Five months after legendary investor Ted Forstmann died of a brain tumor at age 71, IMG Worldwide, the sports-and-entertainment conglomerate he acquired for $750 million in 2004, still feels very much like his company.
Mr. Forstmann's former corner office suite, which overlooks New York's Central Park, remains largely untouched, with photos of former girlfriends Princess Diana and "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi still propped on shelves.
Next door, in a smaller office, sits Michael Dolan, Mr. Forstmann's handpicked successor as IMG's chief executive, and his polar opposite in many ways. Where his predecessor was a brash jet-setter, Mr. Dolan, the former chairman of ad agency Young & Rubicam, is soft-spoken and collegial, with a demeanor more like that of a mild-mannered accountant than a corporate raider.
At IMG, Mr. Dolan has to maintain the company's core business of managing top models and athletes—Roger Federer, Lindsay Vonn and Kate Upton are clients—and sporting events while expanding its efforts to create sports leagues, events and venues in China, Brazil and India. At home, IMG is working to consolidate its dominance in college-sports licensing.
Mr. Forstmann's buyout firm rarely held assets for more than a decade, leading to speculation that a sale of IMG is imminent. Mr. Dolan says that isn't so. Hollywood veteran Michael Ovitz attempted a takeover in Mr. Forstmann's final days, a move that cost his seat on IMG's board.
In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Dolan talked about his predecessor's long shadow and IMG's bets on emerging markets like India and Brazil. Edited excerpts:
WSJ: Will IMG continue to exist as an independent company?
Mr. Dolan: It very much will. The people at Forstmann Little, which owns the company, see the progress we have made and they like what they have seen so far.
WSJ: Do you take calls from people interested in buying the company?
Mr. Dolan: I pick up the phone, but it's a very brief conversation because we're not for sale, and we mean it.
WSJ: What was your working relationship with Mr. Forstmann?
Mr. Dolan: You understand very quickly that there are things you can learn and things you simply can't. It's sort of like watching Alex Rodriguez hit. You can watch him but that doesn't mean that you can really improve your game.
WSJ: You had little experience in the sports business when you came to IMG. How did you end up there?
Mr. Dolan: Ted and I met two years ago. I was basically retired, but the more we talked about IMG and I shared my experiences at Y&R, the more it seemed like I could be helpful. It's a business that thrives on communication and direction, so you figure out where you want to go and then what you have to do is get out of the way of a group of people that is very self-motivated.
WSJ: When Mr. Forstmann's health was failing, did you call marquee clients like [tennis stars] Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to let them know you'd be available?
Mr. Dolan: I didn't. They are all represented by people we have here who have had relationships with them for a long time. What I have told everyone is that I'm a huge supporter of our representation business. It's how we started 50 years ago, with Mark McCormack doing a handshake deal with Arnold Palmer.
WSJ: College-sports licensing and international investments, not athlete representation, seem poised to drive much of the company's growth.
Mr. Dolan: Ted saw IMG as coming in and filling a void as a company that takes an ownership interest in the leagues and the rights associated with them. Rather than earning a commission or a fee, [IMG] shares in the success of the value of the product and the venues we create. The model would be India Premier League cricket, [which IMG got a fee for setting up and running.] It is probably one of the most successful launches in the sports industry of the past 50 years. But we never had an equity interest there.
WSJ: That may be hard to replicate in Brazil, since that country already has a major soccer league, so do you see other opportunities there?
Mr. Dolan: With the Olympics and the World Cup coming there, Rio will be the epicenter of the sports world the next few years, so we have a deal with EBX Group, one of the country's most powerful companies, to invest in sports there. You could have golf, tennis, volleyball, soccer, surfing.
WSJ: Where do you see growth in the short term?
Mr. Dolan: You'd have to look at our college business, where we made a number of acquisitions for media rights that Ted pursued that I'd say were brilliant, because it created a one-stop place for advertisers to reach the market. I'd compare the college sports-rights business to where the cable industry was 20 years ago.
WSJ: How long will it take to see profits in the developing countries?
Mr. Dolan: Some of our joint ventures will begin to show profits in 1½ to two years.
WSJ: Who are your competitors?
Mr. Dolan: No one quite looks like IMG. Other companies do certain things that we do, but no one does everything when you consider the representation, event management, television production and the breadth—with college to pro sports to the fashion world.
WSJ: How do you describe your management style?
Mr. Dolan: It's about getting people motivated, aligned behind the same objective, giving them the resources they need to be successful.