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

Joining Lagardère is one option that Steinberg is exploring

Liz Mullen
Editor's note: Click here for updated news on Mark Steinberg — He is joining Excel Sports Management after his departure from IMG.

While it remained unclear last week where Mark Steinberg, agent to Tiger Woods, may end up, he has been in talks about joining Lagardère Unlimited, while talks about joining CAA Sports have ended, sources said.

Steinberg, who spent his entire professional career at IMG before leaving in late May, has been evaluating a number of possibilities and narrowing his options, sources said. Steinberg did not return a phone call last week seeking comment, but he previously has told SportsBusiness Journal he would take time investigating his possibilities before deciding what he wants to do with his career.

Lagardère COO Kevin O’Connor declined to comment. CAA officials could not be reached for comment.

Lagardère is said to be just one of the options Steinberg is evaluating. There are investors who are interested in the potential of backing him in his own venture, sources said. Additionally, there is continued speculation in the marketplace that he could join Excel Sports Management, the firm owned by NBA player agent Jeff Schwartz and MLB agent Casey Close. Like Steinberg, Schwartz and Close began their careers at IMG, and the three are said to be friends.

There is some potential synergy with Lagardère Unlimited, if the agent and the agency can come to terms. The agency’s parent company, French conglomerate Lagardère, is a major shareholder of Singapore-based World Sport Group, a leading sports media, management and event company in Asia, including having a presence in golf.

Lagardère entered the U.S. athlete representation business in a big way in 2010 when it acquired Blue Entertainment Sports Television, a company formed by sports entrepreneur Jonathan Blue. The U.S. sports company, which has a presence in a number of sports, was renamed Lagardère Unlimited.

Last year, O’Connor said the company would look at other acquisitions after integrating the assets of BEST and Lagardère (SportsBusiness Journal, June 21-27, 2010, issue).
 
SEGAL’S DEAL UP THIS YEAR: One of the best-known agents at the former BEST, now Lagardère Unlimited, is NFL agent Joel Segal.

Segal, who represents about 65 players in the NFL, including Reggie Bush, Michael Vick and Chris Johnson, has an employment contract that is up at the end of the year, sources said. It was not clear whether Segal, whose business was acquired by BEST in 2007, would sign a new deal with Lagardère upon expiration of his contract or join another agency that wants to enter the NFL player representation space.

Attempts to reach Segal for comment last week were unsuccessful.

JUDGE ISSUES ARREST WARRANT FOR KARL: A federal judge has issued a warrant for the arrest of Bryce Karl, a businessman who has attracted numerous NFL players to invest in his different projects, including oil wells and private jet hangars.

Judge Lance Africk issued an order late last month commanding U.S. marshals or any authorized federal enforcement officer to arrest Karl after he failed to appear at a hearing in U.S. District Court to explain why he reneged on a confidential agreement to settle a lawsuit brought against him by San Diego Chargers wide receiver Craig “Buster” Davis.

Davis, in a lawsuit last year, alleged that he relied on his financial advisers to transfer $500,000 out of his bank account for an interest in Teton Air Ranch, a private jet hangar project that was to be built in Idaho by Karl. Numerous NFL players have invested millions of dollars in Karl’s projects, which include other private jet hangars as well as oil wells.

Former No. 1 overall draft picks Mario Williams and JaMarcus Russell, as well as Carnell “Cadillac” Williams are among the other players who have invested in Karl’s projects. Attempts to reach Karl for comment were unsuccessful.

GOODELL, SMITH ADDRESS ROOKIES: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith told drafted rookies at the NFLPA’s rookie symposium late last month that they hope to have a resolution to the NFL lockout in order to preserve a full preseason as well as a regular season.

Goodell and Smith spoke to about 155 rookies who voluntarily attended the NFLPA’s event, titled “The Business of Football: Rookie Edition,” held at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Fla. The two were asked a lot of questions by the rookies, who were drafted and then locked out.

