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Volume 26 No. 176
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Nastia Liukin Backs Off Earlier Comments That She Plans To Become An Agent

Retired Gold Medal-winning gymnast Nastia Liukin is backing off prior statements that she is becoming an agent. Liukin last month told both her sponsor GK Elite’s blog and US Weekly magazine that she intends to pursue a career in athlete representation, and that she had founded the Shine Agency as the platform for her career. But since then, Liukin told THE DAILY that the Shine Agency will take a different tack. It will build and develop sports, entertainment and lifestyle ventures that help Liukin “connect with people, especially girls and young women,” the first being her ongoing Shine speaking tour, she said. As for athlete representation, she said, “That is not my immediate focus, but I’m not sure what the future holds.” Liukin founded the Shine Agency in December, a fact that some close contractual partners of Liukin only recently discovered. Her friend, NBC Sports Group Dir of Olympic Partnerships Liz Ballard, told the network last month that she will be leaving to help Liukin run the business. Her exact departure date is not known. The Shine Tour has made occasional stops since January. According to its website, the tour is “a chance for Nastia to interact with girls of all ages -- athletes and non-athletes -- to share her story and talk with them about the issues that they are facing.” Separately, USA Gymnastics President & CEO Steve Penny said that Liukin recently told him that she has no plans to represent athletes.

DEPARTURE FROM EARLIER COMMENTS: Liukin’s recent comments are a departure from US Weekly’s May 21 report, in which she is quoted as saying, “I’ve worked with several agents over my career, none of which represented who I was or brought projects to the table that really reflected me as a person, opportunities that I could be passionate about, so we have joined forces and hope to represent people that we really believe have stories to tell and brands to build.” That quote caught the eye of many in the Olympic world, including Liukin’s current agent, Shade Global Founder Sheryl Shade. Shade still has Liukin under contract and, according to Shade’s lawyer, Robert Gaulin, independently discovered Liukin’s plans to launch an agency. Gaulin said he is looking into whether Liukin has complied with her contract with Shade. If Liukin were to become an agent, it potentially would have implications for her promotional deals with USA Gymnastics, which includes the Nastia Liukin Cup, and the USOC, which has signed her as an ambassador for its Road to Rio campaign. She is also an on-air commentator for NBC. Those relationships could complicate an agent's business in the complex Olympic sports world, said Octagon Managing Dir of Olympics & Action Sports Peter Carlisle. "Where interests are aligned, an agent's ability to collaborate can prove quite useful," said Carlisle, who has no direct knowledge of Liukin's contracts. "But where they're at odds -- which they unavoidably are from time to time -- an agent's ability to advocate for the client is essential and demands a certain level of independence that could become compromised if the agent were to have a direct commercial relationship with the organization."