SBJ/November 26 - December 2, 2001/Labor Agents

When it was time to find another business manager, Shaq said uncle

Most of the sports world seems to believe that Mike Parris is Shaquille O'Neal's uncle.

Parris isn't.

But a longtime friendship with O'Neal and his family has helped put Parris, whom the Los Angeles Lakers superstar calls "Uncle Mike," in a position of influence that is the envy of many in the sports industry.

O'Neal parted ways with longtime agent Leonard Armato in October and hired Parris to manage his business affairs.

Parris, in turn, decided he would need help to get the job done, so he interviewed agents and agencies to find the best fit.

"Every agent and every agency called," Parris said.

Parris chose Perry Rogers, longtime attorney for tennis star Andre Agassi. His reasons: He and O'Neal wanted to work with a small, independent agency, and Agassi, a friend of O'Neal, recommended Rogers for the job.

Parris said he and Rogers are forming a "50-50 partnership" to handle O'Neal's affairs. The partners are completing a deal with Burger King and are talking to other potential sponsors, Parris said.

Parris, who is on leave of absence from his job as a Newark (N.J.) Police Department lieutenant, and Rogers are forming a new business — as yet unnamed — and anticipate opening offices in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Rogers is a Las Vegas resident.

Armato was working on a major deal with Burger King when he and O'Neal split. Parris said he and Rogers are "expanding" that deal and are in talks about others. He wouldn't provide details.

"Leonard did a good job doing marketing for Shaq during the time that he had him, and they enjoyed a great relationship," Parris said. "Shaq just wanted to do his own thing. There was no bad blood between them."

WEAVER READY TO FACE HUYGHUE: Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver said he is not too concerned about the prospect of facing his former senior vice president, Michael Huyghue, across a negotiating table.

Huyghue left the Jaguars earlier this month after eight years as chief negotiator to open his own sports agency.

Huyghue said he plans to represent NFL players, including Jaguars players who decide to hire him.

Weaver said Huyghue "clearly" had access to confidential team information "because he had a sensitive position." But, Weaver added, "a lot of that information, like players' salaries, are general knowledge."

Weaver said he doesn't have a problem with Huyghue's company, Axcess Sports & Entertainment, partnering with NFL agent David Dunn on projects. Huyghue and Dunn were on opposite sides of the table in March when they hammered out a reported $30 million, four-year deal for Jacksonville quarterback Mark Brunell.

Dunn, at that time, had secretly split with his partner, agent Leigh Steinberg, but was still working for Steinberg, Moorad & Dunn while trying to work out an exit agreement with the agency's parent, Assante Corp. Assante and Dunn were unable to reach an agreement and the split became public in May, when Steinberg, Moorad & Dunn filed suit against Dunn.

The two parties are now involved in a court battle. Dunn has taken dozens of Steinberg's NFL clients with him, but not Brunell.

Weaver said he was personally involved in the Brunell negotiations because the deal was so important to the future of the Jaguars. During those negotiations, Weaver said he spoke to both agents, "but I probably spoke more to Steinberg than Dunn."

Contact Liz Mullen at lmullen@amcity.com with agent and labor news.

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