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Volume 24 No. 159

Labor and Agents

WME has quietly signed a deal to co-represent Magic C Dwight Howard for all of his off-court deals, the third athlete to sign with the Hollywood talent firm in the last few months. WME board member and partner Dave Wirtschafter and WME marketing and sports agent Jill Smoller will co-represent Howard, along with his NBA player agent, Lagardere Unlimited Basketball President Dan Fegan, and Kevin Samples, CEO of Dwight Howard Enterprises. Fegan said, “I believe Dwight has the potential to be an iconic athlete, not just nationally, but globally, and we are broadening and strengthening his marketing team by partnering with WME.” WME has been working for Howard for several weeks, but the relationship has not been announced internally at WME, sources said. Fegan has a long standing relationship with Wirtschafter and Smoller and has worked with WME on marketing for other player clients in the past. The agency has signed Jets QB Tim Tebow and former NFLer Jason Taylor in the last several weeks for marketing and other work. WME will represent Howard for all non-NBA playing opportunities, including marketing, endorsements, speaking engagements, books, television and film.

The signing of golfer Rory McIlroy “has propelled Horizon Sports Management into the big league” and placed them “into the international mainstream,” according to Philip Reid of the IRISH TIMES. The Dublin-based firm, founded by Conor Ridge and Colin Morrissey, “also houses his predecessor as US Open champion, Graeme McDowell.” Ridge "took the bull by the horns in setting up the firm and brought Morrissey on board from the start.” The firm started out small, “nabbing top-ranked Irish amateurs who turned professional and played mainly on the Challenge Tour in Europe.” Along the way, Horizon “merged with JPS, a small sports agency based in the UK, which was backed by Belfast businessman John McKillen.” The company began growing in ’07 when McDowell "made the move to Horizon" after starting out with ISM. Ridge said, “He’d been with Chubby for five years, they’d done a really good job for him and looked after him really well. But I suppose there comes a point, whether you’re with them or IMG, where you are one of 30 or 40 players. ... He spoke about getting a lot of energy from a new group of people being around him, and maybe a company being built around him.” Reid noted the next acquisition “saw Ross Fisher leave IMG for Horizon.” If the arrivals of McDowell and Fisher “made the likes of ISM and IMG take Horizon’s arrival on the scene more seriously, it was nothing compared to the seismic wave last October” when McIlroy decided to leave ISM to join the group. Ridge has maintained “an almost religious silence on how or why the move came about.” McDowell confessed that “he’d thought McIlroy -- when the time came to make a move -- would have gone to IMG or CAA” (IRISH TIMES, 3/24).