SBJ/July 23-29, 2012/Labor and Agents

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  • Rangers’ Lundqvist joins Ovechkin on IMG’s marketing roster

    Liz Mullen
    IMG has signed New York Rangers all-star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to an exclusive agreement to represent him off the ice in marketing, speaking and broadcasting work.

    Sandy Montag, senior corporate vice president and managing director of clients, and David Abrutyn, senior vice president of global consulting, will lead the IMG team that will represent Lundqvist. He is represented by Newport Sports Management for playing contract matters.

    “Henrik has got the total package, as they say in the business: good looks and good performance and is arguably playing on the world’s largest stage,” said Abrutyn, who worked for the Washington Capitals and the NHL in the 1990s. Abrutyn doesn’t usually represent athletes but made an exception in 2009, when IMG signed Capitals star Alex Ovechkin for off-the-ice representation.

    Lundqvist has deals with Bauer for hockey equipment and with Upper Deck and Panini for trading cards. Additionally, he has appeared in a commercial for Procter & Gamble brand Head & Shoulders that has run in Sweden.

    Abrutyn said he will spend time with Montag figuring out a plan for
    Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist is a star in both his home market of New York City and his native Sweden.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES (2)
    Lundqvist, but he sees fashion and luxury brands as potential future partnerships for the Rangers goalie, a three-time NHL all-star and this year’s Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s top goaltender. He also won an Olympic gold medal for his native Sweden in the 2006 Winter Olympics.

    IMG has 3,000 employees in 30 countries, and those who work in IMG’s office in Stockholm, Sweden, are excited about the signing of Lundqvist, Montag said. IMG sees the potential for national deals in the United States, Canada and Sweden, as well as local endorsements and partnerships in the New York area, where he is a big star, Montag said.

    Montag is a Rangers season-ticket holder and met with Lundqvist, 30, and some of Lundqvist’s advisers. “We have Ovechkin,” Montag said, “[and] we said to Henrik that he is the only other current hockey player who fits into what we do.”

    IMG does not represent team sport athletes for playing contract work but does represent some of team sports’ biggest stars for commercial endeavors, including NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning and MLB all-star Joe Mauer.

    Montag started his career as a broadcast agent at IMG. Despite the fact that English is not Lundqvist’s first language, Montag said, “I definitely think he has a future in broadcasting and I told him that. But he is a young guy and I don’t think broadcasting is something he is planning on soon.”

    MLB AGENT JOINS EXCEL: MLB agent Bobby Barad has joined Excel Sports Management, and several players he represented at his former firm, TWC Sports Management, have also joined Excel. Those players include pitchers Lance Lynn (St. Louis) and Jerry Blevins (Oakland).

    In baseball, when an agent leaves an agency and clients go along, the MLB Players Association often is involved in settling any disputes between the parties. Multiple sources said the union did get involved here, with one of the sources adding that issues between the parties were resolved. TWC, Excel and MLBPA officials declined to comment on that.

    WASSERMAN SIGNS SANTANA: Wasserman Media Group veteran MLB agent Adam Katz has signed Los Angeles Angels pitcher Ervin Santana. He was represented by Proformance Baseball.

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

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  • USTA, umpires head to court over pay dispute

    The U.S. Tennis Association is due next week to tell a federal court in New York why as many as 900 umpires and other on-court officials should not be certified as a class as part of a lawsuit filed against the tennis group for back pay.

    Four umpires during the U.S. Open Tennis Championships last year filed a lawsuit contending that the USTA, which owns the two-week event, significantly underpays them by not offering overtime. Two additional umpires have since opted into the lawsuit.

    The USTA, in a court filing, claims the umpires and referees are independent contractors and have no right to overtime pay. The referees counter that because there are employment terms set for them by the USTA, they qualify for overtime pay for working additional hours.

    Lawyers for the referees want the USTA to hand over the email list of all the officials who have worked the Open since 2005 so a notice of a potential class can be sent and a meeting set at next month’s Open. The USTA is resisting that move.

    “If the Notice is sent before the Open, the Umpires will have the opportunity to discuss this action amongst themselves when they are here for the Open,” the referees’ counsel told the court last week in the latest motion seeking to accelerate the certification process. “They will also have the opportunity to meet with Plaintiffs’ counsel, or any other New York counsel of their choice in the event they choose separate representation.”

    While a decision on certifying a class is still to come, the court filings already submitted in the matter do provide a few details about the payment and working terms for tennis umpires. According to the umpires’ class-certification requests, umpires get between $115 and $250 per day for working the Open, with days often stretching beyond eight hours. In addition to the payment, each umpire is provided with a hotel room that is shared with another umpire.

    The umpires sign a code of conduct that includes off-court behavior. According to the referees in their class-certification request, the USTA suspended one umpire for the 2008 Open because during the 2007 Open he “disturbed his roommate by bringing an ‘all night guest’ into his room without prior notification.”

    The referees also said that in May, for the first time, the USTA began requiring umpires to sign an arbitration clause that essentially would pre-empt any claims for 2012 and beyond.

    USTA officials were unavailable for comment beyond the statements made in the court filings.

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  • Referees union largely funded by NFL

    While the NFL and NFL Referees Associations traded barbs in the media last week over who was responsible for the league locking out the referees, there was at least one point of irony to the back-and-forth: Nearly all of the NFLRA’s budget is funded by the NFL.

    The NFLRA reported assets of $1.4 milion and minimal debt at the end of 2011.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    According to the referees association’s most recently available annual report, filed for last year with the Department of Labor, the NFLRA had $730,749 in revenue — and $600,000 of that came from the NFL, classified as marketing rights. Most of the other revenue came from membership dues.

    NFLRA members might not be as worried about missing paychecks members of the NFL Players Association were during their labor dispute with the league last year, though the NFLPA also gets a healthy share of its revenue from the NFL.

    Referees work part time in their NFL capacities and have other jobs. The NFLRA also has a healthy financial cushion, with assets of $1,457,492 and minimal debt as of Dec. 31, 2011, so the temporary loss of the NFL money likely would not harm the organization, which uses the money to pay its staff and outside counsel.

    The NFL’s collective-bargaining agreement with the referees expired May 31, and the league locked them out three days later. The league is offering a smaller pay increase than the NFLRA wants as well a move from pensions to a 401(k)-type retirement program.
    — Daniel Kaplan

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