SBJ/November 5 - 11, 2001/Labor Agents

AFL owner Wasserman examines agent business

Casey Wasserman, owner of the Arena Football League's Los Angeles Avengers, has been considering a plan to open a multisport athlete representation business.

"We have done our research on what is out there," Wasserman said. "We haven't decided yet if it is a business we want to be in."

One of those is owning an NFL team in Los Angeles. "The NFL team in L.A. is, I think, the most unique ownership opportunity in sports," Wasserman said. He also owns two Arena Football 2 teams.

Wasserman said that if he does start a sports agency, he would probably not represent NFL players. "If we are serious about owning an NFL team, it sends mixed messages," Wasserman said.

Despite published reports that he was mulling a buyout of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Wasserman said he was not particularly interested in owning a Major League Baseball team.

Wasserman said that if he did start an athlete representation business, he would be interested in representing players in all the major league sports outside the NFL, as well as in tennis and golf. He said he did not know whether he would buy existing sports agencies or hire experienced agents.

But he cautioned that his investigation of the agency business is in the early stages.

If Wasserman does start a sports agency, he would, in a way, be going back into the family business. His grandfather Lew Wasserman, before heading up Universal Studios and founding MCA, was a major Hollywood agent, representing such stars as Jimmy Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock and Ronald Reagan.

VAN DYKEN SIGNS WITH PROXY: Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Amy Van Dyken has made a verbal agreement to leave IMG and sign with boutique athlete representation firm Proxy.

"We are still working on the exit agreement [from IMG]," said John Greenwood, president and CEO of Denver-based Proxy, which represents about a dozen Olympic and action sports athletes.

"We are a boutique agency, and Amy wanted more personalized attention," Greenwood said of the six-time gold medal winner's decision to switch representation. He declined to comment further.

Van Dyken was formerly represented by Denver-based IMG agent Janey Miller, who could not be reached for comment. IMG had no comment at press time.

The Denver office of IMG has been rumored to be among those targeted for closure in that company's cost-cutting initiative. Bob Kain, president and COO of IMG, Americas, said late last month that he may close a few offices. He would not identify which ones.

Among Proxy's clients are world champion surfer Sunny Garcia and snowboarder David Carrier Porcheron. The agency is part-owned by NHL player Uwe Krupp.

YAMAGUCHI SIGNS DEALS: Ten years after she won an Olympic gold medal, figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi is hotter than ever with corporate America.

In the past few months, the skater has signed deals with Allstate, Bank of America, Hallmark and Smart Ones, a healthy lifestyle frozen food product from Heinz.

"Corporate America is cautious" when signing athlete endorsers, said Yuki Saegusa, vice president in IMG's winter sports division and Yamaguchi's agent. "Kristi has proven herself over 10 years. Her image is impeccable."

Yamaguchi's deal with Smart Ones includes two television spots.

Darin Perry, director of talent buying for The Marketing Arm, which represented Heinz in the Smart Ones deal, said it picked Yamaguchi after conducting demographic research. The skater, now 30 and married, was seen as appealing to the product's target audience of women ages 30 to 50.

IF GETS GUM, YOUNG: New York-based If Management has signed Kirsten Gum, host/reporter for "Totally NASCAR" on Fox Sports Net, and Peter Young, host and play-by-play voice for the Outdoor Life Network. They are represented by agents Howard Busch and Gideon Cohen.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@amcity.com.

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