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SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Forty Under 40
Published February 28, 2005
BEN DOGRA, SFX FOOTBALL
BY LIZ MULLEN
Representing professional football players might be the most cutthroat profession in the sports industry. But somehow, in the last few years, a polite and cerebral guy named Ben Dogra has muscled his way to the top of the business.
|• Age: 39|
|• Title: Senior vice president/managing director|
|• Company: SFX Football|
|• Education: B.S., economics, George Mason University, 1988; J.D., St. Louis University School of Law, 1994|
|• Family: Wife, Yanine; daughters Pamela, 7, and Danielle, 5|
|• Career: Worked as a law clerk in 1992-1993 at veteran football agent Jim Steiner's Sports Management Group Inc.; hired full time by SMG in 1994 as an agent; promoted to president of SMG in 1998; given the title of vice president, SFX Football when SMG was acquired by SFX in 2000; promoted to current title in 2002|
|• Last vacation: Working vacation of taking family to the 2002 Pro Bowl in Hawaii. (Hasn't taken a "real" vacation in 15 years.)|
|• Last book read: "One L" by Scott Turow|
|• Last movie seen: "Rounders"|
|• Greatest achievement: Ability to retain my clients. In this business that is pretty tough.|
|• Greatest disappointment: Losing my mom to a heart attack in 1994, before she got to know my children|
|• Fantasy job: I would love to be a general manager of an NFL team and build a Super Bowl winner.|
|• Executive most admired: Bill Gates, because he seems to be down to earth and gives back to the community.|
|• Business advice: Whatever you decide to do, go full force, don't cut corners and put your heart and energy into it.|
Dogra has become a major name in the NFL player representation business, said Jim Overdorf, vice president of business administration for the Buffalo Bills.
“When you get three first-rounders a year … that tends to make you powerful,” Overdorf said. “It puts your name out there.”
Arn Tellem, the high-powered baseball and basketball player agent who recently was promoted to CEO of SFX Sports, said Dogra is “a real star.”
“He is one of the best young agents in the business,” Tellem said, “and I really believe that he is going to be one of the leaders in this field going forward.”
Dogra has been working for veteran football agent Jim Steiner, who since 1992 has represented many NFL stars, including Jerry Rice, William “Refrigerator” Perry and Dan Hampton. In the last few years, Dogra has taken over the responsibility of recruiting SFX Football’s rookie players.
“He is certainly doing the lion’s share of the work in the collegiate area,” Steiner said. “In the last few years, he is responsible for 99 percent of our collegiate players. It has changed over time. I am recruiting players less and less and he is doing it more and more.”
There are two main ways to build a football representation practice: signing rookies for the NFL draft or signing veteran players who have fired their previous agent. Signing players who worked with other agents is a practice that can be fraught with accusations of client stealing, and Steiner admits it is one area in which he and Dogra have not been that active.
Concentrating their recruiting efforts on rookies and holding on to their clients has earned the agents of SFX Football a reputation as pretty nice guys in a tough business. SFX Football represents 51 active NFL players, and of those, Dogra is the primary agent for 30.
In 1996, Dogra signed his first first-rounder, Detroit Lions selection Jeff Hartings, and since then he has represented at least one first-round pick in every year but two.
Dogra’s secret, Steiner said, is hard work, incredibly long hours, a sharp, analytical mind and an ability to reach people.
“He’s got a work ethic unlike anyone,” Steiner said.