Walters, Swartz target esports with new agency
Former Relativity Sports executives Happy Walters and Josh Swartz are launching a new venture, Catalyst Sports & Media, that will focus on the business of three global, growing sports: basketball, soccer and esports.
Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Novo Construction CEO Jim Fowler is backing the new agency, which has hired some young executives, including Bryce Blum, an attorney who has carved a niche as an expert in esports. Blum will oversee esports as executive vice president.
Walters launched the former Relativity Sports, which was part-owned by film studio Relativity Media, in 2012 and grew it into one of the biggest agencies in sports. He started out in the music and entertainment industries and also represents NBA and NFL players.
Walters left the firm in October 2015 and Swartz in January of this year after Relativity Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Relativity Sports, meanwhile, which did not have the financial problems that the movie studio had and never filed for bankruptcy protection, was relaunched as Independent Sports & Entertainment after receiving a cash infusion from investor and Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Ron
Catalyst will target basketball and soccer. Walters already has about a dozen NBA clients, including Iman Shumpert, Moe Harkless and Corey Brewer. Catalyst is in discussions about European acquisitions in the soccer business and announcements are expected soon, Walters said.
But since the pair left Relativity Sports, both Walters and Swartz have been planning a new-generation agency.
“We’re veterans. We’ve been around a long time,” Walters said. “We
Swartz said, “Fundamentally, we are going to follow the eyes and the brands, the dollars,” Swartz said. “It’s easy to say that now with ratings slipping … but younger consumers are not watching traditional sports the way they have in the past, and I think the most interesting and exciting space is esports.”
Blum will continue to work at the Seattle-based law firm he co-founded,
As more esports teams and properties have become acquisition targets, Blum has become a hot commodity. “I have talked to so many people from traditional sports, investors and VCs, who are out there and see the opportunities in esports, and that’s great,” Blum said. “But Happy and Josh, they genuinely fell in love with the esports industry. They love the competitions. They love the games.”
Blum will join with Sive to help brands find opportunities in esports; connecting prospective investors to esports teams and businesses; and investing the firm’s money in esports-related businesses.
Catalyst has an investment with Super League Gaming, a recreational league played in movie theaters that just raised $5 million in a Series C round of funding, and a partnership with GumGum, which provides in-image online advertising.
Catalyst has not yet decided whether it will represent esports players.
“This will be a comprehensive vertical around esports for a sports agency, which, to my understanding, will be the first,” Blum said.