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Volume 21 No. 1
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Plugged In: Rich Kleiman, Roc Nation Sports

Rich Kleiman is a vice president and agent at Roc Nation Sports, the company founded by Jay Z in April 2013. He began working at parent company Roc Nation as a music manager in 2008 after producing “Fade to Black,” a documentary on Jay Z. Kleiman has managed musical artists in the past, but he said since the launch of Roc Nation Sports he has been “out of music” and is working full time in sports.

I think some people think that, ‘They’re going to bring them to a concert and say, You want to come to Roc Nation?’ That’s not how we do business.

Biggest misconception about Roc Nation Sports: I think that people think that we skip steps, that they think “They are just coming in and trying to use this glitz and glamour that they have to try to cheat the system or not learn it or not put the work in.” I mean, I work 24 hours, seven days a week. I’m a sponge. I studied sports since I was 4 years old. I learned how to read from The New York Times sports section. I knew everything about sports already, and the business of it, I love. The principles that we do in the music business, our ability to manage and understand talent: We were able to transition that over in a lot of ways. But the knowledge of the [sports] business, and learning the ins and outs and the intricacies of the business, we are really learning it and really studying it and really trying to be the best.

On building Roc Nation Sports: We are in this for the long haul. This isn’t, “Oh, my God, we’ve got to have 75 athletes tomorrow.” We would have 75 athletes if that were the case. It’s really about developing the business and being able to give everybody that 24/7 support. You have to do that by building at a certain pace. I’d rather do that by having a Kevin Durant, a Robinson Cano, and the athletes that we have. We made a great selection in James Young, someone we feel really passionate about in the NBA draft (No. 17 pick overall, by Boston), and continue to build the business rather than say, “We got six this year in the NBA draft.”

Not about the money: We did not, 100 percent, unequivocally I can say, start this as a money thing. So margins, all that stuff, is not important. I cannot speak for Jay, but I would assume by obviously spending so much time with him and building this with him, he did it because he obviously thought there was a void and a need for this. It was genuine. He felt that there was something we could be good at and impact business with. … That’s obviously separate from how much money we can make at it. We are obviously businessmen. We want to do the best deals possible, but it’s not the driving force for any of it.

Why athletes call Roc Nation Sports: I think they are fans of what Jay Z has built and how Jay Z has carried himself as a businessman and has succeeded, and I think it’s that which has attracted them. They really admire what he has been able to build. … Who else can be the best businessman in the room, own the company, and also relate to everything he went through as a talent and know what it is like to come from nothing, have money, have to deal with the outside influences when you become wealthy? And still be the best at what you do? I mean, who else can relate to that?

— Liz Mullen