SBJ/Nov. 4-10, 2013/Labor and Agents

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  • Wasserman signs WNBA’s Rookie of the Year Delle Donne

    Liz Mullen
    Wasserman Media Group has signed WNBA Rookie of the Year Elena Delle Donne for exclusive representation in all areas.
    Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Wasserman vice president, action sports and Olympics, will represent Delle Donne, a guard/forward on the Chicago Sky. Delle Donne previously was represented by her brother, Gene Delle Donne.

    With the signing, Colas now represents 14 WNBA players, including Brittney Griner, Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird.

    The Chicago Sky rookie wants to build her brand in the U.S., agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas says.
    Photo by: NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
    Delle Donna has endorsement deals with Nike, DuPont and nutritional supplement company Genesis Today. Colas, who represents basketball players both for playing contract work and marketing deals, said she plans on working to expand Delle Donne’s portfolio of corporate partnerships.

    “We do represent her for overseas contract work, but going overseas is not her priority,” Colas said. “She is really focused on brand building in the U.S.”

    > ARBITRATION POSTPONED: An arbitration case brought by Beverly Hills Sports Council against its former partner, MLB player agent Danny Lozano, was postponed indefinitely after the two attorneys representing BHSC withdrew from the case, multiple sources said.

    BHSC was seeking $40 million in damages against Lozano, who left the firm in 2010, taking with him several star baseball player clients, including Albert Pujols and Joey Votto. The case had been scheduled to be heard over two weeks by a panel of three arbitrators, starting on Oct. 28.

    However, sources said that the two attorneys who had been representing BHSC — Los Angeles-based personal injury attorney Brian Panish, and David Cornwell, an Atlanta-based attorney who represents professional athletes and agents — both withdrew from the case. Panish and Cornwell did not respond to requests for comment.

    A spokesman for BHSC declined to comment. A spokesman for MVP Sports Group, Lozano’s new agency, did not respond to requests for comment.

    Under MLB Players Association rules, MLB player agents cannot sue each other in state or federal court but must resolve disputes under a confidential arbitration process that is overseen by the union.

    > JOCKEY SIGNS WITH WILD TURKEY: Racehorse jockey Rosie Napravnik has signed a one-year deal with Wild Turkey, which features her in a 60-second national commercial.

    Wild Turkey’s national spot will feature Napravnik.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    The deal was negotiated by Peter Carlisle, Octagon Olympics and action sports managing director, and Kelly Wietsma, president of horse racing marketing firm Equisponse. Carlisle and Wietsma joined forces earlier this year to represent Napravnik, who at age 25 has broken a number of records for female jockeys.

    The Wild Turkey spot, titled “Never Tamed,” features five people who have, in some way, broken the mold in their work or sport. In addition to Napravnik, the spot showcases skier Chris Davenport, surfer Michael Sharp, Hollywood stuntman Tim Rigby and glass blower Caleb Siemon.

    Carlisle said Wild Turkey approached them about Napravnik and that the campaign, which also includes a two-minute online spot featuring just Napravnik, is great for helping her build her brand. “It’s about her,” Carlisle said of the campaign. “It’s not even about horse racing. It’s about her and what she embodies.”

    > KAUFFMAN SIGNS HOLLINS, OTHERS: Kauffman Sports Management Group, a Los Angeles-based agency that specializes in representing basketball coaches and general managers, has signed former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins for representation in coaching work. The agency also has signed a number of NBA assistant coaches, including Michael Longabardi (Phoenix), Mark Price (Charlotte), Andy Greer (Chicago) and Joe Prunty (Brooklyn), as well as former Milwaukee Bucks assistant Joe Wolf.

    Agency founder Steve Kauffman and agent Spencer Breecker will represent the coaches.

    “We feel certain that Lionel will become a head coach again in the near future,” Kauffman said of Hollins, whose contract with the Grizzlies was not renewed after last season. “We don’t sign an assistant coach unless we believe he has a chance to become a head coach. It’s just a matter of time.”

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

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  • Andy Pierce pushing to grow Lagardère

    Three months into the job as Lagardère Unlimited’s first president and CEO, Andy Pierce is engaged in multiple, active discussions to expand its talent representation business, as well as working to build corporate consulting and media advisory practices.

    “There are lots of conversations going on in all different sports,” Pierce said, in his first interview since joining Lagardère Unlimited in August. He said growth could come through acquisitions or in new hires as he embarks to carry out the plans of his boss, Lagardère Group Chairman and CEO Arnaud Lagardère, to be a global market leader.

