SBJ/Oct. 3-9, 2016/Labor and Agents

After transition, Montag departs WME-IMG to rep clients at his firm

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

After WME bought IMG two years ago, Sandy Montag, the broadcast agent and head of clients at IMG, and WME partner Rick Rosen sat down and came up with a plan for the 30-year agency veteran.

“He wanted to do some entrepreneurial things and I asked him to stick around and to stay with us — to give it two years — to help with the transition of IMG to WME,” Rosen said. “And we would help him with his transition from IMG to his new life.”

WME-IMG and Montag did just that, announcing last week that Montag would shift to full-time president and CEO of The Montag Group. His last day at IMG was Oct. 1.

MONTAG
Montag started working part time at his startup in 2014, focusing on sports media consulting, while keeping his talent representation business exclusive to IMG. Rosen took over the managerial duties as WME-IMG’s head of broadcast clients at that time.

Montag himself represents more than 50 clients, including some of the biggest names in sports broadcasting, such as Bob Costas, Jim Nantz and Mike Tirico.

The Montag Group will now add talent representation to its media rights and content consultancy services, where it has teams, leagues and companies as
ROSEN
clients. In fact, Montag said, that will be the company’s core business.

Montag wouldn’t talk about which of his clients would go with him and which would stay with WME-IMG. As a practical matter, when agents leave an agency, the clients go or stay with the agent with whom they have the closest relationship.

Rosen noted that he has seen this scenario before in his 23 years in the talent representation business (Rosen co-founded the former Endeavor with Ari Emanuel before it merged with the former William Morris Agency to form WME). Some clients that are expected to stay may leave and those who are expected to go may stay, he said.

“The more important issue is Sandy and I are talking about how we can work with clients together,” Rosen said.

WME also will continue to represent plenty of clients on its own. Jim Ornstein heads up sports broadcasting and will continue to oversee the business. WME recently added Jordan Bazant, who formerly worked at The Legacy Agency and represents broadcasters and other sports personalities. Josh Pyatt, a partner and 13-year veteran of WME, works with clients including Michael Strahan.

WME’s broadcast clients include Terry Bradshaw, Tony Gonzalez, Troy Aikman, Reggie Miller and Keyshawn Johnson.

Montag’s exit strategy wasn’t announced in 2014, which Rosen and Montag said was by design.

“Part of it was — I am helping with an integration,” Montag said. “It really doesn’t serve anyone well internally if people know I am going to leave in a couple of years. WME is a great company. I wanted to help the IMG people get integrated.”

Agents who worked first for Montag at IMG and are staying include Ira Stahlberger, Dan O’Connor, Melissa Baron and Sharon Chang.

In addition, both Montag and Rosen wanted to show stability by going forward together. “Ultimately, it’s destabilizing to clients, and we did not want to do that,” Rosen said.

Now Montag can chart his own course, and he’s bullish about the future.

“I have zero intentions of leaving the representation business, and, in fact, have thoughts and plans to make it bigger and better,” he said.

Montag began his career at IMG in 1985 as an intern assigned to work with John Madden. Many of Montag’s clients have relationships with him that go back 20 years or more. While excited, Montag acknowledged some sadness about leaving a company where he worked his entire career.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said.

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