SBJ/Aug. 25-31, 2014/Labor and Agents

For Michael Yormark, busy start at Roc Nation

Roc Nation has launched a boxing promotion division and is eyeing expansion into the hockey business as it looks to enter other sports, said Michael Yormark, the company’s president and chief of branding strategy.

“Myself and others here at Roc Nation have an extensive hockey background,” said Yormark, who spent 11 years at the Florida Panthers before being hired by Jay Z’s Roc Nation in March. “That would seem to be a natural fit.”

Michael Yormark
Yormark would not disclose what area of the hockey business the company was examining, but it would most likely be talent representation.

Yormark was optimistic in reflecting on his first six months on the job, stressing that he is ahead of where he thought he would be at this time. “When I look at the six-month intervals — I have been in the business 22 years — I don’t think there has been a better and more productive six months in my career,” he said during a wide-ranging interview last week.

All of this comes as the company is on the cusp of a record shoe deal for client Kevin Durant with Under Armour, with reports that the reigning NBA MVP had been offered a 10-year deal valued at between $265 million and $325 million.

“He is under contract with Nike until the end of September,” Yormark said of the speculation, but adding that when a deal is completed, “It will be the biggest shoe partnership for any active player in the history of the industry. … I think you will have an announcement in the coming weeks.”

The largest current deal is the reported $250 million, 14-year deal Adidas struck with Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose in 2012. That deal also includes royalties and another guarantee after Rose retires, according to a source familiar with the deal.

Durant’s other deals include Sparkling Ice and a deal with 2K Sports that will feature him on the cover of the 2015 version of its NBA video game. That deal was so important to him personally that Durant called into a meeting between 2K Sports and Roc Nation executives when they were negotiating the agreement, Yormark said.

Kevin Durant’s 2K Sports deal is done and a big shoe contract is said to be near.
Photo by: NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
The Durant business comes as Roc Nation has completed deals for other clients.
New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith has partnerships with Under Armour and Microsoft and is near a beverage deal with a New York-based water brand, Yormark said.

As for Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano, some critics said when Cano signed a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Mariners last year that he would not get the kind of marketing support he would have had if he had stayed in New York with the Yankees. Yormark said that is not the case.

“I believe when all is said and done that actually he will have more opportunities in Seattle than he would have had in the New York market,” Yormark said.

Cano has signed a deal with Alaska Airlines, and Roc Nation is close to announcing two more deals for him, with a beverage company and with a communications company. Roc Nation also has scheduled meetings between Cano and CEOs of Seattle-based companies, as Cano met with Jason Mackenzie, president of HTC America, this month and is scheduled to meet with Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz next month, Yormark said. Cano also has met with Sparkling Ice CEO Kevin Klock.

Roc Nation’s investment in the boxing business was announced last week, as it won the bid to promote the WBO Peter Quillin-Matt Korobov middleweight title fight and hired former Golden Boy Promotions COO David Itskowitch to run its boxing division.

“Boxing is a passion of both Jay Z’s and Juan Perez, the president of our sports division,” Yormark said. “It’s something they have been talking about the last six to 12 months.”

In serving as a fight promoter, Roc Nation cannot manage boxers under the federal Muhammad Ali Act. But because of Roc Nation’s experience in promoting tours for musical artists, it felt that was the best way to promote the sport and the fighters.

“By being the promoter, we have the ability to impact the business in two ways,” Yormark said. “No. 1, we have the ability to impact the business through live events, because as the promoter we will be able to bring in our expertise in terms of hosting events.

“The other ability we have is to create brands out of these boxers. It’s the same approach we are taking with our athletes and our artists. We are going to build the celebrity status of boxers on a 365-day basis, and we are going to align them with all the brands we do business with and create brands outside of the ring.”

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