Tennis star Naomi Osaka has been a fan favorite since competing against veteran Serena Williams and winning the U.S. Open title in 2018. And now, the 24-year-old has plans to open her own sports agency called Evolve.
According to Sportico, Osaka’s contract with IMG ended at the end of 2021, prompting the Japan native to explore other options after the company would not support a renewal that included flexibility and the kind of partnerships she wanted to do. Osaka eventually left IMG and partnered with her agent Stuart Duguid to create the sports agency, which both will hold equal stakes in the firm.
“I’ve spent my career doing things my way, even when people told me that it wasn’t what was expected or traditional,” Osaka said in an emailed statement. “Evolve is the natural next step in my journey as both an athlete and businesswoman, as well as a way to continue being myself and doing things my way.”
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving took to Twitter on Thursday, expressing his interest in becoming a client with the agency.
“@naomiosaka yall got room over at your agency for hoopers. Just inquiring,” he tweeted. Osaka responded to the 30-year-old’s inquiry, saying, “always room,” with a champagne glass and basketball emoji.
always room 🏀🥂 https://t.co/Yiu0Mdx4I2
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 12, 2022
Osaka became one of the highest-paid athletes in the world, ranking at the 20th slot in Sportico’s 2022 list of the world’s highest-paid athletes with $53.2 million. Throughout her career, Duguid has helped Osaka reach the $53 million with endorsement deals that topped Lebron James, Rodger Federer, Tiger Woods, and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Some of the industry’s most prominent athletes left top agencies to become entrepreneurs with their own companies. In 2006, James LRMR chose close friend Rich Paul to look over his on-court contracts. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant founded Thirty Five Ventures alongside co-founder Rich Kleinman in 2016.
However, Osaka became the first female athlete to take complete control over her business ventures.
“I’m excited to start this with my business partner Stuart and our plan is to use the same approach we took in building my businesses authentically and strategically as a vision for this company,” Osaka said. “I strongly believe in the power athletes have to use our platforms to drive meaningful business.”
She noted that she wants the new agency to “be at the forefront of breaking down the barriers that still exist in sports and broader culture.”
While the two don’t plan to convert the agency into a big firm, Duguid said they’re looking to take on one of two additional clients.
“The core of Evolve is building Naomi’s business from $50 million a year to $150 million a year,” he said.