SBJ/April 1 - 7, 2002/Labor Agents

Priority Sports adds a retired Ryno to its stable for marketing deals

Priority Sports & Entertainment, a Chicago-based firm known for negotiating contracts for NFL and NBA players, has signed a deal to represent retired baseball great Ryne Sandberg in marketing work.

Priority, which is headed by Mark Bartelstein, represents about 50 NFL players, including Rams all-pro quarterback Kurt Warner, and about 25 NBA players, including Brian Grant of the Miami Heat.

Ryne Sandberg is still a big name with Cubs fans.

Rob Lefko, vice president of marketing for Priority, admits the deal is unusual. "It is the first time we have taken on a client we haven't represented in contract negotiations," he said.

Priority is partnering in the marketing arrangement with Chicago-based Quast & Associates, a firm owned by Steve Quast, the former sports sales manager at WGN radio in Chicago. He worked on many promotions involving the Cubs, who like WGN are owned by the Tribune Co., and for whom Sandberg played 15 of his 16 major league seasons.

Sandberg's contract agent remains Jim Turner, but Sandberg retired in 1997. Turner hired Priority and Quast to do marketing for his client, Lefko said. "It made sense for a Chicago group to do his marketing," he said.

Lefko said they are just starting to talk to companies about deals and have found tremendous interest already, because of Chicago's strong feelings for Sandberg. The 10-time all-star hit more home runs than any other second baseman in Major League Baseball history.

 CARR CLOSE TO NIKE DEAL: Fresno State quarterback David Carr, expected to be chosen No. 1 by the Houston Texans in this month's NFL draft, is close to signing a deal with Nike Inc. for footwear, a source said.

Carr was talking to Nike and Reebok.

  CSMG SIGNS CRIS CARTER: CSMG Sports Ltd. NFL agent Fletcher Smith has signed NFL wide receiver Cris Carter for representation and has started talking to NFL teams about signing him after he was cut by the Minnesota Vikings.

Smith said he signed Carter about two weeks ago and it was too early to tell where Carter will land. "The Miami Dolphins are probably the team that is expressing the most interest in him at this time," he said.

Even though Carter is at the end of his NFL career, Smith said signing someone who he said is a surefire hall of famer means a lot to him and the NFL practice at CSMG.

"The younger guys come in not knowing what to expect [from an agent]," he said. "But Cris at this stage can make an intelligent and informed decision [about representation], and Cris thinking enough of me to let me represent him means a lot to me."

Like many agents, Smith started his career by representing a longtime friend when Derrick Walker hired him to negotiate a contract with the San Diego Chargers in the early 1990s. Smith worked as a corporate lawyer at the Chicago law firm Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe while slowly building his sports practice.

In 1999, Smith signed Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, and he joined Chicago-based CSMG in 2000. Today, Smith and agent Kennard McGuire represent about 20 NFL players and five prospects for this year's NFL draft.

Brown

  BROWN SIGNS RADIO DEAL: Fox "NFL Sunday" broadcaster James Brown has signed a deal to host a two-hour daily sports talk show on Sporting News Radio, said his agent, Sandy Montag, who heads up the sports broadcast division at IMG.

Montag declined to reveal the terms of the deal, other than it covers several years.

Montag said he is in preliminary discussions for a book deal about Brown's life. Brown played basketball at Harvard before he became a broadcaster.

  PROFILES SIGNS FIVE: Profiles Sports Management, the Atlanta-based firm owned by veteran NFL agent Pat Dye Jr., has signed several NFL draft prospects, including Georgia defensive end Charles Grant, who has a shot at going in the first round.

The company also signed Tennessee offensive guard Fred Weary, Tennessee defensive end Will Overstreet, Auburn wide receiver Tim Carter and Auburn offensive guard Mike Pucillo.

Dye and Profiles vice president Bill Johnson will represent the players.

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

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