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Mark Steinberg parted ways with IMG last week because the decline in top client Tiger Woods' endorsement income did not produce enough income for the agency to cover the agent's salary.
Both the Sports Business Journal and New York Post cited sources in coming up with figures that suggest the commissions IMG received from Woods had fallen to a level lower than Steinberg's compensation making him "too expensive to keep."
Neither Steinberg nor Woods has commented since the announcement on May 24 that Steinberg, who headed up the company's golf division, would be leaving IMG. Earlier that day, Woods had pledged his allegiance to both, saying at AT&T National media day that he was "very happy with both."
That was before the announcement of Steinberg's departure, in which it was disclosed that the two sides could not agree on contract terms.
Speculation since has centered on whether Woods will remain with IMG (the company has represented him since Woods turned pro in 1996) or go someplace else with Steinberg, his agent since 1999.
Sources told Sports Business Journal that in 2007, two years before Woods' personal issues were revealed, IMG's golf division "was clearing '$28 million and Woods was bringing in $7.8 million of that." After the scandal broke, profits from the golf division "dropped to $15 million in 2010, a year in which Woods brought in $1.1 million."
The sources said that Steinberg would have made significantly more in salary and bonuses than Woods' commissions would have generated.
Woods has not replaced the endorsement deals he lost because of the deal, although Golf Digest has reported his income from existing agreements still approached $70 million last year.
Regardless, all of the speculation and change comes at a time when Woods could do without it. He has not won in 18 months, is still recovering from injuries suffered at the Masters that have kept him to just nine holes of competition, and his status for the upcoming U.S. Open remains unclear.
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.