SBJ/Aug. 5-11, 2013/Labor and Agents

Lagardère picks vet for new sports post

Lagardère Unlimited is hiring longtime sports industry executive Andy Pierce away from Creative Artists Agency to lead the company’s North American sports platform as president and CEO.

In his new position at Lagardère Unlimited, Pierce will report directly to Arnaud Lagardère, chairman of Lagardère Group, the parent company of Lagardère Unlimited. Pierce was still officially an employee of CAA last week but had informed CAA that he was leaving, and an announcement is expected today.

Pierce has worked in the sports industry for about 30 years. His hiring to run Lagardère’s North American sports platform comes a little more than four years after he joined CAA from IMG.

“I have tremendous confidence in Andy’s ability to lead and grow our sports business in America.”
Arnaud Lagardère
Lagardère Group chairman
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
“Andy is a trusted leader,” Arnaud Lagardère said in a statement provided to SportsBusiness Journal. “His 30 years of experience in forming relationships corporately and within the sports industry will enhance our existing business and will bring about several new lines of business for Lagardère Unlimited globally. I have tremendous confidence in Andy’s ability to lead and grow our sports business in America.”

Lagardère Unlimited was formed by Paris-based Lagardère Group in 2010 when the French mass media conglomerate acquired the former Blue Entertainment Sports Television, which included NFL, NBA and tennis representation practices, as well as an events, media and television division. In 2012, Lagardère Unlimited acquired the former Gaylord Sports Management Group, which counts Phil Mickelson as a client.

“The platform that Arnaud and his team have accomplished over the last three years is quite amazing,” Pierce said in a statement provided to SportsBusiness Journal. “The company’s strategy has never been more compelling. I am incredibly energized and honored to help lead Lagardère Unlimited into the future.”

Pierce will become the first president and CEO of Lagardère Unlimited. Kevin O’Connor had been COO of Lagardère Unlimited since 2010, but he left that position in May to become senior adviser to Arnaud Lagardère.

Pierce has extensive experience in corporate consulting and golf as well as deep relationships throughout the U.S. sports industry, including a long history at IMG. His hiring at Lagardère Unlimited comes at the same time IMG is for sale.

Before joining CAA in 2009, he was IMG’s head of corporate consulting. Pierce started his career at IMG, originally hired as a golf agent, and worked there for 27 years. He was promoted to be one of the top executives in IMG’s golf division before running corporate consulting there.

When Pierce joined CAA in 2009, he had non-compete clauses in his IMG employment contract that prohibited him from taking clients to CAA, an IMG spokesman said at the time.

As of last week, Pierce was still under contract to CAA, but the details of his departure were being worked on, a source said. This source requested anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly on contract matters.

It is not clear when Pierce’s contract expires or what types of restrictions it contains. However, Pierce worked at CAA’s headquarters in Los Angeles, and California’s employee-friendly laws do not allow the types of restrictions on employees common in other states. It also is not clear whether any CAA clients could follow Pierce to Lagardère Unlimited.

A CAA spokesman would not comment.

Lagardère Unlimited also represents tennis players and NFL players, including Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Eric Fisher, the No. 1 pick in this year’s NFL draft. In addition, Lagardère Unlimited also has an NBA player representation practice, but the agent who led that practice, Dan Fegan, left last year and joined Relativity Sports this year.

Lagardère Unlimited’s lines of business also include sports academies, events, media, marketing and consulting.

Arnaud Lagardère told SportsBusiness Journal in a letter in May that sports would play a large part in the growth of Lagardère Group and that he planned to grow Lagardère Unlimited through acquisitions, organic growth and hiring the right people.

“The sports representation business is a people business — I understand that,” Lagardère wrote. “Thus, it is important to surround myself with a quality team who shares not only in my passion, but in the passion of my existing team.”

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