SBJ/June 20 - 26, 2005/Labor Agents

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  • SFX’s quiet hire creates coach division

    When bringing aboard major agents or acquiring their firms, big sports agencies generally announce the new hires and the top clients coming with them.

    But two years ago, SFX Sports hired longtime agent Warren LeGarie and established a major coaches division, without any fanfare. LeGarie represents six NBA coaches, eight NBA general managers and about 20 NBA assistant coaches.

    LeGarie’s clients include Phoenix Suns coach Mike D’Antoni, Los Angeles Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe and former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Jim Paxson.

    LeGarie, too, is a bit of a pioneer in the agent business and was one of the first to represent basketball players in Europe. He was current SFX CEO Arn Tellem’s first partner in the sports agency business. The two formed Tellem LeGarie Management in the late 1980s. Tellem later left that firm to form Tellem & Associates, which he sold to SFX in 1999.

    The National Basketball Players Association prohibits player agents from representing coaches, general managers or any top NBA management officials. LeGarie no longer represents NBA players, but he still represents European basketball players. If one of those European players were to get a job in the NBA, he would get a different agent, an SFX official said.

    Jeffrey Wernick, SFX Basketball executive vice president and chief operating officer, said SFX got approval from NBPA general counsel Ron Klempner to hire a coaches and general managers agent when it entered into an agreement with LeGarie two years ago.

    “As long as there was not cross-pollination between our players representation and Warren’s coaches practice … there would not be any problem,” Wernick said.

    IMG also began representing NBA coaches about two years ago and has one NBA client, Vince Carter, but represents Carter only for marketing. The NBPA does not regulate marketing agents, only player contract agents.

    The NBPA had no immediate comment.

    Wernick said there was no effort to hide the hiring of LeGarie, who did not insist on a press release. (LeGarie has been mentioned or quoted in more than 70 newspaper or wire stories in the last two years, but it is never mentioned that he is employed by SFX.)

    Legacy Sports is advising Brian Bogusevic, the No. 24 pick in this year’s MLB draft.
    LeGarie was in Italy last week and could not be reached for comment. But in an interview earlier this month, he said he has an unusual contractual relationship with SFX.

    “I am really just rented for two years,” LeGarie said. “The day I leave them, there is no noncompete clause and I can open up [an agency] with no interference with them. … We are discussing whether I am going to stay.”

    NBPA QUESTIONS NBA LOSSES: Andrew Zimbalist, former economist for the National Basketball Players Association, said the union was not able to substantiate league claims that NBA team owners lost $1 billion during the term of the current collective-bargaining agreement.

    The NBA provided the NBPA with financial statements for its teams, but did not comply with union requests for backup information about the losses, said Zimbalist, who was the NBPA economist until a month ago.

    A current union source would not comment except to say the finances of the league were not a major issue holding up a deal. The union’s new economist, University of Chicago economist Kevin Murphy, did not return a phone call.

    NBA Commissioner David Stern, in an interview with SportsBusiness Journal last month, said NBA teams had lost $1 billion over the course of the CBA, which was agreed to in January 1999 and expires June 30. He said public perceptions that NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter got a bad deal for his players in the last negotiations are incorrect.

    Zimbalist said that he and an accounting firm hired by the union reviewed financial statements of the teams and asked for but did not receive information about NBA owners’ related-party transactions. Without knowing about related-party transactions, such as how much money an NBA owner gets from a team’s arena, it is hard to know whether the losses are real, Zimbalist said.

    LEGACY ADVISER TO MLB DRAFT PICK: Newport Beach, Calif.-based Legacy Sports is advising Brian Bogusevic, a left-handed pitcher from Tulane, who was the No. 24 pick in this year’s MLB draft. Agent Greg Genske serves as Bogusevic’s adviser.

