Tennis champion Naomi Osaka has left IMG to start her own sports agency called Evolve.
"I've spent my career doing things my way, even when people told me that it wasn't what was expected or traditional," Osaka told Sportico. "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 major winner’s contract with IMG expired at the end of last year. Osaka ultimately decided that a renewal with the Endeavor-owned company isn’t what she wanted. The deal wouldn’t have allowed her the flexibility to pursue the kind of partnerships wanted.
Osaka’s longtime agent Stuart Duguid joined her in the business venture, which they first began discussing at the Tokyo Olympics last year, Reuters reports. Duguid said they envision Evolve as a “small boutique and bespoke agency.”
He added, "We were discussing the business models of some of her mentors like Kobe (Bryant) and Lebron (James). We thought – why has no transcendent female athlete done that yet. “It's athlete driven and focused on big picture brand building rather than quick checks with a commission attached."
At this point, Osaka and Duguid will hold equity stakes in the new firm with no outside investors.
Sportico credits Duguid with guiding Osaka’s tennis career path to becoming the highest-paid female athlete in the world.
According to MarketWatch, Osaka is the highest-earning female athlete in the world with $57.3 million. She has also out-earned every male tennis player except Roger Federer.