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Volume 21 No. 2

Labor and Agents

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

Veteran marketer and agent Brooks Downing has left Lagardère Unlimited to open his own agency in Lexington, Ky., where he will primarily represent college coaches and manage events.

Downing, who founded BD Global Sports and will serve as president, will be heavily invested in the college space, both with coaches and college basketball tournaments and doubleheaders. That’s mainly what he was doing for Blue Equity’s BEST, and eventually Lagardère when the French company acquired Blue Equity’s sports and entertainment affiliate.

Downing, previously the chief communications director for University of Kentucky basketball, started the agency with three clients.

BD Global’s basketball coaching clients at launch are Western Kentucky’s Ray Harper, UNC Wilmington’s Buzz Peterson and Morehead State’s Sean Woods, all of whom are full-service clients.

Downing said he intends to move into college football as well.

On the events side, BD Global will operate and manage a men’s and women’s doubleheader in December between Texas and UCLA in Houston’s Reliant Stadium. The event is billed as the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Showcase. The Proton Therapy Center is based within the University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center and will serve as the title sponsor.

BD Global handles sponsorship and group sales. The title sponsorship that was sold to MD Anderson was initiated by the sales team at Lagardère and closed by Downing, he said. They will continue to work together on sales efforts.

In the past, Downing also has overseen tennis and golf tournaments, as well as basketball events, and he envisions a future running college football neutral-site games as well.

Because of Downing’s background at Kentucky, he also will offer public relations and crisis management as a third core competency for the agency.

Wasserman Media Group may have ended its employment of MLB player agent Paul Kinzer, but a fight over his roster of young baseball player clients, including 22-year-old Chicago Cubs shortstop and two-time All-Star Starlin Castro, may be just beginning.

“All my players are still with me,” Kinzer told SportsBusiness Journal in a brief telephone interview last week.

Indeed, he was listed by the MLBPA as the agent of record for Castro, White Sox shortstop Alex Rios, Texas Rangers catcher Geovany Soto, Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez and St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal last week.

The Chicago Cubs’ Starlin Castro “could be the next, young superstar.”
Additionally, Kinzer represents shortstop Carlos Correa, who was picked No. 1 overall in last year’s draft by the Astros.
It was not clear how many major league prospects or other MLB players may have left with Kinzer.

It was also not clear last week whether Kinzer and his son, Kelly Kinzer, who is also an MLBPA-certified agent and was listed as the agent for free-agent pitcher Matt Capps, might open their own firm or join another agency. Rival agents acknowledged that Kinzer had a client list of very good MLB players, with Castro a potential standout.

“He could be the next, young superstar and he is a player anyone would want to have,” said one veteran MLB agent.

What was clear was that the parting between Kinzer and the agency where he had worked for six years was not amicable. Kinzer was one of the agency’s top MLB agents and reported to Arn Tellem, Wasserman vice chairman.

“Paul Kinzer was terminated for cause on October 5, 2012,” said Bert Deixler, Wasserman attorney, in a statement issued to SportsBusiness Journal. “Wasserman policy and a concern for Mr. Kinzer’s dignity make it appropriate to not comment further.”

Multiple sources said there were still unresolved issues involving the players, including fees, between Wasserman Media Group and Kinzer and there may be future legal wrangling over it. A company official did not respond to questions.

In addition to terminating Kinzer, Wasserman Media Group also settled a multimillion-dollar claim which had been brought against the agency by former client, free-agent pitcher Francisco Rodriguez, who was represented by Kinzer.

Rodriguez, who is now a client of agent Scott Boras, sought more than $5.5 million in damages from Wasserman Media Group and Kinzer in an arbitration before the MLBPA over his trade to the Milwaukee Brewers in July 2011. The Brewers were on a list of 10 clubs that Rodriguez could not be traded to, but the list was never filed and the trade went through.

Liz Mullen
MLB player agent Danny Lozano has renamed his agency MVP Sports Group and signed two recent free agents, outfielder Jonny Gomes and pitcher Michael Gonzalez.

Lozano also signed Colorado outfielder Eric Young Jr.

Gomes, who played for Oakland last season, was represented by ACES Inc. Gonzalez, who played for Washington, was handled by Scott Boras Corp., while Young was formerly represented by CAA Sports.

Lozano added the Rockies’ Young to his roster.
Lozano will have difficulty matching the success he had during last year’s MLB free agency period. During MLB’s offseason last year, Lozano negotiated deals for four clients totaling $549 million, including a 10-year, $254 million free agent deal for first baseman Albert Pujols with the Los Angeles Angels and a 10-year, $225 million extension for Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto.

In a recent email Lozano sent to people in the industry that was obtained by SportsBusiness Journal, Lozano announced he was rebranding his Century City, Calif., agency from Icon Sports Group to the new MVP Sports Group. He did not elaborate on any reason for the change. He opened his own shop in 2010 after leaving Beverly Hills Sports Council.

> JUDGE DISMISSES NFLCA CLAIMS AGAINST NFLPA: A Washington, D.C., Superior Court judge has dismissed counterclaims the NFL Coaches Association filed against the NFL Players Association along with former general counsel Richard Berthelsen, assistant executive director Clark Gaines, director of finance Charles Ross, and Amalgamated Bank.

The NFLPA originally sued the NFLCA in April, alleging that the coaches association owed the NFLPA $650,324.88 and that NFLCA Executive Director David Cornwell was not properly elected to the post. The NFLCA countersued the players union in July, alleging the NFLPA breached its fiduciary duty to the coaches; engaged in a civil conspiracy; and tortuously interfered with contractual relations between the coaches group and Amalgamated, the bank where the funds in the dispute were deposited.

Judge Michael Rankin, in a ruling last month, granted the players association’s motion to dismiss the NFLCA claims. Rankin wrote in his order that there was no fiduciary duty between the NFLPA and the NFLCA and, therefore, there is no basis for a claim of conspiracy. Additionally, Rankin found there was no contract between the coaches association and Amalgamated Bank.

Chip Yablonski, outside counsel for the NFLPA in the matter, did not return a phone call, and attempts last week to reach the NFLPA for comment were unsuccessful.

Cornwell declined specific comment on the suit.

Meanwhile, in a letter to coaches in September, Cornwell told them he met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL General Counsel Jeff Pash over the summer and was working to advance the coaches’ interests with the clubs. Cornwell also wrote that he met with a number of club officials, including Atlanta Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay, who is also chairman of the NFL’s competition committee.

Cornwell declined to say what issues he addressed with league and club officials or what progress may have been made on those issues since he sent the letter in September.

“Because I believe we have direct access to the commissioner, Jeff Pash, Rich McKay, and other key club personnel, I don’t think it is advisable to talk about what our objectives are in the media,” Cornwell said.

The NFLPA has alleged that Cornwell was not legitimately elected as head of the coaches group because he was appointed as NFLCA executive director by the executive committee of that organization and not elected by coaches employed at all the NFL clubs.

“We are working our way though our process,” Cornwell said last week when asked about whether the coaches at the clubs had voted to elect him to the position. “The players association decided to make that an issue, but the coaches don’t have a problem with it.”

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