SBJ/May 23-29, 2011/Labor and Agents

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  • Agent's stake in Yankees draws attention

    The MLB Players Association, which passed new, more expansive agent regulations last year, is reviewing among a number of agents’ applications for recertification the filing of Bill Rose, a certified agent who has long held a small ownership stake in the New York Yankees, according to a union source.

    Agents had to reapply for certification under the new regulations, which aimed to address various concerns that had been raised by players and agents. Though a number of applications have been approved, a number have not.

    Both the new and old regulations prohibit conflicts of interest, including the conflict of representing players and holding a financial interest in Major League Baseball or an MLB club. It was unclear if that is why Rose’s application was being reviewed.

    Rose, who inherited his interest in the Yankees from his father in 1996, has been certified as an agent since 2002, but the fact that he’s also been a limited partner with the Yankees was not well-known. The recent revelation has caused a stir in the agent community.

    Rose said the interest in his situation is because he started representing “some decent players” in recent years. His clients include pitchers Chris Volstad and Jeffrey Karstens. Additionally, a few years ago, he became partners with MLB agent Mike Moye, whose clients include Josh Hamilton and Todd Helton.

    “Nobody cared about it when I didn’t represent anyone,” Rose said. “Once you become a competitor, which I have become in recent years, things change.”

    Gene Orza, who retired as MLBPA’s chief operating officer in March, agreed with Rose’s assessment and said his ownership stake in the Yankees was being raised by rival agents. “They are not concerned about the conflict-of-interest issue. What they care about is the competition issue,” he said. “[Rose] has never done anything in the slightest to prove he represents the interest of the clubs instead of the players.”

    It was not clear if Rose’s or the other agents’ applications being reviewed would be accepted under the new rules. The union can grant the new certification with conditions or limitations.

    MLB also has a general conflict-of-interest policy regarding club owners having interests in players.

    Rob Manfred, MLB executive vice president of labor, said baseball has been aware that Rose is an MLBPA-certified agent. “There is a technical conflict,” Manfred said, “but the size of ownership is so small we did not make an issue of it.”

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  • Players adjust to ‘culture shock’ of working out without coaches

    Liz Mullen
    Up until last month’s draft, the NFL lockout didn’t have that big an effect on how the league’s coaches and players work. After all, between the Super Bowl and the draft, coaches are focused on which players their franchises plan to select at the draft — bringing in prospects for visits and drawing up their draft boards. Players, meanwhile, are taking time off after the previous season.

    But as the lockout, which began March 12, continued into May, coaches and players who would normally be working together in mini-camps or organized team activities (OTAs) are working separately. That’s not something either the players or the coaches like, according to coaches agents, player agents and players themselves.

    Larry Kennan, executive director of the NFL Coaches Association, said coaches around the league miss being able to work with their players and badly miss being able to hold mini-camps and OTAs. Coaches, Kennan said, are dying to know what kind of shape the players are in so that when and if the lockout ends, formal training for the 2011 season can begin. 

    Attempts to interview coaches for this story were unsuccessful. The NFL declined to comment or make a league official available for this story.

    Kennan said coaches know that players are working out, but there’s another piece to that. “Some of them,” he said, “are doing a great job; some of them aren’t.”

    NEWSCOM
    Drew Brees has been holding camps with other Saints.
    When and if the lockout ends, coaches will have trouble trying to determine whether to “overwork” or “under-work” players in order to get ready for the season, Kennan said.

    It’s been widely reported that NFL players across the league who are locked out of their clubs’ training facilities have been conducting their own workouts. In some cases, team leaders, including New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, have been holding their own training camps with players from their teams. Others are working out at private training facilities and paying for it themselves.

    New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman was one of about a dozen NFL players from different teams working out at private training facility Athletes’ Performance in the Los Angeles area last Monday. Normally at this time of year, Edelman said, he’d be at the Pats’ facility in Foxboro, Mass.

    “Of course you miss your coaches,” Edelman said. “This is the time where you put in a lot of film study and that kind of stuff with coaches. And they ultimately know what is best for you and the team, so it’s going to be good when [players] get back.”

    Free agent wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who also was working out at Athletes’ Performance, said he believes both coaches and players are feeling “a culture shock” as a result of working apart.

    “To be honest with you: Coaches, they don’t want a lockout,” said Houshmandzadeh, who was a player rep for the Baltimore Ravens last year. “They get used to a schedule and a routine like we do. They are used to us being at the facility. They are used to us talking to them, and having fun, and everybody being around each other. That’s fun. So they don’t have that. So it’s almost like a culture shock to them, as it is to us.”