    “We are part of a company that wants to make sports a priority,” Pierce said. “We are part of a big company with a big balance sheet that wants to look at any smart ideas. We are trying to make judgments on what to do and in what order, but there are no constraints on us, whatsoever.”

    Last week, the agency made its most aggressive move since Pierce was hired when it announced a number of transactions into the golf space, acquiring the golf practice Crown Sports Management while also hiring golf agent Jay Danzi. The moves boosted the company’s roster of PGA Tour player clients from 24 to 43. In addition, Lagardère brought on two other seasoned executives as consultants. Charley Moore, who will continue on as operating partner at Falconhead Capital, will help build a golf consulting practice in North America, and Roddy Carr, of Dublin-based Carr Golf Travel, will work on building a consulting business in Europe and Asia.

    The moves meshed with Lagardère’s acquisition of Gaylord Sports Management last year and have made the agency a global leader in the sport in a very short time. But Pierce added, “We are not done in golf,” although he did not provide details on future growth.

    Pierce stressed that this was just the start of a business development strategy across multiple areas of sports business and that he hoped to announce another deal by the end of this year.

    “We are looking at all other sports,” Pierce said. “Sports that we are both in and sports that we are not in. We are doing all of this concurrently.”

    Lagardère’s NFL player representation practice counts about 70 NFL players as clients and is run by veteran agent Joel Segal. Pierce says, “We are looking at how do we help [Segal] become better, bigger.”
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    In addition to targeting talent representation, Pierce is drawing on his previous experience in looking at building a major corporate consulting division, as well as media advisory services.

    Pierce has a history with that space as he formerly ran IMG’s corporate consulting division from 2001 to 2009, and all of Lagardère’s major competitors each have such a division, which is considered important because of its access to brand side clients. Lagardère currently has some corporate consulting, as well as media rights consulting, but Pierce wants to expand on that and sees media advisory as a fertile area with the growth in rights fees and new platforms.

    Bob Basche, principal of Connect Sports & Entertainment, a Stamford, Conn.-based corporate consulting and implementation agency, said there are challenges in building a corporate consulting practice, including that there are many competitors, both companies and individuals. “There are many advertising and media agencies that are trying to do this through the acquisition of talented executives and smaller companies,” he said.

    However, Basche noted, “If the company had a great reputation already in the sports business, they could use that as a platform to develop a consulting business.”

    Pierce said that both corporate consulting and media advisory divisions could be expanded through acquisitions, hires or organic growth and will be based in New York, where Lagardère is actively shopping for new offices for a U.S. headquarters. Currently, Lagardère Unlimited is based in New York, with offices in Los Angeles, Scottsdale, Ariz., and Washington, D.C.

    “What we are doing is turning a very good talent agency into a global sports agency,” Pierce said. “What we are doing is adding the services and capabilities on top of a talent agency which vertically integrates what we have and makes us better.”

    Lagardère brings to bear a strong talent representation business in football and tennis, as well as management of three ATP tennis events. It’s against that backdrop that Pierce sees opportunities.

    Pierce would not discuss any specific companies or people Lagardère was targeting. Having just joined in August, he admitted he was still in a process of evaluating the areas in which the company might grow.

    Similar to its strategy in golf, where it looked to strengthen existing practices, Pierce is looking to expand tennis and soccer, where the company already has a major presence.

    The same could be said about Lagardère’s NFL player representation practice, which counts about 70 NFL players as clients and is run by veteran agent Joel Segal. “Obviously we love our football practice in the U.S.,” Pierce said. “We are looking at how do we help [Segal] become better, bigger.”

    Lagardère has what Pierce described as a “limited” presence in representing MLB players and hockey players. He said Lagardère is evaluating whether to expand those practices, which are highly competitive, as well as developing a presence in basketball.

    “We don’t think it makes sense to be in [a sport] in a limited way,” Pierce said. “We should either be first or second in this business or we shouldn’t be in it.”

    Pierce joined Lagardère Unlimited after working more than 30 years in the sports business, the last four years at CAA and the previous 27 years at IMG.

    He noted that while Lagardère has stated publicly that it would not be a bidder for IMG, he is, like most in the industry, watching the IMG sale closely. “A change at IMG will mean something,” he said, and added, without being specific, “It will mean a little or a lot, depending on who buys them.”

    He added that if the winning bidder wanted to sell off parts of IMG, Lagardère could potentially be interested.

    “Obviously it is theoretically possible that Lagardère would be interested in parts of IMG — if they were for sale — but that is a hypothetical,” he said.

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