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Volume 21 No. 1

Labor and Agents

The Legacy Agency is acquiring Peter Greenberg & Associates, a baseball player representation practice that represents 20 major leaguers, including stars Johan Santana and Jose Reyes. The deal marks the first significant acquisition since the agency was formed late last year.

Combining the practice of agents Peter Greenberg and his brother Edward Greenberg with The Legacy Agency’s existing clients will create an agency representing 60 Major League Baseball players, 23 of them all-stars, and about 70 minor league baseball clients.

“We have always planned on creating a market leader in baseball,” said Michael Principe, CEO of The Legacy Agency.

TLA was formed in January when sports marketing firm The Agency was merged with MLB player representation firm Legacy Sports. Peter and Edward Greenberg will join as principals and will work alongside TLA’s baseball agents and principals Greg Genske, Scott Parker and Brian Peters. All will report to Principe.

TLA is based in New York, and the Greenbergs will continue to operate out of New York. Genske, Parker and Peters will continue to operate out of Newport Beach, Calif. Other partners in the firm, from the sports marketing firm formerly known as The Agency, are Jordan Bazant, Andrew Witlieb, Russ Spielman, Peter Raskin and Kevin Canning.

Other clients of the Greenbergs include Martin Prado and rising stars such as Ruben Tejada, Wilton Lopez, Starling Marte and Wily Peralta. Existing clients of TLA include CC Sabathia, Vernon Wells, Brett Anderson and Angel Pagan.

“Peter [Greenberg] is an excellent agent who has demonstrated that he can negotiate contracts at the highest level, while maintaining the highest level of integrity,” Genske said last week. “The thing that is great about it is the complementary nature of it. Peter Greenberg has been really successful operating in markets we really don’t operate in. It’s a really good partnership.”

Peter and Edward Greenberg, who are both fluent in Spanish, formed their agency in 1997 specifically to serve Spanish-speaking athletes. Many of their clients hail from Spanish-speaking countries, including the Dominican Republic, Panama and Venezuela.

Peter Greenberg was in Venezuela last week and unavailable for comment, but Edward Greenberg said: “We have been approached by a number of agencies over the years, but we never saw the kind of fit that we do with this group. He has a tremendous reputation, Greg [Genske], and Scott Parker and his whole group, and that was one of the reasons why we decided it was a good fit. We wouldn’t just join forces with any agency.”

Edward Greenberg said that, additionally, some of the MLB player clients have worked with The Agency before it became part of TLA, so there was a relationship and some trust there, as well.

“We have known Mike Principe for years and we have developed a good relationship over the years,” he said. “We respect a lot of what he has done in his career and especially what he has done with The Legacy Agency.”

Principe noted that 23.5 percent of MLB players and 43.5 percent of minor league players hail from Latin American countries.

“We’ve identified Latin America as a growth opportunity, as highlighted by the large number of Latin Americans in the MLB ranks and the larger number in the minors,” Principe said. “The Greenbergs accelerate our Latin American plans and make us an overnight leader in that growing market.”

Before forming TLA, Principe helped create the former Blue Entertainment Sports Television, which was acquired by Lagardère Unlimited, and worked on mergers that created the former SFX Sports. SFX Sports failed, in part, due to rapid-fire mergers of major sports agencies run by agents with big personalities who, in the end, did not get along. A personality clash will not happen here, Principe and Genske said. Principe said he has known the Greenbergs for 10 years, and Genske said he has been talking to the Greenbergs about a possible business combination for about a year.

Principe has purposely focused TLA on representing MLB players for on-the-field work. MLB is the only major team sport in the U.S. without a salary cap, and salaries have been skyrocketing in recent years. Both TLA agents and the Greenbergs are focused on representing premier players, and the average salary per client is higher than most agencies.

In addition to MLB player contract work, TLA also represents an array of sports talent for marketing and other off-the-field work. Other TLA clients include golfers Jim Furyk and John Huh, broadcasters Troy Aikman and Dan Hicks, coaches Steve Lavin and Mick Cronin, and marketing clients Reggie Bush and Ryan Tannehill in the NFL.

Hal Biagas has agreed to join Excel Sports Management as its general counsel, the latest hire by the sports talent representation firm owned by agents Jeff Schwartz, Casey Close and Mark Steinberg.

