SBJ/March 6 - 12, 2006/This Weeks News

Agent: Press gave Miller raw deal

Lowell Taub would like to spend his time working the phones on behalf of Julia Mancuso, his client who won an unexpected gold medal in the Olympic giant slalom. But it’s not hard to get him talking about Bode Miller, his other star ski racer who he says got a raw deal from the “venomous” U.S. press.

Taub (left, with Miller) said the skier was in top
physical and mental condition.
Miller was vilified as the symbol of American failures in Turin after not winning a medal in five men’s alpine events at the Olympics. He was widely accused of being out of shape and, as NBC host Bob Costas asserted after Miller’s final appearance on the network, just not caring.

There may not be anything that can be done to save Miller’s public image now, but Taub emotionally defended his client in an interview last week.

“It would be asinine to say he wasn’t in top physical and mental shape,” Taub said. He added that Miller is ranked third in this year’s World Cup standings, which he said would be impossible if Miller was not in world-class condition.

“The guy is the third-best skier on the planet Earth,” Taub said. “How can he not be in shape? It’s like saying Andy Roddick is not in shape.”

Taub went through most of the Olympics without any of his clients winning a medal, as defending silver medalist Joe Pack failed to make the final round in aerials and Mancuso did not make the podium in her first four races. Meanwhile, Taub was locking horns with U.S. ski team officials over Mancuso not having power in her RV, which the team said was because she made the request too late.

Then, on the morning of the women’s giant slalom, former Olympic gold medalist Picabo Street, working for NBC as an analyst, appeared on the “Today” show and accused Mancuso of being “immature” and “unprofessional.”

It added an extra dramatic layer to the race that day, which Mancuso won by a wide margin.

Taub is helping another client, Julia Mancuso,
cash in on her Olympic gold medal.
Now, Taub is trying to help Mancuso cash in what little is left of the Olympic buzz. His focus is to land long-term deals that will carry through to 2010 in Vancouver, when Mancuso will be at the prime of her career. She has agreements with Nike, Visa and the outdoor electronics brand Highgear that expire in the next year, and Taub said he expects all of them to be renewed.

As for Miller, he will likely finish the European leg of the World Cup circuit when it resumes this week. Taub said about half of Miller’s non-equipment deals, including the one with Nike, have multiple years left, but his helmet deal with Barilla pasta expires this spring. If Miller commits to racing in the World Cup next season, which Taub said he thinks he will but possibly only in slalom and giant slalom events, then renewal talks will commence.

Miller dodged the press during the games but then gave a handful of interviews at the end in which he said he had an “awesome time” in Italy because he “got to party and socialize at an Olympic level,” a quote the Associated Press sent all over the world.

That led U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association CEO Bill Marolt to issue a statement at the conclusion of the games saying, “These actions are not acceptable to our organization. … It’s disrespectful for the athletes on this team who have trained a lifetime for this experience.” Although not singling out any athlete by name, he was also probably referring to aerialist Jeret Peterson, who was sent home by the USOC after he got in a drunken fight with a childhood friend.

Taub said USSA officials did express concern to him about Miller, but that Miller never went out drinking the night before an event and he never felt any need to intervene. “I did not think he did anything that needed my advice or counsel,” Taub said.

Taub acknowledged that he would rethink his media strategy for his client.

Miller appeared on the cover of multiple magazines before the games, prompting Newsweek to later pose the self-effacing question, “We put this jerk on the cover?”

Time was no more pleased with its decision to make Miller a cover boy, as its managing editor later told CBS MarketWatch that the magazine was misled into thinking it had an exclusive and had been “double-dealt.”

Taub’s defense is that Miller spent just a few minutes with a Newsweek reporter and photographer while promoting his autobiography last November, and he had no idea that would land Miller on the cover. He said he apologized to Time. It all amounts to a hard lesson about the pitfalls of a client getting that level of exposure.

“What I’ve learned for the future of my career on the media side is if you open that door and do ‘60 Minutes,’ ‘Rolling Stone,’ ‘Time,’ ‘Newsweek,’ you are creating an environment for a star to fall from grace if he or she does not succeed to the American public’s expectation,” Taub said. “I think I’ve learned you have to tread carefully.”

The dealmakers

The following lists the marketing representation for U.S. Olympic individual medalists in Turin.

Athlete Agent/agency
Gretchen Bleiler Peter Carlisle/Octagon
Joey Cheek Patrick Quinn/Q Sports Int?l
Sasha Cohen Shannon Fuller/Lee Marshall Management
Shani Davis Peter Carlisle/Octagon
Toby Dawson Jim Spinello/CSMG
Rosey Fletcher NA
Chad Hedrick Ty Kilinc/Clipse Management
Lindsey Jacobellis Josh Schwartz/Evolution Group
Danny Kass Peter Carlisle/Octagon
Ted Ligety Ken Sowles/independent
Julia Mancuso Lowell Taub/GFHF Marketing & Management
Apolo Anton Ohno Janey Miller/Janey Miller Management
Hannah Teter Peter Carlisle/Octagon
Seth Wescott Peter Carlisle/Octagon
Shaun White Mark Ervin/IMG
NA: Not available
Research: Jon Show, SportsBusiness Daily
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