SBJ/Dec. 2-8, 2013/Labor and Agents

Wasserman in talks to buy Dunn’s Athletes First firm

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Wasserman Media Group is in talks to acquire prominent football agent David Dunn’s agency, Athletes First.

While there was no official agreement to buy the firm last week, any deal would make Wasserman Media Group a major player in the NFL representation business. The company already has a significant presence representing NBA and MLB players, as well as soccer, action sports and Olympic athletes and golfers, but its only NFL player is Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

Newport Beach, Calif.-based Athletes First has a long history with NFL talent and represents more than 100 NFL players, including Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne and Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker.

If the deal gets done, Wasserman Media Group would have one of the largest NFL player practices, rivaling CAA Sports, Rosenhaus Sports and Sportstars, each of which represents 100 or more players.

Dunn did not return a phone call seeking comment, while a Wasserman Media Group spokeswoman declined to comment.

Sources familiar with the situation said that if a deal were completed, it would not be until at least 2014. A person familiar with Wasserman Media Group said the company performs intense due diligence on all acquisitions, and it’s unclear whether that process has even started yet.

Typically, in player agency acquisitions, both the players and agents join the agency that buys the firm. It is not clear what would happen if there is a deal with Wasserman Media Group, but Athletes First employs about a dozen agents.

A deal would not come as a surprise, as Wasserman Media Group had engaged in acquisition talks with Athletes First as far back as October 2009. It is not clear, however, why those previous discussions did not result in a transaction.

For Athletes First, the talks come during a turbulent year. In March, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Dunn engaged in a rare public disagreement over New England’s negotiations with the free agent Welker. In July, Athletes First client Aaron Hernandez was arrested and charged with murder, and another of the firm’s clients, Dolphins offensive Richie Incognito, is at the center of workplace harassment allegations.

But the firm is also known for its representation of NFL quarterbacks. In addition to Rodgers, Athletes First represents the Arizona Cardinals’ Carson Palmer, the Philadelphia Eagles’ Nick Foles, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Mike Glennon and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Chad Henne.

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