To the Plodders of this world who have watched him whiz by these many years, it is a source of amusement that Mark H. McCormack still feels compelled to scribble the word "run" atop his things-to-do-today list. As superfluities go, that is like reminding Secretariat to giddyap or a bullet to accelerate. "The plain truth is," says a close friend, "Mark has been running flat-out and hell-bent for who knows where since birth."
Still, McCormack is nothing if not a slave to the directives he jots down on his trusty yellow legal pad each day, blocking out a track meet of a schedule that would leave the average fast-stepping tycoon gasping at the first turn. So if the pad says "run," run he does—in place, arms churning, knees pumping above the waist, left foot stomping out a rhythmic pace of 100 beats a minute, just as his trainer, Gary Player, taught him.
McCormack, a tall, graying blond with a look of perpetual anticipation, runs in the dim solitude of predawn, blotting his Arnold Palmer pajamas with sweat long before most mortal toilers are even stirring. As he runs he plots, his eyes scanning the notations on his pad: "Call Stockholm re ski promo"; "Review Brooks Robinson cash flow"; "Cricket bat tie-in?" And he runs everywhere, in his $300,000 split-level in suburban Cleveland, in his futuristic Manhattan apartment overlooking Central Park, in his elegant London town house, in his palm-draped condominium in the Fiji Islands. "The sun never sets on my condos," says McCormack.
Nor on his empire. With 250 employees in 12 offices around the world, McCormack's International Management Group, a vast complex of companies specializing in athlete management and sports promotion, is busy turning muscle into money somewhere on the globe 24 hours a day.
And so very nearly is McCormack. Even after he has showered, dressed—Jean-Claude Killy socks, Fran Tarkenton shirt, Rod Laver suit, Tony Jacklin shoes—and embarked on his business day, the image of the runner remains. Indeed, when McCormack hits full stride, jet hopping oceans and continents, playing his bank of push-button telephones like a Wurlitzer or giving dictation while being measured for the latest in John Newcombe casual wear, the thudding football at 100 beats per minute almost can be heard.
Though his finish line is not yet in sight, the total of his split times already precludes the need for a closing kick. Mark H. McCormack, 44, of Pepper Pike, Ohio long ago lapped the field. He is the most powerful man in professional sport.
Pete Rozelle or Bowie Kuhn or Roone Arledge or Charles O. Finley might beg to differ. But they and all the other so-called sports czars seem but provincial chieftains in the wide, wide world where McCormack reigns. Though some of his subjects consider him a grubbing despot, McCormack commands bows from even as intense a competitor as Bob Woolf, the Boston attorney who occasionally has claimed the most-powerful title for himself. "I have nothing but admiration for McCormack," says Woolf. "He is one of the pioneers, the man who helped bring integrity and professionalism to the field. I'd like to meet him some time."
There's not much chance of that. McCormack himself does not deign to dabble much in team sports, the area in which Woolf and most other sports lawyers concentrate. Notoriety by headline, salary disputes, recruiting wars, league jumpings, strikes and suits are unseemly to McCormack. Nonetheless, his IMG staff not only dabbles in that end of the business, it dominates it. IMG engineered the stunning $3.84 million deal that is scheduled to send the celebrated Miami Dolphin trio of Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield to the WFL. And McCormack's people arranged it so that the threesome will get paid whether the league folds or not. It is just one measure of McCormack's far-flung clout that team sports, the field most often associated with jock managers, represents barely 5% of his total operation.
Indeed, Mark the man-machine seems limited only by the sweep hand on his Jackie Stewart watch, which is permanently set live minutes ahead "to get me inspired." While making a pit stop recently at the refrigerator in Evonne Goolagong's condominium in Hilton Head, S.C., McCormack confessed to the obvious. "Time," he said while munching on a fistful of American cheese for breakfast, "time is my No. 1 enemy."
The competition for that distinction is heavy. Over the past 15 years, from the day he turned his first nickel on behalf of Arnold Palmer, still his premier client, to this year, when IMG will gross $25 million or so, McCormack has elicited the kind of reactions that charitably might be called mixed. In Britain he has been called Mark the Knife, in New Zealand the Traveling Computer, in France the Midas of Muscle and in the U.S., well, take your pick. Parasite, megalomaniac and cold fish are a few of the more endearing appraisals.