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SBJ/October 10-16, 2011/Labor and AgentsPrint All
Lagardère Unlimited has acquired the business of veteran basketball agent David Bauman, whose clients include former No. 1 NBA draft pick Andrew Bogut and Metta World Peace, in a move that will strengthen Lagardère’s NBA practice.
NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest) is among David Bauman’s eight NBA clients.
Neither Fegan nor Bauman would comment on the specifics of their deals, but both said Bauman’s move to Lagardère was a sign that the big agency model, as opposed to the boutique model, is the future of the agent business.
Bauman, who got his start in the business in 1992 working at FAME for David Falk, the most powerful agent of the 1990s, has also held senior positions at the former SFX Sports.
Fegan called Bauman’s client list of eight NBA players very strong but said the greatest asset in the purchase is Bauman himself, who he said will blossom in the structure of the large firm into one of the best agents in the business.
Fegan’s clients include Dwight Howard, John Wall, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and Nenê. Lagardère acquired Fegan’s practice last summer when it acquired Blue Entertainment Sports Television, which Fegan had joined in 2008.
Lagardère Unlimited COO Kevin O’Connor said in an email, “David’s client list is a microcosm of our own powerful client list — he represents a former No. 1 overall pick (Bogut), several All-Stars ([Peja] Stojakovic and Ron Artest/Metta World Peace), a first-team All-Rookie (Gary Neal) and several budding stars such as Jodie Meeks and Devin Ebanks.” O’Connor also pointed to Bauman’s experience representing European players, both in the NBA and Europe.
O’Connor said the NBA lockout was not a consideration in the acquisition of Bauman’s practice. As to further potential acquisitions, O’Connor wrote, “We are always looking at new opportunities and agents in all different sports to see whether it would be beneficial to join our platform.”
Lagardère Unlimited is owned by Lagardère Group, a multinational conglomerate based in France.
Bauman and Fegan said the acquisition came after about two years of conversations. “I started talking to Dan a couple of years ago in Las Vegas during the summer league,” Bauman said. “I was curious about his vision for the future of our business.”
Both Bauman and Fegan said they talked about how the old-time one-man agency business is not something they see succeeding in the future. They talked about how CAA was able to negotiate deals that made the Miami Heat an NBA Finals contender when the Heat collected CAA clients LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh last year, Bauman said.
“The day of the mom-and-pop shops has seen its golden age,” Bauman said. “I think the future of our business is going to be a few very large representation groups.”
Michael Hausfeld has battled some tough adversaries in his more than four decades as an attorney: Nazi-era companies that profited off slave labor; Exxon in the aftermath of the Valdez oil spill; the Smithsonian for its use of indigenous artifacts; and even a school district that would not change its Saturday commencement date for its two valedictorian speakers who were Orthodox Jewish.
Now, many of Hausfeld’s foes, and clients, are in the sports world. Hausfeld LLP is representing retired players in a lawsuit against the NFLPA alleging the union illegally negotiated benefits on their behalf, and is one of three firms representing ex-players suing NFL Films claiming nonpayment for use of their images. Hausfeld, 64, also is representing former college players suing the NCAA for allegedly profiting off their images.
The veteran lawyer is at the front of some of the biggest cases in sports.
The fate of retired players has long been a hobbyhorse of various groups, but Hausfeld’s lawsuit against the NFLPA aims to forever sever the union’s role in the area. The lawsuit, whose lead plaintiff is Carl Eller, alleges that the union broke labor law when it negotiated benefits for retired players during the lockout at a time when it had decertified. In fact, Hausfeld estimates the union took $500 million that the league was willing to pay retirees and gave it to active players.
“It was a bit of arrogance on the part of the dissolved union, mixed with hubris that they were doing what they always did and nobody would say anything to the contrary,” said Hausfeld. “It was a misjudgment that retirees wouldn’t call them out for essentially selling out their rights in favor of others.”
