Online Extra: Peyton Manning's IMG Dream Team

The Colts quarterback explains how three top execs take care of his every need off the field -- so he can focus on football

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has a record-breaking contract and was co-named (with Steve McNair) the National Football League's Most Valuable Player for 2003. While football may run in the family -- brother Eli recently signed with the New York Giants and father Archie was a star quarterback for three different teams -- Manning insists he can't imagine a professional career without sports marketer IMG. He recently spoke with BusinessWeek Associate Editor Diane Brady about managing his career off the field. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow:

Q: How did you come over to IMG?

A:

My dad was with IMG during his professional career. He interviewed some agents when I was in college, and we narrowed it down to six or seven. The entire company is what attracted me. Three executives flew down to meet me at the time -- Tom Condon, Peter Johnson, and John Palguta [who are now president of IMG Football, senior corporate vice-president, and director of team sports, IMG Financial, respectively]. They were the only ones who could do player representation, marketing, and financial advice.

Q: Do you deal with these guys on a daily basis?

A:

I consider myself a pretty low-maintenance client. But when I do call, someone is always there. During contract talks, Condon and I pretty much talk to each other all the time. Peter and I e-mail each other a lot, especially during the off-season. In-season is pretty much football, football, football. That's how I want it to be.

Q: Your athletic ability is obviously what got you noticed. How important do you really think IMG is to your financial success?

A:

I got the largest rookie contract ever. Then I got the largest NFL contract ever. Tom Condon is the only guy who could have gotten that done. He knows how to negotiate, and the fact that he has played the game means a lot to me, too. Peter Johnson got me some great deals with companies like Gatorade, Reebok, and DirecTV.

Q: What kind of stuff do you turn down?

A:

I can say that one of the best pieces of advice that Peter gave me was not to do too much too early in my career. It was important to me to get established on the field first. So we turned down a lot of offers early on.

I'm glad we were patient about that. Just about every deal I've signed in the first or second year has also been renewed. That's important to me, because I try to do a good job. And I don't want to take on too much.

Q: If these guys were to walk out the door, would you go with them?

A:

If Peter and Tom and John were to leave, it would be awfully difficult for me to stay. Those are the people who have helped me establish myself.

When you get a lot of money thrown at you, you can make some dumb decisions without the right advice. A lot of these deals sound so sweet until someone like John sits down and looks at them. Then you find out that a great idea for a restaurant or a race-car team is a nightmare waiting to happen. It's hard to imagine my career without them.

Q: Do they ever get in your face too much?

A:

You know, I'm not looking for Jerry Maguire. I'm not a flashy guy. I don't really even like the word "agent," to tell you the truth. I prefer "financial adviser" or things like that.

They don't get in my face. I don't even want those guys in the locker room after the games. Some guys like their agents to be right there all the time. That's not me. I like to be able to do things on my own. I'm a big boy. I can drive myself to an appearance or get on a plane. I like a little bit of independence, and they give it do me. I sure don't want them to call and say, "Tough game." That's not their role.

Q: Agents will actually call to console players after a tough game?

A:

Some agents are around all the time, and there are guys who like that.

Q: Is the business side a distraction from what you have to do on the field?

A:

Some guys lose their focus. They get caught up in the business deals or the endorsements, and they lose their focus. For me, it's always about football. I've never lost sight of what's making all these other things happen.

IMG has done a good job of letting me concentrate on what's important. I don't do appearances during the season. On Tuesdays, some guys are jumping on a plane. I'm trying to meet with coaches or lift weights or work on my game. That's what matters. And IMG respects that.

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