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Volume 23 No. 17
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Lagardère tennis agents follow Tobias out

Much of the tennis group at Lagardère Sports and Entertainment has now been fired or resigned, leaving uncertain whether top stars like Caroline Wozniacki, Agnieszka Radwanska and John Isner will stay with the firm — the only agency they have known in their careers.

John Tobias, the head of the roughly seven-member group, was fired two weeks ago. Since then, several agents have followed him out the door, including Meilen Tu, Sam Duvall and Stuart Duguid.

Julien Cassaigne, a former top junior player, was recently appointed the new senior vice president of tennis for Lagardère Sports and Entertainment.

“My new role is to rebuild our portfolio of players and to keep our current players, and to recruit a new team and hire new agents,” Cassaigne said. “This was a pure business decision based on long-term clients that we have lost. That is part of it.

“If you are happy with the results, you don’t change anything,” Cassaigne added. “If you are not happy with the results, you change the team.”

In the last year, two top clients have left Lagardère: Victoria Azarenka and Eugenie Bouchard. Tu was Azarenka’s agent; Duvall represented Bouchard. Duvall also represented Radwanska and had recently signed the 2015 Wimbledon boys champion, American player Reilly Opelka.

Duguid, who works out of the United Kingdom, was a key contact for many of the group’s European players.

“We can confirm that [Meilen] Tu is leaving,” Cassaigne wrote in an email. “We also expect that there will be other personnel changes including the addition of some people to our global tennis platform that we are confident will help us get to a leading position.”

Tobias declined to comment; the other agents could not be reached for comment. A source close to Lagardère said Duvall and Duguid had resigned.

Whether Lagardère can keep its roster of roughly 60 tennis clients is an issue that is set to unfold as the sport closes the year. Cassaigne said he hoped to have the agency’s new team in place by the Australian Open in January, though whether that is soon enough to assuage client concerns is unclear.

Cassaigne said some players had already communicated their worries about the changes at the firm, but he described that as normal.

Asked if the tennis group under Tobias had been unprofitable, Cassaigne declined to comment. Asked what else, besides the loss of Bouchard and Azarenka, provoked the housecleaning, he also declined to comment.

Top stars often follow their agents when there is separation from an agency. At the moment, the former Lagardère agents have not said what they plan to do next.

Remaining in the group are two recent midlevel hires, Matt Fawcett and Fabrizio Sestini, as well as Drew LeMesurier, a marketing specialist who is not a day-to-day agent.

Other tennis clients of Lagardère include Sloane Stephens, Kevin Anderson and the doubles specialists the Bryan brothers. Lagardère also represents Andy Murray for off-court marketing, though that contract expires at the end of the year.