SBJ/Nov. 17-23, 2014/Labor and Agents

Montag will start own firm

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Sandy Montag, IMG’s longtime head of talent representation, is launching his own consulting firm.

A pioneer in the business of representing sports broadcasters, Montag started his career at the agency nearly 30 years ago and works with such top names as Bob Costas, John Madden and Jim Nantz. As part of his new arrangement, he will continue to represent his clients who remain with WME-IMG.

His new company, The Montag Group, will represent teams, leagues, television networks and corporations in the areas of strategic development, negotiations and content development. Montag will split his time between the new venture and representing about 50 clients at WME-IMG.

Montag’s new company will work with teams, leagues, television networks and corporations.
Photo by: Gort Productions
WME-IMG co-CEO Patrick Whitesell announced the move in an internal company memo last month and congratulated Montag on his new venture. He stated Montag “will continue working with IMG to serve our clients with the commitment to excellence he’s demonstrated throughout his career.”

Rick Rosen, a WME-IMG board member, will be taking over Montag’s managerial duties, which included supervising about 40 employees who handled the representation of about 250 clients. Rosen, in a statement, said, “We’re proud to have [Montag] continue to work as an agent at the company, in addition to developing his new venture.”

Montag will start his business while continuing to represent his clients.

“WME was gracious in letting me have the best of both worlds,” Montag said. “I have been at IMG my entire career and I am able to continue to represent my clients, many of whom are like family to me, as well as launching a new business, which is something I have always wanted to do.”

The Montag Group will not represent individual broadcasters or other talent. “My representation business is exclusive with IMG,” Montag said.

But he hopes to work with teams, leagues, networks and other companies in providing services ranging from media rights negotiations to content development and entry strategies into the sports business.

The company will be based in New York City and White Plains, N.Y.

“I am just looking forward to the corporate side of the business and having [companies] as clients, in addition to my individual clients,” Montag said.

Montag started his career at IMG in 1985, serving as “a gofer” for IMG client Madden. He would take the train with the former coach, who is notoriously afraid of flying. Montag later became Madden’s agent and he negotiated his endorsement deal with EA Sports for the popular Madden video game, believed to be one of the most lucrative sports endorsement deals of all time.

Montag built out the company’s representation business by signing other top sports broadcasters, coaches and personalities. In 2004, when the late Ted Forstmann bought IMG, Montag was promoted to senior corporate vice president and head of clients.

Through the years, Montag has forged deep relationships with executives throughout sports.

Former NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol called Montag the top sports broadcast talent agent for more than a decade, but also acknowledged that he represented the best behind-the-camera talent, including directors and producers.

“I certainly relied on Sandy heavily on helping me put together the team in front of and behind the camera, as I took ‘Sunday Night Football’ from a dream I had for several years to turning it into a reality,” Ebersol said last week. “He was the one agent who had such a broad knowledge, not only of talent, but he had a broad knowledge of what we all needed to get things done.”

Ebersol sees how Montag’s new company could help different companies in the creation of sports content.

“He’ll be phenomenally successful in representing, on a case-by-case basis, new ventures and new ideas, beyond simply representing the on-camera and behind-the-scenes talent,” Ebersol said. “He is a relationship person. He already has all the relationships, but more importantly, he knows how to use them to benefit both sides, which is really an art form.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that he has known Montag for 20 years and that he has been an adviser to him personally, as well as the NBA, on media strategy.

“Sandy has extraordinary relationships and is a font of information about the television and media industries,” Silver wrote in an email. He went on to write that Montag “knows how to be a supportive friend — meaning he really listens! — and give direct, unvarnished advice.”

Montag’s move does not come as a total surprise. Since WME acquired IMG last year for $2.4 billion, a number of high-level executives have left either as part of a reorganization or as part of the company’s plans to cut as much as $150 million in expenses.

The Montag Group does not have any formal clients, but it is expected to join with Ari Fleischer Sports Communications to offer joint services. Montag and Fleischer, a former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, formed the company in 2004, and it provides crisis communications and media training.

“The sky is the limit for what Sandy can do, because he is so well known, so smart, so well liked and he can bring people together,” Fleischer said. “He can do deals. He knows TV. He knows marketing.”

Montag stressed that he is not leaving IMG or his clients, which is one of the things that made the new arrangement so attractive.

“Nothing that I do under the new company will affect my clients in any way,” Montag said. “I still represent them 100 percent with the same commitment I always have, and many of them have been longtime clients for over 15 to 20 years. They support what I am doing and know that my work ethic in representing them won’t change one iota.”

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