SBJ/July 1 - 7, 2002/Labor Agents

Toronto-based lawyer and professor scores 2nd top pick with Nash

To represent the No. 1 pick in any of the four major team sports is the dream of many agents.

Gordon Kirke, agent for left wing Rick Nash, who was selected No. 1 by the Columbus Blue Jackets in last month's NHL draft, has done it twice.

Kirke, a Toronto-based lawyer and sports law professor, also represented Eric Lindros in the 1991 draft as his attorney (Lindros' father served as his agent).

"In the last dozen years, only two Toronto-area players have been the first pick overall ... and I represented both of them," said Kirke, who represents about 45 hockey players through his company, KSR Sports Representatives.

Kirke said the honor of representing a No. 1 pick could help his business in the future. "I think anytime you have the first overall draft pick, it gives you some notoriety and some profile," Kirke said. "And parents want to know who else you have and what your record is and so on."

Kirke, who teaches sports law at the University of Toronto and York University, has been a sports lawyer since the early 1970s. He was involved in the creation of the Toronto Blue Jays and still serves as outside counsel to the team.

Kirke also, at one time, was a lawyer for the Canadian Hockey League, but he gave that up when he started representing hockey players. He became a certified agent in 1997.

Kirke's company recruited against high-profile sports agencies when he got an oral agreement to be Nash's agent about three years ago, when Nash was 15. Kirke did not sign a contract with Nash until a few days before the draft.

Kirke said he and Nash did not know Nash would be the No. 1 pick until the moment it was announced at the draft. Columbus traded its No. 3 pick to the Florida Panthers and the right to swap first-round picks next year to get Nash

Anderson
LANDPHERE PROMOTED AS ANDERSON DEPARTS: Octagon has promoted Ken Landphere to director of its coaches division, as Landphere's longtime partner, Ray Anderson, left the company to become executive vice president and chief administrative officer for the Atlanta Falcons.

Octagon acquired AR Sports, the company of Harvard Law School-trained Anderson, last year and with it got a top-flight NFL coaches and players representation practice. Anderson and Landphere represent coaches Tony Dungy, Herman Edwards and Brian Billick and players Lawyer Milloy and Bob Whitfield, among others.

Octagon President Phil de Picciotto said Anderson's departure was "bittersweet." Although de Picciotto declined to reveal details of Anderson's contract with the big sports agency, he said, "When an extraordinary opportunity such as this comes up, we try to make a win-win situation out of it."

Anderson said that although he had a multiyear deal with Octagon, he was not prevented from taking the job. He said Octagon officials were "tremendous" through the hiring process and were "sensitive to the fact that not a lot of African-Americans get these kinds of opportunities."

Meanwhile, some agents and industry insiders were questioning whether Anderson had a conflict of interest because he still owns stock in Interpublic Group, Octagon's parent company.

Anderson is not the only top NFL official to own stock in a company that represents football players. Minnesota Vikings owner Red McCombs owns 14.4 million shares, or 2.4 percent, of Clear Channel Communications, the parent company of SFX, which owns the practice of NFL agents Jim Steiner and Ben Dogra.

A bylaw in the NFL constitution states that no NFL employee or shareholder shall "act as a contracting agent or representative for any player or share or be financially interested in the compensation of any player in the league."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said, "Based on our understanding of the facts, it would be hard to make a case that either situation is a violation of NFL rules."

One NFL source noted that "it a would be a stretch" to say there was a conflict because the football representation business is a very small part of the business of the parent companies Clear Channel and Interpublic.

Anderson said he will miss the relationships with the players, coaches and their families as a result of his decision to leave the agent business for a management position. "I don't know if I will miss the travel or the recruiting," he said, "as it has gotten more intense and sometimes more unethical, in the last couple of years particularly."

Some agents and players may owe Anderson a debt of gratitude because he was the first person to step forward and give the NFL Players Association information about former agent William "Tank" Black. That led to an investigation of Black, who was decertified by the union. He was found guilty earlier this year of defrauding NFL players out of $12 million to $14 million.

CASTILLO SWITCHES AGENTS: Luis Castillo of the Florida Marlins, whose recent 35-game hitting streak is the 10th longest in baseball history, has left his longtime agency — Reich, Katz and Landis — for CSMG, sources said. CSMG owner Alan Nero is listed as Castillo's agent by the MLB Players Association.

REED FINALLY SIGNS: Edward Reed, believed to be the only first-round 2002 NFL draft pick without an agent, signed with Jeff Moorad and Eugene Mato.

"I felt comfortable with Gene Mato and Jeff Moorad, and that is what it boils down to," said Reed, a former University of Miami defensive back who was picked by Baltimore in the first round.

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

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