Merged agencies use leverage, connections to get deals done
Going into this year’s NCAA Tournament, IF Management’s director of broadcasting and marketing, Michael Sones, cut a marketing deal with Coca-Cola that involved two ESPN analysts — one, Seth Greenberg, was an IF Management client and the other, Jay Bilas, was a client of The Montag Group.
Two years ago, that deal — with on-air talent from two different agencies — could not have happened.
This was one of the advantages Sandy Montag, Steve Herz and Maury Gostfrand — three top talent agents — envisioned when they merged their businesses in the past year.
The Montag Group and Herz’s IF Management merged in January 2017. Those two then merged with Gostfrand’s Vision Sports in December. The idea was to create a medium-sized agency that would give the company more bargaining leverage during contract negotiations.
That leverage comes from a talent roster that has more than 250 clients. Combined, the group represents more than 50 ESPN clients. It represents Bob Costas, Mike Tirico, Liam McHugh and Kathryn Tappen — all big-time studio hosts at NBC.
“Sandy has a deep relationship with [NBC Broadcasting & Sports Chairman] Mark Lazarus,” Herz said. “I have one with [Executive Producer] Sam Flood. It changes the whole calculus of the relationship. You become much more of an important player in the minds of the buying community.”
This week, the three entities will complete their merge, rebranding under The Montag Group brand, and relaunching their website. The combined group has about 16 employees covering talent relations, consulting, crisis management and content. Herz still has 80 clients in his news division, which will continue to operate under the IF Management brand.
“At IMG, Ted Forstmann used to say, ‘I want to make one plus one equal three,’” Montag said. “In this relationship, our businesses complement each other so well. We have a good database of knowledge, contacts and relationships that we feel are unparalleled.”
In the past year, the group has signed Jason Terry, Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson and sold a podcast with Boozer and Robinson to Sports Illustrated, Herz said.
Gostfrand said his clients already have benefited from the merge.
“I was just negotiating a deal for a football client,” he said. “Between Steve and Sandy, there are plenty of comparables I can go to and use that information to my advantage. That’s what we’re doing every day. We’re not reinventing the wheel. But as a mid-sized agency, we’re really in a great position to show clients that we have a lot of muscle and power in the industry.”
The three executives say they are not looking to grow further.
“These are really the only two guys and the only two companies that I thought made sense,” Montag said. “We share a lot of the same values and a lot of the same ideas on the business. No one knows what the future will hold. We’re not looking to continue to acquire or merge with other companies.”