 14.

The 69-year-old began his career at IMG in London in 1970, working as a client manager in the golf and tennis divisions. In 1972, he moved to IMG in New York, working in the licensing division. Two years later, he moved to IMG’s head office in Cleveland, Ohio, where he specialized in team sports negotiations.

In 1975, Smith headed to Toronto to open IMG’s first office in Canada, where he spent the next 10 years.

He returned to New York afterward, when IMG founder Mark McCormack asked him to develop a strategy for international television rights. According to Smith, the job description from McCormack was: “Get on a plane and don’t come home.”

And it was just like that.

Smith said that every month, he spent about two weeks overseas. Among the places he has traveled, he said he especially likes Asia.

“I feel comfortable when I’m in Korea or Japan rather than in Europe,” he said. “I like the food and culture and also oriental history.”

Smith is practically synonymous with IMG’s sports broadcasting business. After taking charge, he developed a television structure built around the strengths of IMG in each territory.

In conjunction with other fast-moving developments in IMG’s production business, the company’s international television distribution division has quickly outstripped all competitors to become a global leader.

IMG’s current or past clients include sports superstars like American golfer Tiger Woods and retired basketball player Michael Jordan, as well as Korean golfers K.J. Choi and Pak Se-ri. But for Smith, professional golfer Arnold Palmer remains his favorite celebrity athlete.

“It’s not exaggerating to say that modern golf began with Arnold Palmer,” he said. “Palmer appeared at the right time and grew both television and sport.”

When asked about McCormack, IMG’s founder, who passed away in 2003, Smith said that he had been a man with innovative vision and ideas, investing in globalization.

He added that it’s the passion to work that has led him to maintain his long run at IMG - not to mention that he has never shied away from business trips.

“If you want to succeed, don’t send email, pick up the phone,” he said. “Advanced technology can block friendly communication.”


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