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Volume 20 No. 42

Labor and Agents

Liz Mullen
WME has signed basketball hall of famer and ESPN NBA analyst Chris Mullin for representation in all areas, the latest signing of a sports personality by the Hollywood talent firm.

WME agents Jim Ornstein and Miles Gidaly will lead a team of agents representing Mullin, a five-time NBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist who retired after an NBA career that spanned from 1985 until 2001. He was formerly represented by Lon Rosen, longtime agent to Magic Johnson who left Lagardère Unlimited in early 2011 to work as executive vice president of Magic Johnson Enterprises.

Chris Mullin was formerly represented by Lon Rosen, who was at Lagardère Unlimited.
WME does not have a division devoted to sports and does not represent athletes in playing-contract work as does rival Hollywood firm Creative Artists Agency, but it has signed a number of current and former athletes for off-the-field and off-the-court work this year, starting in February with New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow. Subsequent signings include Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher and former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. Each of the deals is for non-playing or, in the case of Van Gundy, non-coaching work.

Tebow and Howard are represented by WME agents Dave Wirtschafter and Jill Smoller. Urlacher and Lewis are represented by agents Brad Slater, Brandt Joel and Josh Pyatt. Van Gundy is represented by Ornstein.

At WME, teams of agents throughout the agency bring opportunities to clients, be it an endorsement deal, a book deal, a broadcasting job or a scripted television deal. Agents there generally don’t have titles but do specialize in different areas. For example, Ornstein specializes in representing broadcasters; Pyatt specializes in non-scripted television work; and Smoller heads WME’s endorsement division.

WME was formed when William Morris Agency merged with Endeavor in 2009. Wirtschafter is the former president of William Morris and represents directors, writers and actors, as well as athletes.

MLB AGENTS LEAVE HENDRICKS, CAA FOR EXCEL: Three MLB player agents from Hendricks Sports Management and one from CAA Sports have left those firms to join Excel Sports Management, the firm owned by NBA agent Jeff Schwartz, MLB agent Casey Close and golf agent Mark Steinberg.

J.D. Smart, Jim Murray and Matt Laird from Hendricks Sports Management and David O’Hagan from CAA Sports have joined Excel, Close confirmed to SportsBusiness Journal. He declined to comment further.

CAA declined to comment on O’Hagan, who formerly worked with Close at CAA. Close joined Excel in April 2011. Steinberg joined Excel, which was founded by Schwartz, in June 2011. Close, Schwartz and Steinberg all started their careers in sports at IMG.

Randy and Alan Hendricks, brothers and pioneers in the business of representing baseball players, did not return multiple phone calls and emails. The duo began as sports agents in 1970, initially representing NFL players before getting into baseball.
It was unclear how many, if any, clients would follow the agents from Hendricks and CAA to Excel. Clients are often co-represented by more than one agent at Hendricks and CAA. As a practical matter, players often go with the agent with whom they have the closest relationship.

One MLB agent who is not affiliated with Excel, Hendricks or CAA said that in the baseball world agents will want to see which players may follow Smart, Murray and Laird to Excel. “Those guys represent 15 major leaguers,” said this agent, who asked for anonymity because he didn’t want to be publicly identified talking about his competitors’ business interests.

Smart has been representing Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, last year’s National League Cy Young winner.

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

During the NHL lockout, NHL Players’ Association Executive Director Don Fehr is working to keep players unified, involved and informed about developments through tried and true methods that he has used for decades, but the union also is using new technology, including an app it created for players’ mobile devices.

The NHLPA developed the mobile app with Kanata, Ontario-based Vayyoo, a mobile application and solutions company for businesses. It was initiated four months ago.

Vayyoo developed the app for the NHLPA.
“We launched the mobile app because we know all the players have smartphones,” said NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon. “The nice thing about the app is we can reach guys wherever they are. Nothing beats face to face, but being able to get information to players in a quick and effective manner is obviously a positive for the association.”

The NHL locked players out just after midnight Sept. 16 after the league’s collective-bargaining agreement expired. Fehr has worked to keep the hockey union’s 740 members informed, including developing new ways to reach those who can’t attend meetings with frequent updates.

Neither Weatherdon nor Shailesh Kaul, CEO of Vayyoo, would say how much the app cost the NHLPA, but a source in the application development industry said similar apps could cost anywhere from $75,000 to $100,000. Vayvoo has been working with the NHLPA for over a year to develop ways for the union to communicate with members.

Vayyoo has not had to make adjustments since the app was launched four months ago, and no one at Vayyoo sees the information on it, Kaul said. “During negotiations as sensitive as this, an enhanced, rapid exchange of multimedia information is essential,” Kaul said.

The app can handle video as well as memos updating players on negotiations and news stories about the lockout.

“You basically click it on your phone,” said Chris Campoli, a free agent defenseman who most recently played for the Montreal Canadiens and is a member of the NHLPA’s negotiating committee. “It’s got the NHLPA logo. There are a lot of guys on it. They love it.”

Campoli noted the app is just one way the NHLPA, under Fehr, keeps the players informed of what is going on. The union has its own password-protected website, called The Source, for union information, and players also receive emails updating them on negotiations and other lockout-related matters. For example, last week, the NHLPA sent a memo to players informing them that the NHL had canceled their health insurance and other forms of coverage on Sept. 16, but also notifying them that the union was picking up the cost of the premiums so the insurance was continued.