SBJ/Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2016/Labor and Agents

Steinberg goes from top of the draft to front of a classroom

After more than 40 years in the agent business, Leigh Steinberg is leading a seminar for those who want to practice the craft.

Steinberg said he launched the Leigh Steinberg Agent Academy as a way to give tools to those who want to pursue the profession, as well as some feeling for what it is like and how tough it is to break into.

Steinberg has started the class at a time when some people in the business are talking about getting out because of the fee-cutting, marketing guarantees and other practices that make it harder to make a living in the business. Steinberg, in a lengthy interview, acknowledged that and said one of the purposes of the enterprise is to give would-be agents a reality check.

“We are very, very, very, very upfront with them — about the level of competition, about the specific economics and about how difficult it is,” Steinberg said.

Leigh Steinberg addresses students who hope to be agents.
Photo by: STEINBERG SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT
The class is for those wanting to negotiate playing contracts as well as marketing deals.

“Some people do make it,” Steinberg said. “And we are trying to give young people who really want to do it the best training and skills in how to do it.”

Steinberg has experienced some of the highest highs and the lowest lows as an agent. He represented the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick eight times in his career, and he and former partner Jeff Moorad sold their firm for $120 million in 1999. After that, however, he battled alcoholism and legal and financial problems.

After several years of sobriety, he relaunched his agency, and last year he was back representing a quarterback picked in the first round of the NFL draft — Paxton Lynch — who was taken with the 26th pick by the Denver Broncos.

The agent academy is not a moneymaker nor is it intended to be, Steinberg said. It’s a one-day seminar, and attendance is limited to 30 people. “We spend the day with them,” he said.

The fees, Steinberg said — $375 for nonstudents and $250 for students — just about cover the costs of putting the event on, which include travel for Steinberg and his staff, as well as renting the space. “They all get a book of mine whether they want it or not,” Steinberg said.

Those books include “Winning With Integrity — How to Get What You Want Without Selling Your Soul” and “The Agent: My 40-Year Career Making Deals and Changing the Game.”

The daylong seminar includes interactive sessions with Steinberg’s staff in which they play-act situations that agents face in negotiating with clubs and recruiting new clients.

Since 2014, Steinberg has held 10 daylong academies in Philadelphia; New York; Chicago; Dallas; Houston; San Francisco; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Newport Beach, Calif., where he is based.

David Mariotti, 29, took the seminar last year in Philadelphia. Mariotti, who is now director of media and marketing at Cleveland-based Verus Management Team, a Cleveland-based sports marketing agency, noted that Steinberg made the students take a self-inventory about why they wanted to be in the sports agent business.

“He did specify how tough it was,” said Mariotti, who has wanted to be a sports agent since he was in the third grade. “That was one of his main points.”

Most of the students are college and law school students, but it is open to everyone no matter their age or background. The oldest was a 70-year-old man who wants to become a baseball agent. “He’s 70,” Steinberg said, “but he has some energy.”

The youngest student was 12. “He came with his mother,” Steinberg said.

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

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