SBJ/Aug. 18-24, 2014/Labor and Agents

Long-standing friendships, shared history at IMG help bring newest partner Alan Zucker to Excel

Alan Zucker, marketing agent to such well-known celebrities as the Manning family, Danica Patrick and Taylor Swift, met with several sports and entertainment agencies before agreeing to join Excel Sports Management as its fourth full partner.
  
In addition to Patrick, Swift and the Mannings (Peyton, Eli and Archie), Zucker brought with him to Excel a roster of clients that included Joe Montana, LaDainian Tomlinson and broadcaster Jim Nantz.

Alan Zucker brings with him clients Peyton and Eli Manning, as well as Danica Patrick, Taylor Swift and others.
Photo by: GORT PRODUCTIONS

Like many relationships, some work for clients is shared: Zucker represents Swift for marketing work, not music, and he handles Nantz’s marketing while IMG continues to represent Nantz for broadcast work.

Zucker began his career in sports at IMG, in 1996. He remained with IMG until earlier this year, when his contract expired and he was able to talk to other agencies. He would not say which agencies he spoke with or say when the window opened for him to explore other opportunities, citing confidentiality clauses in his agreement with IMG.

“I had some initial meetings with different sports and entertainment organizations in our industry and was very flattered with the response and was very comfortable with everybody,” Zucker said. “But it was very evident after I had met with Excel that this was the place I wanted to explore and have the
ability to take it to the next level.”

Although Zucker would not name the other agencies he met with, he said he took only one meeting at any of those agencies other than Excel.

He had multiple meetings with Excel’s Jeff Schwartz, Mark Steinberg and Casey Close, starting with a dinner with the three of them in January at an Italian restaurant in New York. In the beginning, the concept of him joining as a partner was not part of the talks, but that evolved over time.

Zucker knows all three partners well, dating to when they worked together at IMG starting in the mid-1990s. Zucker said he probably knew Schwartz the least, as Schwartz left IMG in 1999, but that he has been friends with all of them for close to 20 years.

He worked closely with Close when both of them were young agents at IMG.

“I spent quite a bit of time with him,” Zucker said. “Our offices were close to each other [in IMG’s Cleveland headquarters] and he was just getting his baseball business off the ground [in 2000]. He didn’t have a huge marketing department, so part of my job was helping him market the talent he had over the years, including Derek Jeter and others.”

Close later moved to IMG’s New York offices and then joined CAA Sports in 2006. In 2011, he went to Excel.

Zucker and Steinberg have an even longer history, as Steinberg worked with him until 2011. “I’ve known Mark for a long time and we’ve always interacted with the clients he represented in golf,” Zucker said. “In addition to that, I’ve been close to him because we always worked very closely on Danica Patrick.”

Zucker and Steinberg co-represented Patrick, and when Steinberg left IMG for Excel in 2011, she stayed with IMG.
  
When agents leave agencies, it is extremely common for most, if not all, of the clients to go with the agent. Clients, no matter the sport, generally stay with the agent with whom they have the closest relationship.

Before joining Excel, Zucker informed all of his clients of his decision and asked them if they would be comfortable going with him.

“Your clients are your lifeline. As great as it would have been to join any other organization, if my clients weren’t going to go with me or they weren’t going to be happy with the place I was going to go, that was going to be an issue,” Zucker said.

Zucker said all of his clients told him they would follow him to Excel.

“None of my talent met with any of the partners,” Zucker said. “However, they are well-aware of the other celebrities and talent that Excel manages … and felt as though this was a great place for me to land and the right place for me to do work for them. The fact that they knew some of the other talent that was already at Excel, they felt comfortable with it.”

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