    Meanwhile, Houshmandzadeh, a 10-year NFL veteran, has become a sort of unofficial coach for the NFL players working out at Athletes’ Performance, setting an example in his work ethic as well as his words, said Travelle Gaines, director of elite athlete development at the facility. “T.J. is the pacesetter,” Gaines said.

    ROSENHAUS SIGNS PLAYERS: NFL player agents and brothers Drew and Jason Rosenhaus have signed Houston Texans offensive guard Kasey Studdard and Washington Redskins 2011 third-round draft pick Leonard Hankerson, a wide receiver from the University of Miami.
     
    CAA SIGNS DAVIS: CAA Sports has signed NFL Network analyst Charles Davis for representation. He will be repped by a team of agents, including Trace Armstrong, Andy Elkin, Tom Young, Becky Sendrow and Jeff Roth.

    Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

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  • Swindal looking to buy SFX Baseball

    GETTY IMAGES
    Former New York Yankees chairman Steve Swindal would merge SFX Baseball with Dominican baseball academy.
    Former New York Yankees Chairman Steve Swindal is working on a plan to buy MLB player representation firm SFX Baseball for $40 million and merge it with his youth baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, creating a new venture that, according to the company’s pitch to investors, would have an edge in representing baseball talent.

    The deal has not yet been consummated, but Swindal has hired investment bankers who are soliciting Wall Street investors to provide seed money for the new company as well as funding to buy SFX Baseball, which represents 93 players on MLB 40-man rosters, including stars Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Mariano Rivera and Alfonso Soriano.

    “We have had a lot of interest,” said Swindal, who left his job as chairman of Yankee Global Enterprises LLC in 2007, shortly after his wife, Jennifer Steinbrenner, the daughter of late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, filed for divorce. Swindal said he is currently divorced and has no ownership stake in the Yankees.

    Since leaving the Yankees, Swindal and Abel Guerra, the Yankees’ former vice president of international relations, have founded Pan American Sports Group, which owns a training center in the Dominican Republic where about 30 elite baseball players, ages 14 to 16, are training.

    Major League Baseball teams can sign players to contracts when they are 16. For the players at this facility, PASG brokers those deals.

    Mark Pieper, an MLB player agent who is a principal of Chicago-based SFX Baseball, which was formerly part of the defunct SFX Sports, said last week there was a 50-50 chance of the deal being consummated, after telling SportsBusiness Journal in an interview the week before, “We are not shopping the company.”

    An entity named SFX Baseball Capital Partners was incorporated in Delaware on Nov. 3, 2010, according to the state’s Division of Corporations’ website. Swindal said he and Mark Isaacson, CEO of investment firms Strategic Development Partners and Great Court Capital, formed it as a “shell company” to hold SFX Baseball and his academy company, PASG, if it is funded by investors.

    Isaacson, who has previously been involved in MLB franchise sale efforts, did not return a phone call.

    Swindal, Isaacson and Guerra, as well as Pieper and other SFX Baseball agents Pat Rooney and Fernando Cuza, would be the executives leading the new company, if it is funded.

    According to two different documents that have been shown to potential investors, and obtained by SportsBusiness Journal, investors are being sold the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a baseball player representation firm being touted as having an edge over existing U.S. MLB player rep firms because of its pipeline to young talent in Latin America.

    “SFX Baseball Capital Partners (“SFXBCP”) is creating the leading agency serving the professional baseball community from player development and career management to contract negotiation and marketing,” states one investment document created by MESA Securities. A principal at MESA did not return a phone call.

    A second document, titled “Overview of Sports Agency Opportunity,” states that the new entity is seeking investors willing to put up an initial “seed round” of $25 million in financing. It is not clear exactly how much money Swindal is seeking for the new entity, and he declined to discuss the economics of the proposed deal.

    The overview document describes the competition in the business of representing MLB players, including blurbs on rival agencies Boras Corp., Wasserman Media Group, Peter Greenberg & Associates, CAA Sports, ACES and MLB agent Dan Lozano.

    “Creating a holding company that owns (the player rep firm) SFXBB and PASG will benefit both entities,” the document states. “SFXBB will have unparalleled access to recruit top Latin American prospects, earlier than any other agency presently has.”

    Swindal said the teenage players PASG trains and houses, most of whom come from impoverished families, will not be under any obligation to sign with an SFX Baseball agent, but he hopes they would, if the transaction goes through.

    Every MLB club has a facility in the Dominican Republic, but under MLB rules, those clubs can house players only ages 16 and older, and they are allowed to stay at those facilities for only 30 days. Guerra, who supervised the building of the Yankees academy when he worked for the club, said the PASG academy is comparable to the top MLB club academies in the Dominican Republic.

    Staff writer Eric Fisher contributed to this report.


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