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Lagardère in talks to add golf agents, Crown
Published October 28, 2013, Page 4
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.
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.