Nets investor Jay-Z yesterday came out with the "double-barreled announcement ... that he was opening his own sports agency, and that he was stealing" Yankees 2B Robinson Cano from agent Scott Boras, according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. The move has Jay-Z "poised to shake up the sports world by offering athletes something they cannot find anywhere else: himself." Roc Nation Sports is the "newest arm of Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s 'full-service entertainment company' that has quickly built a strong reputation representing artists like Rihanna, Shakira and M.I.A." Roc Nation Sports also has "teamed" with CAA Sports, with agent Brodie Van Wagenen taking the lead on Cano's negotiations. Jay-Z has "long been in the inner circle of A-listers" like Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez and Heat F LeBron James, using their names "in his lyrics and their star wattage to enhance his own." With the borders among "music, film and sports growing ever blurrier, leading agents and their companies increasingly see sports as the next frontier." Roc Nation Sports is "widely seen as a savvy move that will capitalize on his success rebranding the Nets, and attract internationally known athletes, who double as some of his biggest fans." It was "unclear" how Roc Nation Sports and CAA would "divide their fees." Belson notes it is "not unprecedented for a player to defect from Boras -- Cano was the third Yankee to do so in recent years." The Nets did not describe how Jay-Z’s new arrangement "would affect his role with the team other than to say, 'We fully support all of Jay-Z’s endeavors.'” Roc Nation spokesperson Ron Berkowitz said that Jay-Z was "concentrating on baseball" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/3). In N.Y., George King III writes Cano and his new reps should expect a "legal fight from Boras." A source said that Cano "recently signed a representation agreement with Boras and is bound to his company for one year" (NYPOST.com, 4/3)
STAYING IN THE BRONX? In N.Y., Michael O'Keeffe notes Van Wagenen and CAA "aren’t exactly chopped liver," as they rep MLB Giants C Buster Posey and P Matt Cain, Brewers LF Ryan Braun and Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/3). Also in N.Y., Joel Sherman writes Cano "hired a group recognized for keeping stars just where they are." Cano wanted CAA "because he hungers to stay with the Yankees and was growing concerned Boras’ more contentious style would pull him away" (N.Y. POST, 4/3). Yankees P Phil Hughes, a CAA client, said that Cano "never asked him about the agency, but did say CAA has a track record of having its clients stay put" (NYPOST.com, 4/3). In N.Y., David Waldstein notes the Yankees for the moment will "wait to see how Cano's switch in agents plays out." But the Yankees "do know that long before he formed his new sports agency, Jay-Z ... played a significant role in persuading" Rodriguez to remain with the team after he opted out of his contract in '07. Roc Nation Sports yesterday "filed certification papers" with the MLBPA, a move which the union is "expected to approve" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/3).
BIG TIME FRIENDS: In N.Y., King writes it is "believed" Heat F James, "who is close to Jay-Z, played a role in Cano joining" Roc Nation Sports (N.Y. POST, 4/3). In N.Y., O'Keeffe, Feinsand, Harper & McCarron cite a source as saying that he "believed Rodriguez had offered input on the switch." Cano met James "during the World Baseball Classic." Cano also went to a Heat game and "schmoozed" with James. Some reports have "speculated that meeting was set up to facilitate Cano's switch" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/3). ESPN N.Y.'s Ian O'Connor tweeted, "If u r a Yankees fan, you're hoping Jay-Z does a better job keeping Cano in the Bronx than he did bringing LeBron to Brooklyn." The N.Y. Daily News' Bill Madden said, "I also detect the stealth hand of A-Rod in all of this. ... A-Rod and Cano are big buddies." The Daily News' Bob Raissman said, "There’s this whole thought that just because he dumped Boras he’s going to be back with the Yankees. We don’t know what Jay-Z and these guys are up to in terms of what they’re looking for" ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 4/2).
IMPACT ON CONTRACT: In Newark, Andy McCullough notes the 30-year-old Cano will make $15M this season in the "final year of the six-year," $57M deal he signed in '08. Cano hired Boras "before the 2011 season, parting ways" with agent Bobby Barad (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/3). CBSSPORTS.com's Jon Heyman noted Cano, is "expected to receive a contract that could exceed" $200M. The implications for the business of baseball "won't be known for a while, but the immediate reaction around the game is that Cano just sent the biggest hint to the Yankees that he wants to stay a Yankee, no matter what." Negotiations with Boras "weren't leading to a quick resolution." The Yankees "made what [GM Brian Cashman] publicly deemed a 'significant' offer several weeks ago," and it appeared the sides were still about $100M apart. The other "big question is whether Cano will have Jay-Z doing the negotiating." An agent source not involved said that this "may not serve Cano well." The source said, "(Yankees President) Randy Levine will eat (Jay-Z) alive" in negotiations (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/2).
