Chubby Chandler - man with the midas touch

By Brian Keogh

Confidence, talent and Chubby Chandler. Add them all together and you have a walking, talking wad of cash just waiting to be spent.

Chandler is golf’s King of Cash - the man who moves and sakes for an impressive stable of clients that now includes the ultimate show pony, Rory McIlroy.

He’s also a man who quickly discovered that it was easier to make money for golfers than to lose it trying to beat them on the tour. Since he set up International Sports Management with a £10,000 overdraft in 1989 he has made millions for his top clients Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, expanding his stable to include such talents as Graeme McDowell, Paul McGinley, Ernie Els and the cricketers Andrew Flintoff and Muttiah Muralitharan to name but a handful.

Yet while the all powerful International Management Group and top client Tiger Woods continues to dominate the world of sports management, Chandler has captured a niche market with a style that is all his own.

He’s not a lawyer or a marketing man. Nor is he a financier or a number cruncher. He’s a mate, pure and simple. As a tour player, he existed by securing modest sponsorships for himself and then, after losing his card, and failing to regain it at qualifying school, "the light went out and it became a struggle even to pack a suitcase.”

Fellow journeymen Derrick Cooper, Carl Mason, Denis Durnian and Phil Harrison agreed to let him manage their affairs and the rest, as they say, is history.

For top earners Clarke and Westwood, there are no written contracts. As long as the gravy train keeps rolling along, ISM is just one big happy family. And Chubby’s the daddy.

He has power of attorney over the financial affairs of both Clarke and Westwood. He pays their taxes, invests in property, puts offers on the table and takes care of everything from health insurance to the toys the boys just have to have.

“I have no contracts with Darren,” he said. “What am I going to gain from tying him in for four years, or two years or whatever. If it goes wrong it really goes wrong. But we would have to make an incredible f*** up for that to happen. Player management is difficult with people you like. It is unbelievably difficult with people you don't like.”

How difficult can it be when your two top clients have earned over €30 million from tournament golf alone. Add in ‘appearance fees’, sponsorship deals, corporate days and course design work and the figure is closer to €60 million.

Is it still about the money for the stars of the show - Els, Westwood and Clarke?

Chandler looks aghast: “Yes it is, of course is it. They have unbelievably high maintenance. Unbelievably high. The planes, the houses and the cars and the watches. I mean Jesus Christ, they have about 40 watches each. They like their toys and they like living the life of superstars. They have to keep making.”

That’s where Chubby comes to the fore. He assesses every offer that comes in and decides whether it is worth the effort. Often, the sums involved are very serious indeed and that means a large slice of commission for Chandler, who likes the nicer things in life.

As does Clarke, as Chandler soon realised when he met the then 21-year old in the summer of 1989 after Dubliner lawyer Dougie Heather pointed out that he had a young Ulsterman looking for advice on the pro game.

Of that first meeting with Clarke, Chandler recalled: “I remember it well. He was wearing this big, cashmere Hugo Boss overcoat and I remember thinking that this kid had a lot of style.

“The only thing was, it was the end of August and the coat looked a bit out of place. I wondered, ‘How can he afford this? But it turned out he couldn't afford it - he just had an overdraft, same as me.

“Well I had never had a young lad turn pro and I was interested in seeing how I could help because I had had 15 years experience as pro and had already made all the mistakes this lad was going to make.”

With Chandler’s help, the mistakes should be minimal for McIlroy. But it will be it will be interesting to see how he develops as a golfer and a person as a member of the Chandler ‘family’.

At the end of last year he got a taste of the riches that could one day be his when he flew from Manchester to London on Clarke’s private jet, took a spin in his mentor’s Lamborghini Murcielago and lounged around in the opulent surroundings of ‘Chez Clarke’ in leafy Chobham.

Clarke, McDowell and McGinley have advised McIlroy not to do anything different as he takes his first tentative steps in the professional ranks. McDowell won in his fourth start on the main tour while McGinley won his second event, the UAP Under 25 Championship to pocket £15,000

Recalling that day, McGinley beamed: “I was a millionaire.”

He’s a real one now and providing Chandler hasn’t lost his Midas touch, McIlroy will soon be joining the club.