Jeffrey Kessler, an outside attorney for the NFLPA who has filed with the Minnesota federal court to represent the union in the case, declined to comment. The NFLPA is expected to file its response in the case later this month.
Many retired players have long railed against the union for its role in establishing retiree benefits, but Hausfeld is a newcomer to their cause.
“When the union decertified, they gave retired players a window of opportunity for real change and Michael Hausfeld [and his team] are fighting for us through the courts,” said Dave Pear, a former player whose blog, davepear.com, documents his long-running battles with the union and the NFL over benefits.
Hausfeld, a 1969 graduate of George Washington University Law School, worked on the antitrust case that broke up AT&T in the 1970s, and soon became part of Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, which brought groundbreaking cases in areas like sexual discrimination, American Indian rights and Holocaust reparations. Three years ago he formed his own firm, Hausfeld LLC, which has 18 lawyers in four offices.
Eller describes Hausfeld as an almost serene influence who has rightly calmed him down during meetings with the NFL and NFLPA.
As he ages, Hausfeld said he now sees what he calls discrimination against older players in a new light. “It’s kind of personal,” he said. “I am in the elder status.”
Hausfeld first represented Eller and a group of retirees in a lawsuit against the NFL when the lockout began in March. But that lawsuit has since been dropped with the lockout’s end, replaced by the case against the NFLPA.
The point of the original lawsuit was always about getting at the NFLPA, Eller said. It was a way to get a seat at the table.
Hausfeld’s work on behalf of Eller gained notice last month when he was hired by a different group of retired players suing NFL Films for several years over use of their images.
Hausfeld talks calmly yet emotionally about his work for those he sees as being ignored despite their past contributions.
“Particularly those who are elder, who are at the forefront of establishing a reputation or character for a business and then being mistreated,” he said of the types of clients he represents. “In this instance,” he said of the Eller case, “it was clear older retirees were being shortchanged, and nobody was listening to them. In fact just the opposite; they were being pushed and shoved aside.”
A recent filing by the National Basketball Players Association shows that the union spent about $600,000 on a variety of labor and negotiating costs in the year leading up to the July 1 lockout.
That $600,000 includes legal, consulting and public relations fees for the year ended June 30, according to the NBPA’s LM-2 report, an annual report all labor unions are required to file with the Department of Labor.
Included in the labor negotiation expenses was $191,300 paid to Navigant Consulting, which lists union economist Kevin Murphy as a principal.
The union also paid $50,000 in legal fees to Dewey & LeBoeuf and $70,000 in legal fees to Howrey LLP, according to the filing, which the NBPA submitted late last month. Dewey & LeBoeuf employs Jeffrey Kessler, the NBPA’s outside legal counsel, who accompanies NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter to all major negotiation sessions. Howrey LLP, which dissolved in March, was a law firm that provided legal analysis to the NBPA on contract issues, a source said.
Sources said they expect the amount owed to Dewey & LeBoeuf, which also served as the NFL Players Association’s outside counsel during the NFL lockout, to increase and that the $50,000 figure may be a matter of the timing of when the NBPA was billed or paid the firm as of June 30.
Not mentioned in the LM-2 filing is the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson, which has served as the NBPA’s outside counsel in the unfair labor practices charge that the union filed against the NBA in May. A source said the law firm was not mentioned in the LM-2 because of the timing of when it billed the union and was paid for services rendered.
The union also listed $131 million to be held for players as a lockout fund, up from $99 million in 2009.
The NBA paid the NBPA about $28 million last year in licensing fees, with the league paying the union about $6.9 million per quarter, along with another $9 million in logo use revenue for a total of $37 million in licensing and logo revenue, about the same a last year.
Hunter earned $2,509,189 in total compensation in 2010, compared with $2.4 million in 2009.
The union reported total assets of $210 million, up from $170 million in 2009. Total liabilities were listed at $141 million compared with $107.7 million in 2009.