SBJ/Oct. 28-Nov. 3, 2013/Labor and Agents

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  • CAA Sports’ Condon relocates to agency’s Nashville office

    Liz Mullen
    CAA Sports NFL agent Tom Condon is relocating to Creative Artists Agency’s Nashville office.

    Condon, who had been working with CAA Football co-head Ben Dogra out of the agency’s St. Louis office, said the move gives the football representation practice more coverage, both in its ability to recruit college players and to visit with NFL player clients.

    Photo by: AP IMAGES
    “It is obviously SEC territory and there are a lot of good football players [in that area],” Condon said. “And we [Creative Artists Agency] have had a country music office here for almost 20 years. They are integrated into the community and they are influential. It’s a big office here. There are 80 people.”

    CAA moved into a new high-rise office building in downtown Nashville last June, and Condon said he can see LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans, across the Cumberland River from his new office.

    Five other CAA Football staff members will move to Nashville with Condon.
    Dogra will stay in St. Louis, and Jimmy Sexton, the other agent who runs the division, will remain in Memphis.

    CAA Football represents more than 100 players in the NFL. Condon’s clients include quarterbacks Eli and Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

    > WNBA CBA TALKS START WEDNESDAY: The WNBA and the Women’s Basketball Players Association are scheduled to begin talks this week for a new collective-bargaining agreement after their current deal expired late last month.

    “We have scheduled a bargaining session for Oct. 30,” said Pam Wheeler, WNBPA director of operations, in a statement to SportsBusiness Journal. “We hope that both sides will be available and willing to schedule additional negotiating sessions in November.” She declined to comment further.
     
    A spokesman for the league declined to comment.

    The meeting will be the first since the league made its initial proposal to the players within the last month. Details of the proposal are not known, but a major issue for the players is adding another player to teams’ 11-player rosters. Players want the extra spot because, among other reasons, they cannot practice five-on-five if members of the team are injured.

    The prior CBA expired Sept. 30, which means the league at this point could lock players out or the players could strike. But the players did not strike when they had the most leverage, during the WNBA Finals, which ended Oct. 10.

    > LANDIS SIGNS SAUNDERS: Landis Seal and Ware Baseball has signed Seattle Mariners pitcher Joe Saunders for representation. Veteran MLB player agent Craig Landis will represent him. He was formerly represented by The Legacy Agency.

    > NFL PLAYERS SEEK NEW REP: Four NFL players who had been represented by NFL player agent Terry Watson, who was indicted in North Carolina on charges he violated the Uniform Athlete Agent Act and suspended from representing players by the NFL Players Association, still had not signed with other agents as of early last week.

    The players are St. Louis cornerback Cortland Finnegan, Atlanta running back Antone Smith, New York Jets safety Antonio Allen and free agent running back Armando Allen Jr.

    Watson earlier this month was indicted on 13 counts of athlete-agent inducement and one count of obstruction of justice related to the University of North Carolina football program scandal in which at least a dozen players were suspended in 2010. The NFLPA had been conducting its own investigation into the allegations involving Watson and suspended him from representing NFL players in March.

    Watson’s attorney, Russell Babb, had no comment on the NFLPA suspension but said he was carefully studying the indictment against Watson and the Uniform Athlete Agent Act, which to his knowledge had never been enforced in North Carolina previously.

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

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  • Lagardère in talks to add golf agents, Crown

    Editor's note: This is story is updated from the print edition.

    Lagardère Unlimited is in discussions to build on its formidable golf practice through a series of acquisitions and executive hires, including Crown Sports Management and the agent who represents rising PGA Tour star Jordan Spieth, multiple sources said.

    Lagardère has been in talks for the last month to bring in experienced executives Jay Danzi, the agent for Spieth, and veteran Charley Moore, who will be charged with building a consulting practice in North America. The company is also negotiating to bring in Roddy Carr of Dublin-based Carr Golf Travel to build on the marketing side of the golf business in Europe and Asia.

    Jordan Spieth may soon be a Lagardère client.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    But the most prolific of all these moves could be the acquisition of Crown Sports Management, a Georgia-based agency that represents close to 30 golfers and has one of the largest athlete representation practices in the sport. CEO Mac Barnhardt and President Jimmy Johnston have built Crown from the ground up, beginning in 2005 as a boutique agency on St. Simons Island and growing one of the largest and deepest client lists in golf.

    Barnhardt, a former agent with Pros Inc. and Octagon, formed the agency with Johnston, a former player. Former major champions Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, Lucas Glover, Presidents Cup players Brendon de Jonge and Brandt Snedeker, and up-and-comer Harris English are among Crown’s top players.

    If Lagardère is able to close those transactions, which industry sources think will happen in the coming weeks, the French sports and entertainment firm will position itself as a top player in the golf business globally on a level with Wasserman Media Group and IMG. Lagardère already represents Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, among others.

    Lagardère officials and Barnhardt declined to comment. Messages left for Danzi, Moore and Carr were not returned.

    The acquisition talks are being orchestrated by Andy Pierce, who joined Lagardère in August as the first president and CEO for its North American sports platform.

    Lagardère Unlimited is owned by the Paris-based Lagardère Group, and its chairman, Arnaud Lagardère, has stated publicly that he intends to invest heavily in sports and expand the talent representation practices. While Lagardère already has a golf practice after acquiring Gaylord Sports Group and the business of agent Steve Loy in January 2012, Pierce is actively looking to build the division into a global business capable of competing with any agency in the sport, sources said.

    Pierce, who spent four years at CAA before joining Lagardère two months ago, knows both Danzi and Moore well, having worked with them at IMG. Carr, who was an IMG client when he was a player and later worked for IMG, also has a relationship with Pierce, who spent 27 years at IMG, first as a golf agent and then leading its corporate consulting.

    Moore, who will come on as a consultant, worked at IMG for 10 years before leaving in 2001 to form the Moore Group. He later joined investment firm Falconhead Capital, where he will remain as an operating partner.

    Moore has a deep background in golf, formerly working as a business manager for Vijay Singh. He also engineered the deal between the PGA Tour and XM Satellite Radio to create the PGA Tour Network.

    Danzi worked at IMG for eight years before he joined Wasserman Media Group in 2007. He left Wasserman two years ago and started his own firm, Forefront Sports Group, based in Dallas. Danzi scored a coup when he signed Spieth, a University of Texas golfer, in December 2012 despite competing against larger, more established firms. During the 2013 season, Spieth made a splash on the PGA Tour, finishing eighth in the FedEx Cup rankings and making the U.S. Presidents Cup team on his way to Rookie of the Year honors. Danzi also represents former Ryder Cup player J.J. Henry.

    While Barnhardt doesn’t have a background at IMG, he is a respected golf veteran who is said to be a longtime friend of Moore’s. Moore once was David Duval’s agent, and Duval now is a client at Crown.

    Lagardère’s moves come at a time when the power grid in golf is shifting. IMG, the longtime global leader in the golf space, has seen the gradual departure of many of its top executives in the U.S. over the last two years. IMG’s golf business remains strong in Europe and Asia, but other agencies have identified IMG’s executive losses as an opportunity to expand their businesses domestically.

    Wasserman Media Group saw the opening last year when it reinforced its golf division, both domestically and abroad, in an effort to take on IMG. Wasserman acquired SFX Golf in 2011 and has been building on it ever since.

    Its deep client list includes Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson, as well as consulting for several of the top sponsors in golf — including American Express, Travelers, Nationwide and Northern Trust.

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