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SBJ/July 16-22, 2012/Labor and Agents
Film studio assembles cast, enters talent rep biz
Published July 16, 2012, Page 1
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The launch of the new Relativity Sports was expected to be announced today by the film studio, Relativity Media, and billionaire Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos. Burkle, also co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, became an investor in Relativity Media in 2011.
As a combined firm, Relativity Sports will represent about 140 MLB, NFL and NBA players. The company will be based in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Terms of the acquisitions of SFX Baseball and Maximum Sports Management were not disclosed.
While other Hollywood talent firms have entered the sports representation business in the past, the deal here is notable in part for its scale. Mega-agencies such as CAA Sports, Wasserman Media Group and Octagon have more clients than what Relativity Sports will have at launch, but starting with 140 players aggressively positions Relativity in the sports talent representation business.
SFX Baseball, which was part of the former SFX Sports, represents about 75 major league and 75 minor league baseball players. It is owned and run by MLB player agents Mark Pieper, Pat Rooney, Mike Milchin, Fernando Cuza, John Courtright, Diego Bentz, Fitzgerald Astacio and Joe Sambito.
Maximum Sports Management, founded more than 20 years ago, is owned by agents Eugene Parker and Roosevelt Barnes. It represents about 50 NFL players.
Relativity Media got into the sports representation business in 2009, when Happy Walters, co-COO of the entertainment company and a certified NBA and NFL agent, launched Rogue Sports, which represents about 20 NBA and European basketball players.
All three firms will be combined into the new sports representation practice.
Walters will serve as the head of the new Relativity Sports. Parker will head the firm’s football division; Pieper will head its baseball division. Parker and Pieper will report to Walters, who will report to Relativity Media CEO and founder Ryan Kavanaugh.
The MLB agents will continue to be based in Chicago; Parker and Barnes will continue to represent NFL players out of their offices in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Kavanaugh founded Hollywood-based Relativity Media in 2004 as a film financing group. It evolved into a studio engaged in multiple aspects of the entertainment business, including film and television development, music publishing, and digital media.
To date, Relativity has produced, distributed and/or structured financing for more than 200 films. In addition to “Act of Valor” and “The Fighter,” those films include “The Raven,” “Mirror Mirror,” “Bridesmaids,” “The Social Network” and “Tower Heist.”
Walters said what Relativity is doing with this pursuit is different from how other Hollywood talent agencies — Creative Artists Agency, among others — have gone about launching sports divisions in recent years.
“We have something no other sports business can offer,” Walters said. “Other Hollywood agencies who have gotten into sports don’t make films. We make films. We create television shows. We create our own social media platforms.”
Relativity plans to expand into other areas of representation in the future and is eying properties and events for business, as well, Walters said, but he would not be more specific on those intentions. He did say Relativity would not seek to expand into representing NHL players because of Burkle’s ownership of an NHL club.
Of Burkle, Walters said, “He has a huge passion for sports.” He added that Burkle would not take a hands-on, day-to-day role in Relativity Sports.
In addition to owning the Penguins, Burkle has long been involved in efforts to bring an NFL team to Los Angeles.
The acquisitions of the baseball and football practices came after months of talking and, in the case of Maximum, after years of discussions. Walters has known Parker since he was a kid, as Parker and Walters’ father once worked at the same law firm. Parker and Walters also have represented a few NFL players together, including running back LenDale White.
Parker said the entertainment aspect of Relativity appealed to him and to Barnes. “People have been talking about combining sports and entertainment forever,” Parker said. “With the platform that Relativity Media has, they can make it happen right away. They are not the middle men.”
Pieper said he and his partners at SFX Baseball were also attracted to Relativity’s entertainment businesses, including its digital business and what it could offer their clients in the future.
“When I first started in this business, we had no email, no cell phones,” Pieper said. “One of our jobs is to try to figure out where this business is going in the next five to 10 years. This merger allows our clients to have a broader social footprint.”