SBJ/March 3-9, 2014/Labor and Agents

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  • Relativity ‘in a good place’ for football after addition of agents

    Liz Mullen
    Relativity Sports has been planning to expand its football division for more than a year and held discussions with numerous NFL agents before last week hiring Doug Hendrickson and C.J. LaBoy away from Octagon. But that doesn’t mean an end to the company’s growth plans, Relativity Sports CEO Happy Walters said.

    “We are never done, as far as growing the company,” Walters said. “I don’t know what the next area of growth will be. [But] for football, we are really in a good place and I don’t really plan on expanding a lot on that.”

    Relativity Sports surprised some in the industry when it announced last week that Hendrickson and LaBoy would join veteran agents Eugene Parker and Roosevelt Barnes in a deal that will give the agency one of the largest NFL practices in the industry. The addition is expected to give Relativity Football a client roster of 75 to 80 NFL players.
     
     
    Relativity Sports had about 40 NFL players on its client list before hiring the new agents, including Dez Bryant (left) and Larry Fitzgerald.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES (2)
    Relativity Media, a television and film studio, launched its sports agency in the summer of 2012 by acquiring Parker and Barnes’ firm, Maximum Sports Management, and SFX Baseball. It acquired the practice of prominent NBA agent Dan Fegan last year.

    Relativity Baseball has one of the largest MLB player practices in the country, with more than 100 major leaguers, and one of the deepest NBA practices, with about 50 player clients.

    The football division, however, was smaller. It served about 40 NFL players, including Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and Bills safety Jairus Byrd.

    Hendrickson and LaBoy count Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson and Giants defensive end Justin Tuck among their clients.

     
    Hendrickson and LaBoy count Justin Tuck (left) and Marshawn Lynch as clients. It’s unclear how many players will follow them to Relativity.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES (2)
    It is not clear how many players will follow Hendrickson and LaBoy from Octagon to Relativity Sports, but players traditionally stay with the agents with whom they have the closest relationship. Octagon’s football division represented more than 40 NFL players, but agents Andy Ross and Ken Landphere represent or co-represent some of those players.

    Details on why the two departed Octagon to join Relativity were scant, and Octagon only added to the questions surrounding the move when it issued a sparse statement that indicated the parting was not amicable, stating, “Octagon and Doug/CJ have different views on how to operate in this business. As we part ways, Octagon will continue to stick to its core values of experience, integrity and a client-first mentality.” The agency declined further comment.

    In an interview last week, Hendrickson said his contract was up with Octagon and he “did his homework” before joining Relativity. Hendrickson, who will report to Parker, said he has long respected Parker, Barnes and Walters.

    He added that Relativity’s ability to create entertainment content was a big attraction for him.

    “I think that is the No. 1 concern of all athletes today,” Hendrickson said. “They want to be able to build their brand. You can build it through content, whether that is television, film, media, music. … And their brands are what is going to sustain them for life after football and a second career.”

    Parker said he, too, has respected Hendrickson and LaBoy and was able to talk with them and “get a comfort level” that the group could work together.

    In addition to running Relativity Sports, Walters is co-COO of Relativity Media and is a certified NFL and NBA agent as well. He has known Hendrickson for years and has recruited against him, including, he said, coming in second on the recruitment of Lynch. “I competed against them and lost with some players, so I had respect,” he said.

    Hendrickson and LaBoy will be based out of San Francisco. Relativity Media and Relativity Sports are based in Los Angeles, and Parker is based out of Fort Wayne, Ind.

    In terms of what’s next, Walters said he is in talks about several potential future acquisitions. He would not describe the companies, other than to say “they are not down-the-middle, agent-related practices.”

    Several companies in the last decade have grown sports practices by acquiring agents first and then expanding into other areas of the sports business, such as corporate consulting and events. Creative Artists Agency is an example: It launched CAA Sports by first buying the practice of prominent NFL agent Tom Condon.

    CAA is a Hollywood talent agency that represents actors, directors and writers, while Relativity Media is a Hollywood studio that makes films and television shows. Asked to make a comparison, Walters said, “CAA is a different model. That’s not our model. We are our own model. CAA doesn’t do what we do.”

    > ROSENHAUS SIGNS VETERAN NFL PLAYERS: Rosenhaus Sports Representation has signed three veteran NFL players, including Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver and kick return specialist Arrelious Benn.

    RSR also signed New York Giants fullback Henry Hynoski and Buffalo Bills linebacker Arthur Moats.

    Drew Rosenhaus will serve as the lead agent for all three players. His brother and partner, Jason Rosenhaus, will assist on the representation of Benn. RSR certified agent Michael Katz will assist on the representation of Moats.

    Benn was previously represented by SportsTrust Advisors. Hynoski was formerly represented by Goal Line Football Management. Moats was previously represented by JL Sports.

    JL Sports President Joe Linta said of Moats in an email, “We wish him well.”

    > LAGARDÈRE SIGNS ALLEN: New York Jets safety Antonio Allen, who was left without representation when his former agent, Terry Watson, was indicted on charges that he violated North Carolina’s agent law, has signed with Lagardère Unlimited.

    Lagardère Unlimited Football President Joel Segal signed Allen after an agent search.

    Watson was indicted on 13 counts of athlete-agent inducement and one count of obstruction of justice in October. He is awaiting trial. The NFL Players Association suspended Watson from representing NFL players after he was charged.

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

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