SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/Labor Agents

Beverly Hills Sports Council claims ex-employees, rival firm solicited clients

Big baseball player representation firm Beverly Hills Sports Council is suing two former employees and agency Reich, Katz & Landis, claiming the employees solicited clients to switch to the rival firm.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in September, alleges that the two former client service managers and recruiters, Scott Leventhal and Damon Lapa, resigned on Sept. 8 and embarked on a "nationwide tour to solicit [Beverly Hills Sports Council's] clients."

According to the suit: Reich, Katz & Landis principals Adam Katz and Craig Landis accompanied Leventhal and Lapa on the latter part of the tour, during which Leventhal and Lapa "disparaged" Beverly Hills Sports Council and its principal agents to clients in the presence of Katz and Landis.

Though the suit describes Reich, Katz & Landis as Leventhal and Lapa's "new employer," attorney Richard Frey said the firm had not hired Leventhal and Lapa. "We are denying all the allegations," Frey said.

Leventhal and Lapa's attorney, Damon Anastasia, echoed Frey's comments, saying that the allegations are "completely frivolous."

The suit alleges that Beverly Hills Sports Council's clients "are beginning to terminate" its services to hire Reich, Katz & Landis, but the suit does not name the players who have switched firms. Beverly Hills Sports Council represents 100 MLB players, including such stars as Albert Pujols and Mike Piazza, as well as 150 minor league baseball players.

One player who did fire Beverly Hills Sports Council, according to the suit, is Oakland A's star Eric Chavez, who is expected to get a major contract when he becomes a free agent at the end of next season. Chavez informed Beverly Hills Sports Council on Sept. 11, three days after Leventhal and Lapa left, that he was ending his relationship with the firm, according to the suit.

The suit claims that, "When asked who he was hiring to replace [Beverly Hills Sports Council], Mr. Chavez said he did not know because Leventhal and Lapa had not yet made a decision about what sports agency they intended to associate with, but that Mr. Chavez intended to go wherever Leventhal went, even though Leventhal was not a certified player agent." Lapa also was not certified when he left the firm, according to the suit.

Last week, Chavez was still listed by the MLB Players Association as having Jeff Borris, one of the principals of Beverly Hills Sports Council, as his player agent. Richard Thurman, Daniel Lozano and Daniel Horwits are the other principals of the firm and all are certified agents. Borris did not return a phone call.

The suit also claims that the defendants "attempted to intimidate" Beverly Hills Sports Council by threatening to publicly disclose "negative, salacious, irrelevant and/or false information" about the firm and its clients.

Greg Genske, one of Beverly Hills Sports Council's attorneys, declined comment. Genske was part of a team of attorneys that won a $44.66 million judgment for agents Leigh Steinberg and Jeff Moorad against their former partner, David Dunn, and his firm last year. A jury found that Dunn engaged in unfair competition and breached a contract when he left Steinberg Moorad & Dunn and took 50 NFL player clients with him.

SPORTS IDENTITY SIGNS ROBERTSON, PARISH: Sports Identity Inc., a new Boston-based firm that specializes in athlete marketing and corporate consulting, has signed New York Jets defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson and Boston Celtics hall of famer Robert Parish for representation.

Sports Identity was founded in July by Derek Boyle and Kirsten Kelly, former employees of Woolf Associates, one of the

Sports Identity has big plans for Jets big man Dewayne Robertson.
nation's first sports agencies, which was shuttered in July. Boyle, who formerly headed Woolf's athlete marketing division, is president and director of marketing at Sports Identity. Kelly was the general counsel at Woolf and holds the same position at Sports Identity.

The new company is reaching out to agents at independent and boutique firms that do not have full-service marketing departments, Boyle said. Although there are many sports marketing firms that work with contract agents, many of those deals are done on a case-by-case basis, as marketing opportunities for athletes arise.

"What we saw was a problem with some agents telling marketing agents like myself, 'Go get some deals,'" Boyle said. "You can't just get deals."

Sports Identity is hired by an athlete's contract agent and paid a monthly retainer to find marketing deals and build the profile of the athlete in his regional market. After Sports Identity was hired by Robertson's contract agent, Hadley Engelhard, the company secured an endorsement deal with Sprint in the New York area.

Sports Identity also is working on coordinating a television sports show feature about Robertson and researching charities in the New York area with which Robertson can align. When he played at the University of Kentucky, Robertson was active in a big brother program.

"We are trying to build his profile so in two to three years he's making the money that Warren Sapp is," Boyle said.

Sports Identity is working to help Parish secure a job in basketball as an NBA coach, scout or front-office executive, as well as looking at broadcast work and marketing deals for the former Celtic.

The company also has been hired by former Boston Bruin Derek Sanderson to find speaking engagements and marketing deals.

IMANI SPORTS SIGNS SNOWBOARDER: Imani Sports LLC has signed professional snowboarder and 2003 USA Snowboard Association champion Chris Runge for representation.

Imani agents James Sullivan and Chris Murray will represent Runge.

Minneapolis-based Imani represents about 40 professional athletes, including professional golfers, NBA players and NFL players. This is the company's first foray into the action sports arena.

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

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