SBJ/October 9 - 15, 2000/No Topic Name

Octagon vaults to top of hockey

Sports marketing agency Octagon has acquired Kelly Management Group Inc., a well-established hockey agency that represents about 40 NHL players, including Detroit Red Wings center Steve Yzerman.

The deal, expected to be announced today, puts Octagon, with about 70 players, among the ranks of the largest hockey agencies in the world. Financial details were not disclosed.

Larry Kelly, who owns Ottawa, Canada-based Kelly Management Group and has been an NHL agent for about 20 years, will become Octagon's director of international hockey and director of Canadian hockey, said Brian Lawton, Octagon director of worldwide hockey and head of the division.

The deal also may signal the first big move by Octagon to establish itself as a major force in representing athletes in one of the big American team sports. The company, which has a strong tennis division with clients such as Martina Hingis, Michael Chang and Anna Kournikova, also has recently been in discussions to buy NFL agents.

Kelly Management Group will bring a number of hockey stars to Octagon, a company with a full-service marketing arm. Besides Yzerman, Kelly Management represents Buffalo Sabres center Doug Gilmour, Calgary Flames defenseman Mike Vernon and Phoenix Coyotes center Joe Juneau.

Octagon already represented some major NHL players, including Sergei Fedorov of the Red Wings. "For superstars, I think we are [now] as good as anyone out there," Lawton said.

Lawton said another factor that made the deal attractive was that it will widen Octagon's geographic reach, as Kelly Management has offices in Ottawa and Helsinki. Kelly will bring three employees with him, increasing the staff to 10, Lawton said.

Hockey representation is a business in which agents need to be on the ground in offices around the world in order to sign talent, said Lawton, who sold his company, Lawton Sport and Financial, to Octagon 21¼2 years ago.

"When I sold my company to Octagon, I told them we need to improve our geographic footprint," Lawton said. "Of all the [NHL] players who have come out of the Ottawa area, [Kelly] has represented about 90 percent of them."

Lawton represented 12 players when he first joined Octagon, but that number has grown to 30. Notably, Octagon signed Fedorov, who had been a client of rival sports marketing agency IMG, two years ago.

Lawton said Fedorov became acquainted with Octagon through his then-girlfriend and Octagon client Kournikova. Since signing Fedorov, Octagon has booked a number of endorsements for Fedorov, including Daily Defense shampoo, Federal Express, Naya water and Cartier.

Lawton said Octagon will immediately begin looking for marketing deals for its new clients.

Lawton said that Octagon hockey may be done with acquisitions for now, but added, "I wouldn't rule them out in the future."

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