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SBJ/August 22 - 28, 2005/Labor Agents
Octagon Basketball bulks up with agent Lewis, 3 of his players
Published August 22, 2005
Octagon, looking to beef up its basketball division, hired a new agent who brought three players with him, New Orleans Hornets guard Kirk Snyder, Sacramento Kings first-round pick Francisco Garcia and Denver Nuggets guard Luis Flores.
Those players are clients of Jerome Lewis, who left Goodwin Sports Management to join Octagon’s basketball division last month.
“We are happy to have him aboard,” said Jeff Austin, director of Octagon Basketball. “He brings with him some very talented young players.”
Kings rookie Francisco Garcia, out of Louisville, is one of the players who left Goodwin Sports.
Many sports agencies require employees to sign noncompete agreements, which prohibit them from taking clients with them. But Lewis said, “I personally did not sign a noncompete agreement, and I gave my clients the opportunity to stay with the Goodwins and they chose to stay with me.”
Aaron Goodwin, owner of Seattle-based Goodwin Sports, did not return a phone call last week. Goodwin is probably best known as the former agent for NBA star LeBron James, who fired Goodwin earlier this year.
Neither Lewis nor Austin would provide many details about how Lewis came to work at Octagon. “We mutually found each other,” Lewis said.
Lewis clients Garcia and Flores are both natives of the Dominican Republic, and Lewis plans to recruit both Latin players and U.S. players.
“I think that Latin America, much like what Europe represented to the NBA five to seven years ago, is the next pool of international talent,” he said.
Austin said the hiring of Lewis helps Octagon continue to grow its base of young talent. Notably, Octagon represents Hornets rookie Chris Paul, the No. 4 pick in the 2005 NBA draft, and Josh Howard, who is entering his third year in the league with the Dallas Mavericks.
“The goal for the division is to continue to sign young, quality players and to start trying to add at least three first-round picks a year,” Austin said.
Miroslav Satan called in agent help when he became an unrestricted free agent.
But late last month, when Buffalo declined to tender a qualifying offer in the $4 million range for next season, Satan, 30, became one of the most prominent restricted free-agent players to become an unrestricted free agent.
Although Satan didn’t think he needed an agent before, being faced with offers from a bunch of teams prompted him to seek help from Octagon hockey agents Allan Walsh and Mike Liut.
Liut and Walsh negotiated for Satan a three-year, $12.765 million deal with the New York Islanders.
“His salary last season was $3.8 million,” Walsh said. “There was significant interest from a few clubs, who right away were pushing offers at him. He had in mind where he wanted to be. The decision was part geographic, part financial.”
Additionally, the three-year term of the deal helped swing Satan to the Islanders. In the last six seasons, Satan has scored 194 goals, tied for ninth best in the NHL. In three years, Satan will be 33 and have a chance at another free-agent contract, Walsh said.
With the vastly different new NHL collective-bargaining agreement, both agents and general managers are trying to figure out true market values in a changed landscape. Walsh said, “I don’t understand players doing five-year deals. It will take two or three years for the market to grow its legs and find out where the values are with the new capped system.”
Walsh said that players who sign long-term deals “run the risk of players being underpaid.”
In addition to contract negotiations, Satan also signed with Octagon for marketing and endorsements.
“In Slovakia, he is known as the No. 1 player from that country,” Walsh said. “You drive around Slovakia and his photo is up on billboards everywhere.”
Now that Satan will be playing in the New York market, with NHL star Alexei Yashin, “I think there will be opportunities for him to do interesting and exciting things in the New York area,” Walsh said.
JAMES HIRES AGENT, FINANCIAL ADVISER: LeBron James hired Leon Rose as his NBA contract adviser and Kurt Schoeppler of McCormack Advisors as his financial adviser.
As previously reported in SportsBusiness Journal, James and his new management team, headed by Maverick Carter, had been in talks about hiring Rose, who is best known as the agent for Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson. Rose and the NBPA confirmed that Rose signed James as a client earlier this month.
Schoeppler would not comment. McCormack Advisors was founded by late IMG founder Mark McCormack.
CORNRICH SUSPENDED FOR YEAR, FINED: NFL Players Association-certified agents have an obligation to all NFL players, dead or alive, an arbitrator determined in a case upholding a one-year suspension that the union imposed against agent Neil Cornrich for working as an expert witness against the estate of the late Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas.
Cornrich began a one-year suspension from representing NFL players earlier this month, after arbitrator Roger Kaplan upheld the NFLPA’s decision to discipline him for working as an expert witness for General Motors, defendant in a lawsuit brought by Thomas’ mother, Edith Morgan.
Morgan’s lawsuit claimed that the Chevrolet Suburban that Thomas was driving when he was fatally injured in 1999 was defective, but a Jackson County, Mo., jury found at a trial last year that the automaker was not at fault. General Motors hired Cornrich as an expert witness on the earnings potential of NFL players. Cornrich testified in a deposition and created reports for General Motors, but did not testify in the August 2004 trial.
Among Cornrich’s defenses was that he never represented Thomas and that deceased players are not included in the definition of “players” set forth in the NFLPA regulations, Kaplan wrote in his arbitration decision.
As NFLPA regulations do not specifically refer to dead players, Cornrich’s argument “has some technical foundation,” Kaplan wrote.
However, Kaplan found that “NFLPA regulations identify a duty owed to ‘players’ not to any one specific player. When Cornrich worked as an expert witness on behalf of GM and against the interests of a former NFL player who was deceased, he was working against the interests of a class of people who are the subjects of and the intended beneficiaries of the NFLPA regulations.”
Cornrich said, in a statement, “For more than 20 years, I have had a very positive relationship with the NFLPA. Even though I am disappointed with its ruling, I am looking forward to continuing a thriving relationship with the NFLPA. My focus, as it has always been, is to achieve the greatest success for the players whom I represent while maintaining the highest level of integrity.”
In addition to the one-year suspension, Cornrich, who represents about 25 NFL players, was fined an amount “equal to the amount he was paid for his services as an expert witness,” according to the arbitration award written by Kaplan. Cornrich received $1,000 an hour and billed General Motors $33,000 for his work between March 27, 2003, and June 9, 2004, according to Kaplan’s arbitration award.
It is not clear what will happen to Cornrich’s players, who include the New England Patriots’ Adam Vinatieri and Mike Vrabel, as well as the Indianapolis Colts’ Dallas Clark and Bob Sanders, during the one-year suspension. Some may not need the services of a certified agent immediately if they are under long-term deals.
Contact Liz Mullen with labor and agent news at firstname.lastname@example.org.