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SBJ/September 3 - 9, 2001/Labor Agents
IMG pursuing hockey practice of Brisson-Reich
Published September 3, 2001
IMG officials are in talks to buy the hockey practice of agents Pat Brisson and Tom Reich following the departure of longtime IMG hockey division head Mike Barnett.
IMG could announce the deal to buy Reich and Brisson's company, Santa Monica, Calif.-based Horizon Sports Group, in the next two to three weeks, sources said. But Brisson said, "We haven't agreed to anything."
Brisson did acknowledge, however, that "we are having some discussions." Horizon Sports represents about 35 NHL players, including Chris Chelios and Luc Robitaille, as well as about 25 NHL prospects.
An IMG spokeswoman wouldn't comment. In addition to holding a majority stake in Horizon, Reich also owns a successful baseball practice with partners Adam Katz and Craig Landis, and represents some top Major League Baseball players, including Sammy Sosa.
Reich wouldn't comment except to say that the baseball practice of Reich, Katz and Landis is not involved in any sale discussions.
Other sources said the talks do not involve Reich's baseball practice or him becoming an IMG employee.
Barnett, a 12-year IMG employee, left the company last week to become general manager of the Phoenix Coyotes, which is part-owned by the agent's most famous client, Wayne Gretzky.
It is not clear what position Brisson might take at IMG, since the company last week named vice president J.P. Barry to succeed Barnett as head of the division.
Barry has been increasingly involved in negotiating contracts for IMG's hockey clients, who include 40 NHL players and 75 hockey players overall. The list of clients includes NHL stars Jaromir Jagr, Brett Hull and Mats Sundin.
Rumors that Barnett would join Gretzky in the front offices of the Coyotes have been going on for at least a year but heated up again in the last month.
Barnett's departure is a blow to IMG because his status as Gretzky's agent helped the company recruit top players, said one agent. "In hockey, representing Gretzky is like representing Jesus," the agent said.
Talks about acquiring Horizon were seen by some hockey sources as an attempt to beef up the division after the losses of Barnett and Jiri Chra, an IMG agent who left the company to start his own business earlier this year. Chra took about 10 NHL player clients with him, sources said.
Also in the last month, IMG lost 2001 first-round draft pick Tim Gleason to agent Don Meehan at Newport Sports Management Inc., but Barry said that agent switch was not related to Barnett's decision to leave IMG.
Barry wouldn't comment about talks the company is having with Horizon Sports. When asked if the company might make an acquisition in the near future, Barry said, "We have had lots of people approach us over the years, and we are always looking at good people."
Barry also disputed widespread rumors in the hockey community that IMG hockey agent Eddie Mio, who served as best man at Gretzky's wedding, would be following Barnett to the Coyotes. "[Mio] is not going anywhere," Barry said.
Barry admitted that Barnett's departure is a loss, but he said, "We have a strong team that worked with Mike over the years, and we are prepared to do the best job for our clients."