SBJ/June 30 - July 6, 2003/Labor Agents

SFX Tennis wins competition for teenager Baker

SFX Sports has won a two-year recruiting battle with heavyweights IMG and Octagon, signing the most sought-after male tennis client since Andy Roddick.

Brian Baker, an 18-year-old from Nashville and the No. 1-ranked junior tennis player in the world, signed an exclusive representation deal and already has interest from five apparel companies and six racket companies regarding endorsement deals, said John Tobias, the SFX tennis agent who will lead the team handling Baker's business.

"I would say the demand and interest from companies is greater than when Andy Roddick turned pro," Tobias said. SFX also represents Roddick, 20.

Even before Baker's signing was announced, Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Lacoste and Fila had called about apparel deals, and Babolat, Head, Prince, Dunlop, Yonex and Wilson were interested in racket deals, Tobias said.

"[Baker] is currently wearing Adidas, and he plays with a Babolat racket, but he is not under contract," Tobias said.

Steve Baker, Brian's father, said top tennis agents from Octagon, IMG and SFX met with the family many times over more than two years during the recruiting process.

"We had gotten to know these people for a long period of time," he said, "and that is what made it difficult to make the calls to tell the others we had not selected them."

Agents at all three companies were qualified to represent Baker, his father said.

Tom Ross, Octagon senior vice president in charge of men's tennis, said: "There is no question this is the most competitive American recruit since Robby Ginepri [who signed with Octagon nearly three years ago]. There is a lot of good, young American talent emerging from the juniors, and Brian is the first to turn pro."

Ross added: "Like many in the industry, we were surprised by this decision ... as it did appear Octagon was a perfect fit."

IMG had no immediate comment.

Ken Meyerson, president of SFX Tennis, said: "This kid is special. ... We want, as a group, to be out there representing the best American talent."

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