For most people, the choice to leave a secure, comfortable job, in order to start a new business from the ground up, would be a difficult one to make.
For Danny Fritz, it wasn’t.
The CEO of the newly founded SportBox Entertainment Group, left his prominent position at IMG (one of the world’s largest sports and entertainment businesses) in May, and had launched SportBox by July.
“I’m the kind of guy that when I make up my mind about something and put my mind to it, I’m just gonna do it,” said Fritz. “It was a decision I made based on my gut telling me there’s an opportunity to bring back the personalized approach to the entertainment business.”
The Toronto-based SportBox Entertainment Group, is a golf-oriented management and marketing agency that specializes in athlete representation, event hosting, and consulting.
For those familiar with Fritz, it should come as no surprise he was able to get the company up and running so quickly; he’s very familiar with the game of golf and has been a key figure in its growth in this country for two decades.
In 1993, Danny, along with his brother Dave, and father Earl, founded The Canadian Junior Golf Association (CJGA), a program designed to introduce the sport to children across the country, and facilitate their development over the years through instructional training and competitions at all levels. To date, the CJGA reports over 500,000 participants.
Fritz, 37,eventually went to work for IMG in 2006, where he headed their golf department. Soon he was managing the company’s entire Canadian division.
“I learned a lot from being at IMG,” said Fritz. “I probably wouldn’t be the guy I am today without going through the IMG system because you’re surrounded by sophisticated individuals who are doers and know how to get the job done.”
But Fritz’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to seek a new chapter in his life and career, and he amicably parted ways with IMG in May. He teamed up with his close friend, David Dube, president and CEO of Concorde Group, (one of Canada’s largest hospitality companies) and unveiled SportBox Entertainment in July.
“Danny’s a very sharp guy and I think he’s done a great job,” said Scott Simmons, CEO of Golf Canada.
“It doesn’t surprise me [how quickly he was able to get the company up and running]. He’s very well connected in the sports industry, particularly golf, and I think he already had a lot of building blocks in place when he made the decision to move.”
Fritz & Co. sought to make an immediate impact on the Canadian golf landscape, and their first priority was acquiring the type of talent that would allow them to do so.
“In this business you can have a business card, you can have a logo, you can have a name to the company, but you’re nothing without assets,” said Fritz.
SportBox Entertainment was swift in addressing this issue. They acquired the Canadian golf roster of Landmark Sport Group, a Mississauga-based talent agency that represents a number of prominent athletes.
Among the golfers included in the deal, were PGA Tour professionals David Hearn and Graham DeLaet, who finished this past season ranked 13th in the FedEx Cup standings and is poised to be one of the sport’s top talents in years to come.
They signed the future generation of Canadian golfers as well: Roger Sloan, Cory Renfrew, Mackenzie Hughes, Michael Gligic, and Riley Wheeldon.
Fritz also brought over two of his clients from IMG: Matt Hill and Mike Weir. The two golfers will be co-managed by both agencies until next year, when they will be exclusively represented by SportBox.
In college, Hill won eight individual tournaments in 2009 alone, tying none other than Tiger Woods for most wins a single collegiate season. Weir, of course, is perhaps the best Canadian golfer in history, having won eight PGA Tour titles, including the 2003 Masters, one of the country’s most memorable individual achievements in sports.
“What Mike did for the game in 2003 and over his whole career, really helped grow the game of golf in Canada,” said David Corelli, the company’s Director of Business Partnerships. “He is more than a Canadian golfer; he’s a Canadian sports icon.”
Fritz stresses the importance of developing a personal approach with each individual client, something he feels has become less and less prominent in the industry.
“The entertainment business used to be about that personalized approach,” Fritz said.
“It was about giving the talent the attention and energy they needed, it was about giving the corporate world personalized consulting services, and that doesn’t exist anymore.
“I felt there was a gap in the industry, where everything was becoming too big and too massive, kind of like the big-box stores. Back then it was the ‘mom and pop shops’ that essentially operated the retail business.
“Then the big box stores like Walmart and Costco come in and it’s not about the personalized attention anymore.”
For SportBox Entertainment, the aim is to be right in the middle – not too small to where they’re not on the radar of the corporate world, but not too big to where they lose the personal touch with their clients.
The mid-sized approach may be counter to the typical business model of a lot of companies; but the client loyalty that results from it is invaluable, as evidenced by the fact both Hill and Weir were keen on joining Fritz because of the close relationship they developed with him at IMG.
The primary aim of SportBox is to build on that initiative.
“We have a team surrounding each one of our athletes,” said Corelli. “Every one of our people knows who they are and are educated on their portfolio. We’re essentially able to put more time and resources behind each golfer, and that gradually builds that personal connection we strive for.”
Since its launch, SportBox Entertainment has already compiled a roster of 11 professional golfers, and is also focusing on hosting events in the future, including a golf festival scheduled to take place next year throughout the week of Canada Day. Corporate consulting and real estate are also on the horizon.
“We want to be the go-to firm when it comes to talent, when it comes to events, and when it comes to consulting and sales in the golf business,” said Fritz. “We want to be the experts in golf, and we feel that we’re heading in that direction.”