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SBJ/March 12 - 18, 2007/Forty Under 40
Published March 12, 2007
Casey Wasserman sounds like a man in a hurry, even though he has a long time to get where he is going.
At 32, he has created one of the largest sports management, marketing and media companies through a series of acquisitions and rapid-fire, strategic hires of both sports veterans and up-and-comers. He talks fast when asked about all the things Wasserman Media Group has accomplished in the last year.
WMG has signed a deal to sell the naming rights for the New York Jets' and Giants' new stadium, which could be the biggest sponsorship deal of all time, and recently snagged the rights to sell the naming rights for the Washington Nationals' new ballpark.
He has built one of the largest multisport athlete representation firms in about a year's time, and continues to hire agents in all areas of sport. Wasserman started his agent business by acquiring the business of prominent baseball and basketball agent Arn Tellem, and continued by hiring veteran baseball agents Tom Reich and Adam Katz, and soccer agents, both in America and Europe.
In recent weeks, Wasserman has been filling in his sports management practice with young, up-and-coming agents, such as women's sports agent Dan Levy, golf agent Jay Danzi and action sports agent Circe Wallace, who joins Steve Astephen, one of the pioneers of that business.
WMG also has a content division and a production studio, Studio411, which produces action sports content.
Wasserman has a plan for all these assets that he has acquired, but he won't reveal it. Asked where he thinks he will be in five years, he says, "Nobody can tell you where you are going to be in five years."
But he does think that the value of sports will continue to grow. "I believe that sports and sports-related content ... both competitive and original entertainment are extremely valuable in this quickly changing world and will continue to get more valuable."
The entertainment industry has a real challenge in protecting copyrighted material, but Wasserman notes that the sports industry doesn't have the same problem. Sporting events are live and "are entirely resistant to piracy," he says.
Jeff Knapple, who heads up WMG's marketing division and is a pioneer in the field of selling stadium and arena naming rights, said he was a little wary when he first sold his business, Envision, to Wasserman as one of its first acquisitions in 2002.
"To be forthright, I wasn't sure in the beginning," Knapple said. "[But] I have never been happier to work for someone in my whole life, and that is an absolutely true statement."
Wasserman "is engaged in every asset and facet of this business," but allows managers "to do what they do," Knapple said. "He is not afraid of being a leader. He is not afraid of having people with strong opinions share them and he doesn't shoot the messenger, so to speak."
Knapple said what many people have said about Wasserman: that he is wise beyond his years. That may have something to do with his extremely close relationship with his grandfather, the late Hollywood icon Lew Wasserman.
"He has got tremendous roots in Hollywood," and could have done anything, Knapple said, "but he wanted to make a mark of his own."
— Liz Mullen