SBJ/March 12-18, 2012/Forty Under 40

Forty Under 40


Photo by: ADAM DAVIS
As John Tobias sat in the players box during the Australian Open final watching client Victoria Azarenka win her first Grand Slam and become No. 1 in the world, his mind was not entirely on the match.

He was thinking about “Kenny.” Kenny was Ken Meyerson, the longtime head and co-head of tennis with Tobias, and a good friend. Meyerson died in his sleep last fall, apparently of a heart attack, shocking the tennis world.

“Sitting in the Azarenka box … I kept thinking about how I wished Kenny was there,” Tobias said. “Kenny was one of my closest friends.”

Meyerson’s death has left Tobias in charge of the tennis practice he and Meyerson built with Donald Dell, and Tobias plans to run with it. About 16 people report to Tobias around the world, and Lagardère represents 65 ATP and WTA players, including Azarenka and the No. 4-ranked player, Caroline Wozniacki.

Tobias grew up in Southern California, and his best friends were Mike and Bob Bryan, the now well-known doubles team he represents. He played junior tennis with them, and basketball at the University of San Diego, but says he knew he couldn’t cut it as a pro in either sport.

He called Dell at ProServ, who offered him an internship in Washington, D.C. Tobias took the unpaid gig and slept on a friend’s couch for eight months. He then went back to school and a few months later was hired full time. From 2001 to 2003, he traveled with Andy Roddick, essentially as Roddick’s go-to guy. Soon, he was recruiting his own clients.

His greatest challenge is not all the agency changes his unit has faced — ProServ to Marquee to SFX to BEST to now Lagardère — but instead meeting clients’ expectations that non-sneaker and apparel endorsements should be a given. In the U.S., it’s not easy given tennis’ low standing as a professional sport, but overseas the sport is hot, and that is where Tobias expects to be able to meet those client demands.


Age: 34
Title: President, tennis
COMPANY: Lagardère Unlimited
Education: B.A., University of California, San Diego
Family: Wife, Clare
Career: ProServ, SFX, BEST, Lagardère
First job: Family ranch work
Last vacation: Honeymoon in Costa Rica in December
what's on your ipod? Country music
guilty pleasure: "Gossip Girl"
best stress release: Spending time with my wife
pet peeve: People who only tell you what they think you want to hear
fantasy job: Lakers general manager
what keeps you awake at night? Client-servicing breakdowns
business advice: This business is not rocket science. Success can come by simply outworking the next guy.
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