Under New Management

9 Feb

It has been a busy week for sports management stories. In the Formula 1 world announcements have been made about Didier Coton being signed by XIX Entertainment to provide race management to Lewis Hamilton, and his former McLaren team mate Heikki Kovalainen signing with IMG World. In the football world there’s been endless coverage in the last two days about both Harry Redknapp and Fabio Capello.

Here are my thoughts on the two F1 stories.

Lewis Hamilton/Dider Coton

The appointment of Didier Coton to look after Lewis Hamilton’s racing interests must have come as a relief to McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, and Lewis’s father and former manager, Anthony Hamilton. After Lewis’s worst ever season in Formula 1 in 2011, it was inevitable that XIX Entertainment needed to bring in some more expertise. Sure, Simon Fuller had some previous experience with BAR a few years back, but he doesn’t have the expertise or the time to devote to Lewis.

Didier Coton is a sensible choice. He has expertise in Formula 1, having managed Mika Hakkinen during his glory years at McLaren (as well as Olivier Panis), so there is also an established relationship with Lewis’s team. Coton also manages McLaren test driver Oliver Turvey and Williams reserve Vallteri Bottas. Lewis hopes to build a Button-esque “bubble” around him and the appointment of Coton is a good first step, but as just stated Coton has other responsibilities so won’t be as devoted or have the same level of personal interest in Lewis as the members of ‘Team Jenson’.

I am also curious to see how easily Coton will work with XIX Entertainment. Coton still runs his own management company, and will have his own style. He and Simon Fuller will need to find a way to work together which allows Lewis to focus on his racing, while also allowing Fuller to grow “Brand Hamilton” to his satisfaction.

On a side note with Lewis, he appears to have rekindled his relationship with Nicole Scherzinger (the two were seen hand in hand in Los Angeles recently), and is also set to move from the tranquility of Switzerland to the glitz of Monaco. Hopefully his reunion with Nicole will give him some more stability.

Heikki Kovalainen/IMG World

Signing with IMG World is a good move for Heikki. After moving back down the grid after leaving McLaren, Heikki’s star is now rising again. There are high expectations of him in 2012 with a promising car from Caterham F1, and he has established himself as their lead driver. If he has a strong season in 2012 and scores points, he will attract interest (and he will be attracted to a move) further up the grid for 2013. A good management company behind him will be vital to help that when seats are scarce.

IMG are a large management company, with interests in sport, fashion and media. Fellow motor sport clients include former Indy Car and current NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, as well as Sir Jackie Stewart.

If you’ve read my previous blog post about “Brand Hamilton” you’ll perhaps wonder why I am being positive about this particular signing while dumping on Lewis’s signing with XIX Entertainment. The answer is simple; these management companies are really quite different. IMG World have a much broader structure, and are less glitzy than Fuller’s stable. When I was researching this blog earlier I went on to the websites of both companies to look for press releases. The XIX site http://www.xixentertainment.com/ just has a rotating set of pictures of their big name clients and a set of contact details, while IMG has an extensive professional website with a news section and press release on it: http://imgworld.com/news/news/2012/february/img-to-manage-f1%E2%80%99s-heikki-kovalainen.aspx To Heikki’s gain, there is also an established corner of IMG dedicated to motor sport. The press release about Heikki includes a quote from “Robert Armstrong, Senior Vice President Global Head of Motorsports for IMG”. XIX are still developing their motorsport interests so won’t have a “Senior Vice President Global Head of Motorsports” just yet; something tells me they won’t ever have one.

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