SBJ/April 11-17, 2011/Labor and Agents

Wasserman stakes claim in golf representation with deal

Wasserman Media Group is expected to announce today that it has acquired SFX Golf, giving the global sports and entertainment company a major presence in the representation of golf stars, including Zach Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Scott Verplank.

In addition to the nearly 50 golf clients that SFX Golf brings to the deal, the acquisition is expected to bolster WMG’s corporate consulting business. WMG counts American Express, Northern Trust and Nationwide Insurance as clients, and each has a notable golf presence as part of its overall marketing platform.

“They have built a powerful golf representation firm over the past two decades, and clients will collectively benefit from the Wasserman platform by now also having access to our pre-eminent management, consulting and sales disciplines,” said Arn Tellem, WMG prinicipal, management.

John Mascatello, CEO of SFX Golf, will lead the new WMG golf division, and SFX golf agents Bud Martin, Terry Reilly, Brad Buffoni and Sam MacNaughton will also join the company as part of the acquisition.

Neither WMG nor SFX Golf officials would discuss the financial details of the deal, but Mascatello said all the SFX Golf agents had committed to stay at the combined operation in the long term.

Meanwhile, golf agent Jay Danzi, who joined WMG in 2007 — his hiring essentially launched the golf division — recently left the company, Tellem confirmed.

“I don’t want to get into the details of why Jay left except to say we wish him the very best and we are appreciative of what he did when he was here,” Tellem said.

Said Danzi, “It was a difficult decision to leave Wasserman, as I really enjoyed my time there and am proud of the golf division which we created. That said, after reviewing the direction of the company, I decided to leave and I am excited about pursuing new opportunities in the golf business.” He declined to comment further.

Neither Tellem nor Danzi identified clients who left with Danzi, but Tellem said “many of his clients have stayed.” Among those clients are PGA Tour star Hunter Mahan and Nick Taylor, winner of the 2010 Ben Hogan Award, which recognizes the outstanding male amateur and collegiate golfer of the year.

Additionally, WMG recently signed LPGA Tour star Morgan Pressel.

WMG, which was built through a combination of acquisitions of agencies and hiring agents who focus on global sports, is expected to be a big player in golf. The company already has large soccer, basketball and action sports athlete representation practices, and with this move, it becomes a larger player competing against bigger golf agencies, including Gaylord Sports Management, International Sports Management and IMG.

Other golfers that SFX is bringing to WMG include PGA Tour players D.J. Trahan, Rory Sabbatini, Mark Wilson and John Daly, and LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year Azahara Munoz.

Tellem and Mascatello have known each other for years and worked together at the former SFX Sports Group, which Tellem ran, before it broke up in 2006. They said they started discussing the acquisition last fall.

Mascatello said that joining WMG was attractive for a number of reasons, including that the company has offices all over the world and golf is becoming a much more global business. Additionally, WMG’s corporate consulting operation was
attractive to SFX Golf’s clients.

“With the consulting division, we see a lot of synergies there, both opportunities for the future growth of the consulting business of Wasserman as a whole, and, obviously, with the quality of our client list, there should be more and more corporate opportunities for our players,” Mascatello said.

Said Tellem, “It was a huge part of it. We knew they would work well with our consulting group and hopefully work together to grow not only our golf practice, but also our consulting business.”

Mascatello described his client list of golf talent as “a vertically integrated group” that appeals to a wide audience. “We have the veterans, the all-stars; we’ve got the young guns and the role players as well,” he said.

But Mascatello added that both Tellem and WMG Chairman Casey Wasserman impressed on him early in the talks that they were not buying SFX Golf’s client list. What’s particularly notable, Tellem said, is that Mascatello and the other SFX Golf agents who are part of the deal have been
together for many years.

“The core of their practice, their clients and their executive team has been together a long time,” Tellem said. “It is unusual [in the sports business], but to stay together is a great challenge; not many people can do that. I think that says more about them than anything. These guys are great partners, they are great guys, and it is all about what is best for the client. And that is what we are trying to build here.”

ON THE TEE
Partial list of clients who will be represented
by the combined WMG/SFX Golf entity.

Stephen Ames*
Jason Day
John Daly
Rickie Fowler
Charley Hoffman
J.B. Holmes
Zach Johnson
Marc Leishman
Hunter Mahan*
Azahara Munoz
D.A. Points
Morgan Pressel*
Rory Sabbatini
Nick Taylor*
D.J. Trahan
Scott Verplank
Mark Wilson
* WMG client
Sources: Agencies, published reports


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