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Volume 20 No. 46

Labor and Agents


owerhouse British soccer player representation firm Stellar Group has set down stakes in the U.S. by partnering with American soccer player representation firm Global Premier Management, which will now become Stellar USA.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

“It is not an acquisition,” said Patrick McCabe, a soccer agent who founded Global in 2012. “It’s really a partnership/merger.”
McCabe, who represents about 60 soccer players, including MLS players in the U.S. and American players in Europe, will become president of Stellar USA Soccer and will be based in Boston. He will work with Stellar Group agents and its founder and chairman, Jonathan Barnett.

The Stellar Group, which is based in London, has offices in Liverpool, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Brussels, Madrid and Munich, and represents upward of 200 soccer players worldwide, including some of the biggest stars of the sport. Stellar Group’s clients include West Ham United goalkeeper Joe Hart, Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale, Swansea midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, Manchester United left back Luke Shaw and Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana.

McCabe, meanwhile, built a practice of representing MLS players starting 20 years ago in 1997, when he worked with the former Woolf Associates. Global Premier employs three agents and has offices in Boston, New York and Orlando. Since 1999, McCabe has represented 58 players selected in the first round of the MLS draft, 41 of whom were taken in the top 10. Current clients include Tim Ream, an American who plays defender for Fulham FC and for the U.S. national team, and stars of the MLS including Real Salt Lake forward Yura Movsisyan, forward Deshorn Brown of D.C. United, rookie sensation Julian Gressel of Atlanta United, and Philadelphia Union midfielder Derrick Jones.

McCabe said he is partnering with Stellar to provide more access and opportunities for the U.S. soccer players he recruits and to help Stellar transfer its clients into MLS. “This will help open doors for the best American players who wish to go abroad,” McCabe said. “Conversely, we will be able to place Stellar’s clients in the MLS as it seeks global stars.”

Stellar client Gareth Bale signed a six-year, $194.8M deal with Real Madrid last year.
Barnett is known for getting big deals for his clients — Bale signed a six-year deal valued at $194.8 million last fall — and he wants to bring his expertise and dealmaking style to the U.S. In a telephone interview from London, he said he had been looking at expanding his agency into the U.S. for some time, to both find and manage the best young soccer players in the U.S. and help place the best European players on MLS teams.

“I’ve known Patrick for a long time, maybe more than 10 years,” Barnett said. “Obviously we respect him and respect his business. About two months ago we started talking to Patrick about taking his business and putting it with Stellar. And that is what we decided to do, so we can expand the companies into America.”

Stellar opened an NFL player representation firm in Atlanta earlier this year and hired NFL agent Reggie Johnson to run it. The division has three clients: Denver Broncos offensive tackle Menelik Watson, Broncos safety Orion Stewart and Atlanta Falcons safety Jordan Moore.

“In the next two or three years, after we get the NFL going, we will go and do this in the NBA,” Barnett said.

> WME SIGNS VASGERSIAN: WME has signed MLB Network and Fox Sports broadcaster Matt Vasgersian for representation. A team of WME agents, led by Jon Rosen and Jim Ornstein, will represent Vasgersian. He was formerly represented by Creative Artists Agency.

> PLAYERSREP SIGNS NFL PLAYERS: PlayersRep Sports Management has signed Detroit Lions safety Tavon Wilson and San Francisco 49ers defensive back Adrian Colbert.

PlayersRep NFL agents Andy Simms, Wesley Spencer and Cody Recchion will represent the players. Sports International Group formerly represented Wilson. National Sports Agency formerly represented Colbert.

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

Priority Sports & Entertainment, fueled by its heavily sought-after client Gordon Hayward, has been the big winner in this year’s NBA free agency, leading all agencies in the total dollars negotiated so far this summer.

Eleven agencies negotiated 71 deals with a total value of about $2.3 billion since free agency started July 1, according to SportsBusiness Journal research (see chart). Chicago-based Priority led the pack with $354.6 million negotiated for nine different players.