PERFECT PARTNERSHIP: Inner Circle Sports partner Steve Horowitz said that the partnership "appears to make sense for all involved." For CAA, partnering with Jay-Z "increases the company's ability to bring major celebrities and athletes into its fold, since there are few figures who have as much credibility with young athletes today than Jay-Z." NBA Senior VP/Marketing Communications Mike Bass said, "There is no prohibition on NBA owners having an interest in businesses that represent non-NBA athletes." If Jay-Z were to rep NBAers, it is "believed he would have to sell his share" in the Nets, although he "hasn't shown an interest" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/3). ESPN's Jalen Rose said, "Jay-Z is a mogul and he's becoming the Magic Johnson version of the rap music game." ESPN's Hugh Douglas added, "Normally when you have rappers turn agents and everything like that -- I wasn't going to throw his name out there but Master P was one of those guys -- you look at it and you kind of wonder a little bit. But everything Jay-Z touches so far has turned to gold and you really can't go wrong when you're dealing with a guy who's that business savvy and has done some of the things that he's done. I don't see this as a bad move for Robinson Cano at all.” ESPN's Michael Smith said there is "literally no downside to being on the ground floor of this venture" ("Numbers Never Lie," ESPN2, 4/2). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "Every move Jay-Z has ever made has been gold so why wouldn't this be one?" ("PTI," ESPN, 4/2). NBC Sports Network's Michelle Beadle said the partnership is "probably the most important part of the story because I know a lot of people this morning woke up to this news and had horrific, sweat-inducing flashbacks to Master P’s nightmare of a sports agency" ("The Crossover," NBCSN, 4/2). CBS Sports Network's Doug Gottlieb said, "This is a mistake. You don't hire somebody with no experience to sign the best second baseman in major league baseball's contract" ("Lead Off," CBS Sports Network, 4/2).
GREAT SCOTT: ESPN N.Y.'s Andrew Marchand wrote Boras is "known for leading the charge with his players." But Van Wagenen's approach "is different." Van Wagenen said, "I think that every situation is unique and our process is to outline a strategy that helps the client achieve his goals, not ours." Marchand notes Cano's decision would "indicate he would like to get a deal done sooner rather than later." Jay-Z will be "intimately" involved in the negotiations." But the "on-field contract is Van Wagenen's domain" (ESPNNY.com, 4/2). SPORTING NEWS' Anthony Witrado wrote it was clear Cano "didn’t like how Boras was handling his situation and it is entirely possible Cano did not want to go into free agency believing he was worth a certain price only to have the market close on him the way it did" on Indians CF Michael Bourn and Brewers P Kyle Lohse. It does not mean Cano has "inexperienced representation" like former NFLer Ricky Williams did when he signed with Master P's No Limit Sports. That partnership led to "one of the worst contracts in sports history." The way Boras has "handled his free agents over the last couple winters has turned off some players to the way he does business." Witrado: "Combine all the facts and that Boras is no peach to deal with during negotiations and teams are also turned off." Cano "knows this, and him leaving Boras means the man who was once the undisputed top baseball agent in the world has lost his shine in this era of contract extensions and expensive loyalty." The "Boras Empire might not have any choice than to start to change its thinking, and maybe that started" with Rangers SS Elvis Andrus’ recent eight-year extension (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/2). SI.com's Jay Jaffe wrote Boras in recent months pulled a "rabbit out of his hat time after time, magically producing multiyear deals" for Bourn, Lohse and Nationals P Rafael Soriano "even when it appeared that the free agent market had closed." As impressive a "feat as that may have been, he won’t carry an undefeated streak into the season" (SI.com, 4/2).
FUTURE FOR CANO'S BRAND: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes "just when we were preparing for one of the greatest bidding wars in baseball history," with the Yankees and Dodgers "going Ali-Frazier next offseason, Cano dropped an Instagram on the baseball world." It showed him "officially signing a contract -- binding him to Jay-Z and severing ties with Boras." If Cano signs with the Yankees now, he "won't break any records, but his personal brand could blow up." There could be "business ventures, maybe a restaurant, clothing line and commercials in the pipeline" (USA TODAY, 4/3).
DANCE PARTNER? NFL.com's Dan Hanzus wrote Cano is the first "major client to land with Roc Nation, but don't expect him to be the last." It might be a "matter of time" before Jay-Z "spreads his tentacles into the NFL." Giants WR Victor Cruz has a "relationship with Jay-Z, and the receiver dodged the question of a business partnership with the rap mogul after a game last October" (NFL.com, 4/2). CBS Sports Network's Jim Rome said, "Jay-Z is a lot more famous than anybody he's going to represent. This guy's got a brand that people believe in and buy in to. I think the guy can pull it off if the guy sets it up the right way." CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman said, "I think he can go into the NFL and do really well because as you said, he's just really popular, he's really smart, and he's likeable" ("Rome," CBSSN, 4/2).