SBJ/February 11-17, 2013/Labor and Agents

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  • Fegan heads Relativity’s basketball unit

    Relativity Sports continues to build its talent representation business by bringing on prominent NBA agent Dan Fegan to lead its basketball division.

    Fegan will bring his 40 NBA clients, who include Dwight Howard, Shawn Marion and John Wall, to the firm and serve as president of the division. He will work out of Relativity’s Beverly Hills, Calif., offices and report to the company’s COO and head of its sports group, Happy Walters, who represents 12 NBA players.

    FEGAN
    With the deal, Relativity Sports will now represent more than 50 NBA players, making it one of the largest basketball player practices in the U.S.

    “For Relativity, it makes us much stronger in basketball, that is the obvious,” Walters said of Fegan joining Relativity.
    Neither Fegan nor Walters would discuss financial terms of the deal.

    The partnership comes just five months after Fegan left Lagardère Unlimited, and sources said Fegan and Lagardère have settled all outstanding issues between them, including future fees.

    A Lagardère official declined to comment, while Fegan would only say he left Lagardère on amicable terms.

    The deal comes seven months after Relativity Sports was launched by film studio Relativity Media and it expands the agency’s basketball footprint. Relativity Sports was established after it acquired SFX Baseball, which represents about 75 major league players, as well as Maximum Sports, which represents about 50 NFL players.

    Walters said adding Fegan was a key move, not just because of his client list, but because of additional areas where he can add value to the group.

    “Dan has had No. 1 draft picks; he’s done all the negotiating you can do, but Dan is ready to help build a business and that is what we are excited about,” Walters said. “That is what we want to put together here. A lot of smart guys who have a lot of experience looking at how we want to grow sports in the future. What intangibles are we going to be able to identify and monetize and grow businesses around in the future?”

    Fegan met with Relativity executives, including CEO Ryan Kavanaugh, prior to joining the company. Fegan said the potential opportunities of what Relativity Media could bring to his clients appealed to him. He noted the difference a production company and content producer could make when it comes to the sports talent representation business, as opposed to talent agencies in the space.

    “There has always been this desire on the part of athletes to cross over and to actually be affiliated with TV and movies, and to a certain extent music,” Fegan said. “One of the reasons I don’t think it works well with a talent agency, quite frankly, is all of the best opportunities are going to go to their acting and TV talents. … We are going to do what other talent agencies have tried and failed at.”

    By joining together, Relativity Sports will now represent more than 10 percent of the players in the NBA. Because of the size of team rosters, the NBA is the U.S. team sport with the fewest players — only 450. A few agencies represent the majority of NBA players, and Fegan joining Relativity only solidifies this trend, as it joins agencies including CAA Sports, Wasserman Media Group, Priority Sports & Entertainment, BDA Sports and Excel Sports Management.

    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES

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  • Agent departures lead to grievance

    MLB player agents Randy and Alan Hendricks have filed a grievance against three agents who left their firm for Excel Sports Management and took dozens of baseball clients with them, including Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, sources said.

    Meanwhile, the three former Hendricks employees, J.D. Smart, Jim Murray and Matt Laird, who all joined Excel Sports in September 2012, have filed a counterclaim against the Hendricks brothers alleging they are owed back pay, sources said.

    All the claims were filed under the MLBPA arbitration system and sources asked for anonymity because the hearings are confidential.

    Rusty Hardin, the defense attorney who won an acquittal in a federal trial last year for pitcher Roger Clemens, a longtime Hendricks Sports Management client, is representing the Hendricks brothers in the arbitration case. But the firm has refused to answer any questions about the case.

    Adam Kaiser, a partner at Winston & Strawn who has represented a number of agents in similar matters, is representing Smart, Laird and Murray in the case, sources said. Kaiser also declined to comment.

    If the parties do not settle the dispute, the case will proceed like a trial but will be heard in private by an arbitrator. The arbitrator had not been selected and the arbitration date had not been set as of last week.

    The Hendricks brothers are seeking future fees earned by the three former employees for negotiating contracts for former clients of Hendricks Sports Management.

    The three agents are contending they owe no fees as their employment contracts, which contained restrictive covenants, including owing future fees to Hendricks Sports Management, expired before they joined Excel Sports. Excel Sports, co-owned by Jeff Schwartz, Casey Close and Mark Steinberg, is not a party in the case.

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  • Seattle’s Wagner draws agent interest during Super Bowl week

    Liz Mullen
    Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, who finished second in the voting for 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, was a popular figure among agents in New Orleans during Super Bowl week after news broke he had left his agent and was without representation.

    “Everybody came up and started talking to us,” said Mark Doman, Wagner’s financial adviser and CEO of the New York-based The Doman Group, a wealth management advisory firm.

    Bobby Wagner recently dropped his agent, Kenny Zuckerman of Priority Sports.
    Photo: GETTY IMAGES
    Wagner, who was selected in the second round with the 47th overall pick in last year’s draft, had been represented by Kenny Zuckerman of Priority Sports & Entertainment. Doman would not comment on why Wagner left Priority but said he is in no rush to sign with a new agent. Zuckerman had no comment regarding Wagner’s departure.

    Wagner has not decided whether he will hire a marketing firm in addition to a contract agent, but he will consult with the NFL Players Association regarding the agents he is considering, Doman said. Wagner is not able to negotiate an extension with the Seahawks until after the 2014 season and would not become a free agent until after the 2015 season.

    “He is well aware of the agents that he plans on speaking with,” Doman said.

    > THE TRUFANT TRIO: When Octagon agent Doug Hendrickson signed University of Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant in December, Trufant was viewed by most analysts as a second- or third-round pick in April’s NFL draft. But after a strong performance during Senior Bowl week, Trufant’s stock appears to be rising, and he is now seen as a possible first-round pick.

    That makes Hendrickson think Trufant is taking the same route that his older brother, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant, took before he was picked No. 11 in the 2003 draft. Hendrickson represents both Marcus and Desmond, as well as Isaiah Trufant, who is the middle brother of the three.

    Agents and talent evaluators believe Desmond Trufant is one of the risers in what is an up-in-the-air draft, talent-wise. Rob Rang, senior draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, had him ranked No. 24 in his mock draft last week after first pegging him as a second-round talent.

    “[Trufant] has a chance to be a first-round pick,” said Gil Brandt, former player personnel executive for the Dallas Cowboys and NFL.com columnist who now decides whom the NFL invites to New York for the draft.

    If Trufant is selected and plays in the NFL as expected, it could be the first time three brothers played in the league at the same time at the same position, Hendrickson said. Isaiah Trufant, also a defensive back, is with the New York Jets.

    Marcus Trufant, meanwhile, is happy for his brother Desmond, whom he advised to make the most of Senior Bowl week. “He might have been a second- or third-round pick coming out, but now … I think it is absolutely outstanding what he is doing,” Marcus said.

    > TWO MORE SIGNINGS: CAA Sports has signed Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter for representation. Jimmy Sexton and Ben Dogra will represent him. He was formerly represented by Atlas Sports Agency and Blueprint Management Group. … Enter-Sports Management will represent Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, with agent Hadley Engelhard handling him. Hopkins is projected as a first- or second-round pick by NFLDraftScout.com.

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

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