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SBJ/March 12 - 18, 2007/Forty Under 40
Published March 12, 2007
Art Kaminsky remembers the day in the early 1990s when Neal Pilson, then president of CBS Sports, called him about Michael Levine, who had just graduated from Cornell.
"He called and said, ?I have a kid who I think you should find a place for,'" recalled Kaminsky, who was then running one of the pioneer sports management firms, Athletes and Artists. Kaminsky didn't really have room for a college kid at his agency, but Pilson was a friend, and it was uncharacteristic of him to make such a request.
"He said, ?He is the greatest kid in the world ... he is the son of a next-door neighbor," Kaminsky said. "I thought, ?Oh God, one of those.'"
So he reluctantly took the meeting with Levine. "We sat down and talked, and in 15 minutes I fell in love with him."
Thus began the sports career of Levine, who started out by marketing sports broadcasters and NHL players for Athletes and Artists.
"I have always said he was the best employee I ever hired," Kaminsky said, "and I hired hundreds and hundreds of people."
Fourteen years later, Levine has started another new job. He's been hired to lead the new sports division at Hollywood talent firm Creative Artists Agency, along with David Rone, former executive vice president of Fox Sports Networks, and Howard Nuchow, former president of business operations for Mandalay Baseball.
Levine comes to CAA from Van Wagner Sports Group, a sports media sales organization, which counted roughly 200 Major League Baseball, NHL, NBA, college football and basketball teams as clients. Van Wagner sold sponsorships mostly on rotating signage at facilities. In an average year, Levine said, the company would negotiate between 100 and 200 deals generating in excess of $200 million in revenue.
CAA has been secretive about its overall plan for sports since it began acquiring sports agents in the spring of 2006. Levine, who was hired in January, did not shed much light on what the agency's overall plan is. "I mean, honestly, it is premature at this point to say what we will and won't be involved in," he said.
But the company's acquisition of football agents Tom Condon and Ben Dogra, hockey agents J.P. Barry and Pat Brisson, baseball agent Casey Close and basketball agent Leon Rose has created an athlete client base of 380.
"The fact of the matter is, when David, Howie and I arrived, Tom and Ben's clients, Pat and J.P.'s clients, Casey Close's clients and Leon's clients are the assets at the moment," Levine said. "And yeah, we are going to do all we can to help further the existing careers of our clients."
— Liz Mullen