SBJ/December 10 - 16, 2001/Labor Agents

Banker Moag starts up his own sports firm

Sports investment banker John Moag is leaving Legg Mason Wood Walker to start his own sports firm, taking his six-person group with him, right down to his administrative assistant.

Legg Mason said it would not re-establish its sports industry group.

Moag said the business of sports finance advisory, like consulting on team purchases, arranging debt transactions and investments in sports companies, did not mesh well with Legg Mason's core investment banking business.

"Everything we have ever done within the context of our group has not required the larger structure of a typical investment bank," Moag said. "We want to be able to [make some investments] in our clients," he added, which was not possible at Legg.

The Baltimore resident said compensation was not an issue in his decision to leave Legg Mason.

Moag and three investors, whom he would not name, are putting their own funds into the new company, Moag & Co., to create a money pool to invest in sports clients. He would not disclose how large that fund would be.

While at Legg Mason, Moag advised, among others, Stephen Bisciotti on his 49 percent investment in the Baltimore Ravens (whom Moag helped lure to Baltimore in 1995 as head of the Maryland Stadium Authority), FieldTurf on securing investors and the San Diego Padres on their soon-to-be completed $160 million bond sale. Legg Mason did not have money to lend, however, so Moag brought less to the table in that regard than his competitors at other financial institutions.

Joining his new company, which will open its doors in Baltimore today, are as senior vice president of banking, Corey Chisnell; as chief operating officer, Kevin Kelly; as associate, Tom Lang; and three analysts, Jeremy Desor, Matt Addey and Matt Johnson. Moag's administrative assistant is Marsha Russell. All but two are coming with Moag from Legg Mason.

Legg Mason said it would continue to specialize in sports facilities financing as a natural extension of its real estate practice. Dick Himelfarb, the head of investment banking, said, "We don't anticipate re-establishing a group that is solely dedicated to professional sports." The group's creation was driven by Moag's hire in 1998, Himelfarb said.

Legg will continue to help sell the Padres' bonds, Himelfarb said, which is expected to close by the end of the month.

"We wish John and his team every success as he inaugurates his new firm," Himelfarb said. "And we expect to work together with John in the future."

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