A friendship that spans over three decades has now officially grown into a strategic business partnership.
Merrill Squires and John von Stade – co-founders of The Caddie Network – recently announced an expansion of the venture called “The Insider Network,” which, along with The Caddie Network, will also include insider content from jockeys in horse racing, pit crews in motor sports and a women’s sports network. It was also announced that Kathy Ireland Worldwide has partnered up on the new digital media and direct to consumer business.
Squires, formerly International Publishing Director for Sports Illustrated, met Kathy right at the time when Ireland was catapulting as one of the most famous faces in the world as a SI Swimsuit Issue cover model. The two became close friends with their work promoting the Swimsuit Issue over several years.
PODCAST: Kathy Ireland discusses teaming up with The Insider Network
In the decades since, Ireland has branched out into the business world, developing Kathy Ireland Worldwide – one of the largest licensing brands on the globe. Ireland is probably now better known for her covers of Forbes Magazine and The Wall Street Journal than her Sports Illustrated covers.
“We decided that we needed to do this the right way and with the right people,” Squires said. “After several conversations and a lot of really good input, we have partnered with Kathy Ireland and Kathy Ireland Worldwide. Kathy and I have an amazingly fun and long history together. We’re really excited to have her onboard officially.”
Ireland is extremely passionate about sports and the business of sports. In the late 1990s/early 2000s, there was even a LPGA event with her name on it. Today, Ireland serves on Serena Williams’ Advisory board, the NFLPI Board and the WNBA PA Board of Advocates.
She was happy to expand her portfolio with The Insider Network, but even more excited to once again work with Squires.
“Merrill has been a friend for more than three decades now,” Ireland said. “It’s incredible. I’m so grateful for the path that we’re on in life. Partnering with Merrill, it feels like the college reunion that we never had because I didn’t go to college. I’m basically a graduate of the Sports Illustrated University and Merrill was a professor. Not only was he an incredible professor, but he was so respectful, wise, protective of everybody. He’s a trusted friend and colleague and someone for whom I have such great respect. We’ve kept our friendship throughout the years, and it’s been exciting to see Merrill’s growth. It’s just off the charts. He’s got this stellar, legendary reputation in the industry.”
Squires admitted that even early on, he knew there was going to be a lot more to the already incredibly successful Ireland than magazine covers.
“Kathy is the most successful swimsuit model in the history of Sports Illustrated,” he said. “She’s been on covers, she was in 16 straight issues, just incredibly successful. But, more importantly, was the human being she is. What impressed me most about Kathy is what a visionary she was even back then. It was clear to me that Kathy was going to do more with her life than just be a supermodel – which is hard to say about someone – but it was crystal clear back then that she had a vision of building a team. She has an amazing team with and around her.
“Now, accelerate 30 years later and, let’s be honest, she’s built an incredible brand,” Squires continued. “Kathy Ireland Worldwide is the 26th largest brand in the world. That’s amazing. If you look at the Forbes list, that’s bigger than Major League Baseball, that’s bigger than the NFL Players Association, that’s bigger than the PGA Tour. My point is, she’s concentrated and focused on committing herself and her team to building a global business, but a meaningful business. I love what it says on her website, ‘Our vision is to teach, inspire, empower and make the world a better place.’ Who doesn’t want to partner with that person?”