SBJ/March 31-April 6, 2014/Labor and Agents

An agency is born, suddenly

Investors roll up six firms into Stealth SME

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Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.

A group of investors has acquired five sports talent representation firms, as well as brand activation agency Cenergy, to create Stealth SME, a new sports and entertainment company representing players in the four major North American sports leagues.

New York-based private equity firm Brevet Capital Management funded the acquisitions, and investor and entrepreneur Christopher Aden spent about a year negotiating and orchestrating the six deals. Aden and music industry executive Dorsey James will both serve as principals and founders of Stealth SME. (The “SME” stands for Sports Media and Entertainment.)

In all, Stealth SME will represent more than 200 athletes, including NHL, NBA, MLB and NFL players or prospects. The clients include New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, Miami Heat forward Rashard Lewis, Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop and Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller. The firm will be based in New York.

Bill Strickland will oversee the talent representation division.
Photo: COURTESY OF CENERGY

Bill Strickland, a sports agent with more than 30 years in the business, will oversee the talent representation division, as senior managing partner of Stealth Sports. Strickland has worked at the former ProServ, IMG and the former Blue Entertainment Sports Television but came out of semi-retirement to take the new position.

The five sports agencies acquired are CMG Sports, which represents more than 100 NHL players and prospects and is headed by agent Allain Roy; Dutt Sports Services, headed by veteran NBA agent Tony Dutt; Life Sports Management, headed up by NBA agent Todd Ramasar; Envision Sports Agency, headed by NBA agent Dwon Clifton; and Sloan Sports Group, headed by NFL and MLB agent Alfred “Chip” Sloan.

In addition to representing athletes, Stealth SME will represent corporate and property clients, and take on Cenergy’s client base, which includes AT&T, ESPN, Turner Sports and Watkins Glen International. John Cimperman, who founded Cenergy in 2002, will oversee the marketing division and serve as senior managing partner of Stealth Media House.

John Cimperman will run marketing.
Photo: COURTESY OF CENERGY

Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed, but all of the agents and Cimperman will be partners in Stealth SME with an equity stake. Aden would not say how he became involved with Brevet Capital Management in the endeavor, and Brevet would not comment on whether it has had previous activity in the sports sector.

“We have significant investment dollars behind us,” Aden said, adding that additional acquisitions and executive hires to run the entertainment and consultancy divisions, as well as a company CEO, are expected in the coming months.

“Stealth SME has three primary objectives,” Aden said. “The first one is strategic acquisitions. The second is organic development and the third is the integration of synergies across a 360 platform.”

Stealth SME immediately takes its place in the market as a midsize multisport agency with an established brand activation business.

It is unusual to launch a multisport agency by acquiring six firms at the same time, but such a rollup of talent and marketing firms has been occurring in sports for years. Most famously, SFX Sports was created through the acquisition of about 20 sports agencies and marketing firms, starting in 1998. Those acquisitions, however, were spread over a period of a few years.

The last few years have been a period of consolidation and acquisition, with new players such as Relativity Sports and The Legacy Agency being created and developed through rollups.

Michael Principe, CEO of TLA, who was involved in the creation of both the former SFX Sports and the former Blue Entertainment Sports Television, which was later acquired by Lagardère Unlimited, says there are challenges to the rollup strategy.

“The trick is bringing folks together who can and want to work with each other — who buy into the vision and want to make it work,” Principe said. “Otherwise, you are just then truly herding cats.”


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