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

    Print | Tags: Basketball, Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, Labor and Agents, Los Angeles Clippers, NBA, Phoenix Suns, SFX
  • Lockout would shutter Vegas summer league

    A year-old Las Vegas-based summer league for NBA veteran players and newly drafted rookies, which counts Reebok as its title sponsor, could be the first business casualty this summer if there is an NBA lockout July 1.

    “The summer league, right now, it’s bordering on being gone,” Tom Shine, senior vice president of sports marketing for Reebok, said last week.

    Reebok is signed to sponsor the Vegas Summer League, scheduled for July 6-15, for the second year in a row.

    The rival Summer Pro League in Long Beach, Calif., would go on, its owner says.
    After hosting just six NBA teams in its first year of operation last year, the league, which plays on the UNLV campus, has 16 NBA teams committed to play this summer — but only if the league agrees to a new collective-bargaining agreement with the National Basketball Players Association.

    In the event of a lockout, a Global Hoops Summit with international and national teams will be played at UNLV July 16-21.

    Meanwhile, John Younesi, owner of the oldest summer league, the Long Beach, Calif.-based Summer Pro League, said it will go forward with 20 to 25 player agent and free-agent teams on its planned July 8-23 schedule, even if there is a lockout. But Younesi said his league, marking its 36th year, has been hurt by erroneous rumors that it was going out of business.

    Younesi said he lost NBA teams to the Las Vegas league after that league’s majority owner, Warren LeGarie, told NBA general managers this winter that the Summer Pro League was “not going forward.”

    LeGarie, an SFX agent for basketball coaches, formerly sponsored an agent team in the Summer Pro League but now calls it “that Long Beach dinosaur.” LeGarie denied he told general managers that the Summer Pro League was not going forward, but admits he told people it was dying. “I said, ‘You want to be part of a dying league, then stay there.’ I told this to Mitch Kupchak,” LeGarie said.

    Kupchak, the Los Angeles Lakers general manager, did not return phone calls, but the Lakers have committed to field a team in Long Beach, which is close to Los Angeles, if there is no lockout.

    The Los Angeles Clippers, who previously entered a team in the Summer Pro League, are going to Vegas if the NBA and the NBPA can strike a deal before the deadline.

    “Deciding to go to Las Vegas this summer was easy,” said Clippers spokesman Joe Safety. The Las Vegas league had more NBA teams participating — 16 — which makes for better competition, and players like to go to Las Vegas, which means more may participate, he said.

    For decades, the Summer Pro League, and various summer leagues owned by NBA teams, provided an opportunity for NBA veterans to stay in shape, newly drafted NBA rookies to get a taste of the big time and hard-core basketball fans to satisfy their offseason cravings.

    Younesi noted that Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady played their first professional games in his league, at the 4,500-seat Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach, where the league plays games.

    Younesi said he never made a lot of money on the league, but he never lost any either. The business involves selling tickets, $12 for adults and $7 for kids; selling sponsorships; and charging agents and NBA teams an entry fee. Younesi would not comment on sponsorship or team entry prices, but sources said the entry fee is about $5,000 a team. The Summer Pro League’s sponsors this year include Coca-Cola, Lanier Copiers, Slam magazine, Dime magazine, 2K Sports, Advanced Electronics, Kinetics Athletic, Big Boy Gear and Los Angeles sports talk station 1540 AM, The Ticket.

    The new Las Vegas league charges $20 for adult tickets and $10 for kids and charges NBA teams a $10,000 fee to enter a team in the league.

    The Vegas Summer League has secured sponsorships with ESPN Radio, Fox Sports Radio, Gatorade, WebPro Productions, UNLV Tickets, 2K Sports, Extra Holidays and the New York New York hotel, as well as Reebok.

    Reebok’s Shine said the shoe company’s sponsorship of the Vegas Summer League “helps us with a lot of the local retailers.”

    Shine would not give the cost of the sponsorship but said it was less than $100,000.

    Print | Tags: Basketball, ESPN, Fox, Labor and Agents, NBA
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