Biagas most recently was Wasserman Media Group’s executive vice president of operations, a position he held for three years. Prior to that, he served as deputy counsel for the National Basketball Players Association, where he worked for 13 years.

Biagas and Excel and Wasserman officials declined to comment or did not return inquiries for this story.

Unlike some of the recent cases of executives moving from one sports agency to another, sources said Biagas leaving Wasserman for Excel was “amicable.” In his position at Wasserman, Biagas had a supervisory role and did not represent athletes, nor is he taking clients with him to Excel.

Excel was founded in 2002 by Schwartz, an NBA agent, but expanded into baseball and golf last year with the addition of Close, a top MLB agent, and Steinberg, agent to Tiger Woods.

In recent months, Excel has been on a hiring spree, bringing on three MLB agents — Jim Murray, J.D. Smart and Matt Laird — from Hendricks Sports Management as well as MLB agent David O’Hagan from CAA Sports.


Liz Mullen
While some baseball agents expected that more players would receive qualifying offers this year under MLB’s new free agent compensation system, MLB Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner and Rob Manfred, MLB executive vice president of economics and league affairs, said they were not surprised only nine players did.

Those nine players were Michael Bourn (Atlanta), Josh Hamilton (Texas), Hiroki Kuroda (New York Yankees), Adam LaRoche (Washington), Kyle Lohse (St. Louis), David Ortiz (Boston), Rafael Soriano (Yankees), Nick Swisher (Yankees) and B.J. Upton (Tampa Bay).

Kyle Lohse of St. Louis was one of nine players receiving qualifying offers this year.
Under the new system, which was agreed to under the collective-bargaining agreement ratified last year, clubs must offer players who are about to become free agents a one-year deal for the average of the top 125 MLB player salaries, an amount that this year was $13.3 million. The clubs made the offers Nov. 2, and players had until Nov. 9 to accept them. If a player does not accept the offer, the clubs receive draft-pick compensation from the team that ultimately signs the player. Clubs that didn’t make an offer receive no compensation.

Under the old system, clubs received draft picks for players who were offered arbitration but signed elsewhere. Last year, clubs offered arbitration to 37 free agents.

“From the union’s perspective, we always want as few players subject to direct compensation as possible,” Weiner said last week. “We see this new provision as an improvement to the previous system. It’s a positive development. There are fewer players subject to compensation than there have been in previous years.”

Manfred, in an email response to questions from SportsBusiness Journal, said: “The goal of the new system was to more accurately identify players of sufficient value to warrant the former club receiving compensation if the player left via free agency and to avoid burdening less valuable players.”

Prior to the offers being made, some MLB agents said they expected clubs to make offers even if they didn’t actually want the player, simply to secure draft-pick compensation. One agent said his agency expected two of its clients to receive offers and was glad when they did not, because it gave those players a better chance of being signed elsewhere. Clubs may shy away from a player if they would lose a draft pick by signing him, this agent said.

Agents requested anonymity because they didn’t want their comments to affect their relationships with clubs.

Said Manfred, “It is not surprising that agents would see less players being subject to compensation as a positive, but the clubs control their own destiny in terms of who is subject to compensation. More important, the change in compensation was part of a package of reforms, including draft reform, that has proved to be good for the clubs.”

> KINZER OPENS SHOP: MLB player agent Paul Kinzer has opened his own Atlanta-based agency, Kinzer Management Group, and will be representing a number of high-profile MLB players, including Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro. The firm also represents Chicago White Sox shortstop Alex Rios, Milwaukee third baseman Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Correa, the No. 1 overall pick (by Houston) in this year’s MLB draft, according to a statement Kinzer issued to SportsBusiness Journal.

Wasserman Media Group issued a statement last month saying that former employee Kinzer had been terminated for cause. The statement was issued at the same time news broke that Wasserman had paid a settlement to free agent closer Francisco Rodriguez, a former Wasserman and Kinzer client.

Kinzer, in his statement, expressed disappointment in Wasserman’s public comments, noting that the related matters “will be addressed in the proper forum.” He added, “I’m now ready for a new era in my career.”

Disputes between MLB player agents are often mediated by the MLBPA. Union chief Weiner declined to comment when asked if the union was overseeing a dispute between Kinzer and Wasserman.

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