The NFL and NFLPA last week were in confidential, court-supervised talks about a settlement that would end the lockout, which was imposed March 12. The NFLPA decertified as a union March 11 and filed the Brady v. NFL lawsuit that same day. The talks are aimed at settling that lawsuit as well as ending the lockout.

“Everyone wanted to know what issues were at hand, how long it would take for the lockout to be done, and there really were no straight answers given because they couldn’t give answers [because of the confidentiality of the settlement talks],” said quarterback Christian Ponder, the first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings.

“They said their goal is they want to have a regular preseason, have it all resolved,” Ponder said. “We’ll see if it happens.”

Offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo, who was drafted in the first round by the Indianapolis Colts and also attended the question-and-answer session with Goodell and Smith, said, “They basically said if everything goes perfectly, according to plan, they said there will be a full training camp. They are pretty confident there will be a full training camp, but they would like [it] to be done soon enough so we can have some offseason stuff, too. [That] is the way that they put it.”

The NFLPA partnered with IMG to put on the rookie event after the NFL canceled its annual rookie symposium because of the lockout. Goodell and Smith flew from Minnesota — where they had been meeting — to Florida to speak to the rookies, who did not know that Goodell would be speaking to them until the night before.

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Von Miller was among the rookies who heard Goodell and Smith speak.
“They started off telling us there were a lot of things they couldn’t tell us, because of the court order,” Castonzo said. 

Linebacker Von Miller, first-round pick of the Denver Broncos and No. 2 pick overall, said that he could “read body language” and got a good feeling about seeing Goodell and Smith on the stage together at the rookie event. Miller, who is one of the named plaintiffs on the Brady v. NFL lawsuit, echoed other rookies who said that although they are locked out, they are not letting it get them down. “It’s not really frustrating,” he said. “It’s all out of our hands.”
  
IMG SIGNS DUNGEY: IMG has signed 21-year-old motocross racer Ryan Dungey for management, sponsorship, licensing and marketing representation. Dungey has dominated the sport in recent years, capturing every major title and winning a total of 47 races.

“He is an exceptionally talented and driven athlete,” said Mark Ervin, IMG vice president of action sports. “We are looking forward to working with him to expand his brand beyond his iconic status in motocross and leverage his appeal on a broader scale.”

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No. 6 pick Vesely  is a Wasserman client.
WASSERMAN, CAA, BDA REP FOUR NBA FIRST-ROUNDERS:
CAA Sports, BDA Sports and Wasserman Media Group each had four player clients selected in the first round of last month’s NBA draft.

CAA agents Leon Rose, Henry Thomas and Rich Paul represent No. 4 pick Tristan Thompson, No. 5 Jonas Valanciunas, No. 19 Tobias Harris and No. 29 Cory Joseph.

Wasserman agents Arn Tellem, Alexander Raskovic, Thad Foucher and Lee Melchionni represent No. 6 Jan Vesely, No. 8 Brandon Knight, No. 22 Kenneth Faried and No. 26 Jordan Hamilton.

BDA Sports agents Bill Duffy, Rade Filipovich and Kevin Bradbury represent No. 11 Klay Thompson, No. 16 Nikola Vucevic, No. 18 Chris Singleton and No. 27 JaJuan Johnson.

Wasserman represents the most NBA draft picks overall this year, with seven players taken across the first and second rounds. Agent Jeff Wechsler and his company, 24/7 Sports Management, represents No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving. Rob Pelinka’s Landmark Sports represents No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams.
 
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Top pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, like the rest of the top three, has signed with Octagon.
OCTAGON CLIENTS GO 1, 2, 3 IN NHL DRAFT:
In what is believed to be a first for an agency, Octagon had three of its player clients picked in the top three spots of last month’s NHL draft, led by No. 1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Octagon agents Rick Vallete, Peter Wallen, Allan Walsh and Robert Hooper also represent No. 2 pick Gabriel Landeskog and No. 3 Jonathan Huberdeau, as well as No. 7 Mark Scheifele, No. 10 Jonas Brodin and No. 30 Rickard Rakell.

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