The Celtics gave Gordon Hayward a four-year, $128 million deal to leave the Jazz.
Priority Sports & Entertainment founder and CEO Mark Bartelstein said he does not know if this was the richest year ever in terms of total money negotiated for his agency in his 25 years in the business. He said that’s not how he looks at his business. “How we judge it is, are we doing everything we can to put our clients in a position to do well economically and also for their careers to grow?” Bartelstein said.

Hayward’s free agency decision was arguably the most talked about this summer, as he joined the Boston Celticsfrom the Utah Jazz in a four-year, $128 million deal. But the decision wasn’t easy, Bartelstein said.

“It was a gut-wrenching decision for him on what to do,” he said. “But ultimately you can only pick one team and you put so much into trying to do the right thing for himself and his family.”

Priority was followed by Landmark Sports, a firm founded by former agent and now Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and Brandon Rosenthal, in the rankings of total dollars negotiated. Landmark negotiated only three contracts, but one was a mega-deal — guard James Harden’s four-year, record $228 million extension to stay with the Houston Rockets. Since joining the Lakers, Pelinka is no longer associated with the agency.

Excel Sports Management ranked third with 13 deals valued at $267 million, headed up by forward Blake Griffin’s five-year, $171 million extension with the Los Angeles Clippers.

ASM Sports was fourth, with $235.5 million in contracts for six players, including guard Kyle Lowry’s three-year, $100 million deal to return to the Toronto Raptors.

Rounding out the top five is Octagon with five deals worth $228.3 million, the pivotal one being guard Stephen Curry’s five-year, $201 million deal to remain with the Golden State Warriors, the designated player maximum.
Specific commissions for the agencies could not be determined, but the maximum fee NBA agents may charge on any contract is 4 percent of the contract value, under National Basketball Players Association regulations. So, agencies charging 4 percent would receive $4 million commission on a $100 million contract.

Free agency is not over and more deals could get done and change the totals.

“Most of the players who will begin the season on final NBA rosters have been signed except for restricted free agents,” said Christopher Reina, executive editor of RealGM, a website that tracks free agency in the NBA and other sports. “There are seldom any signings of consequence by the middle of August until the start of training camp in late September with the exception of restricted free agents.”

He declined to share RealGM’s estimate of the total dollars spent in this year’s free agent market. ESPN reported the total dollar volume of about $3 billion, down from $5 billion last year. Some agents blamed the salary cap, which came in at $99 million, which was lower than expected and a much smaller increase than last summer’s massive $24 million bump, which came as a result of the NBA’s new media deals taking effect.

“There was a large spike last year,” said veteran NBA agent David Falk, founder and owner of FAME. “Some teams treated last year like the Oklahoma Land Rush. There were a lot of very, very average players, a lot of backup players, that signed deals that were not only grossly over-priced, but very, very long.”

FAME negotiated two contracts, valued at $108.6 million, including forward Otto Porter’s four-year, $106.5 million max contract to return to the Washington Wizards and was No. 10 in terms of total revenue negotiated.

Evidence of the dynamic market is young agent Jason Glushon, who launched Glushon Sports Management just last year. This summer, his agency negotiated three deals for a total value of $160.4 million, including guard Jrue Holiday’s five-year, $126 million max extension with the New Orleans Pelicans, that could be worth $150 million if certain incentive targets are met. Glushon is the eighth-ranked agency by total contract value.

Glushon noted the different marketplace, as last year, he represented one client, forward/center Al Horford, who moved from the Hawks to the Celtics in a four-year deal valued at $113 million, cashing in on the flush free agent market. This year, while he had more players, it was softer.

“Last year there was so much money that teams had to spend that Horford had the choice of so many options at the maximum,” Glushon said. “This year, while there are a lot of teams in need of a point guard, the market changed rapidly.”