20 Most Influential Sports Agents | NBA Free Agency

Most of us are aware of the excessive pursuit of NBA free agents commencing this week (July 1).  At the top of major market team's wish lists are a handful of players with LeBron James leading the pack of course.

I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at some of the key players in all of sports management especially with the looming excitement of this summers blockbuster free agent market.  

One of the most disappointing factors is the lack of diversity on the management side of sports.  There are only 2 African American agents (Henry Thomas, reps D. Wade | Chris Bosh & Bill Duffy reps Yao Ming | Carmelo Anthony) listed in the (Top 20) and no women at all.  Sure there are other reputable minority agents, but this discussion is referencing the big players in the business according Sports Business Journal.  Kind of interesting since over 80% of the NBA and NFL is  made up of African American talent. This area of business is clearly several decades behind but there is no demand for more representation outside of the existing structure.  

Take a look @ some of tycoons of this industry (from the list below)...It may help you understand why players end up where they end up geographically and how marketing & sponsorship plays a role with several talent agencies who've acquired agents business.  I still think LeBron ends up in NY, NJ, LA or stays @ home in Cleveland.

 


Arn Tellem
President, WMG Management

 

As the agent business undergoes a major shakeup, Tellem remains one of the consistent forces of power and influence. That power comes largely from his rich roster of baseball clients and his unquestioned leadership in representing NBA talent. He and the young group ofagents who work for him have dominated the representation of first-round NBA draft picks for nearly the last decade. Often criticized by team owners and GMs, Tellem isn’t afraid to make headlines, stir the pot and fight for his clients. Now he must lead WMG’s effort to build a larger, global athlete rep business while squaring off against industry heavyweights Octagon and Creative Artists Agency.

 

 

Phil de Picciotto
President, athletes and personalities, Octagon

 

The well-respected and savvy de Picciotto has done something that others in the agent business have failed at: build a multisport athlete rep business through acquisition. Under his direction, Octagon has built a major presence in all four team sports, tennis and golf. Unlike other firms built through acquisition, Octagon has not been besieged with disgruntled agents leaving, a tribute to the culture de Picciotto has fostered. Octagon is the only firm that had at least one first-round pick in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL drafts this year. De Picciotto personally represents Martina Hingis, Bill Cowher and Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York.


 

Scott Boras
President, Scott Boras Corp.

 

Boras is considered by many agents to be the best negotiator of player contracts among all agents in any sport. More than any other agent, he has demonstrated the ability to influence, if not control, the marketplace with his endless list of superstar free agents every winter. Boras also is known for raising the value of players in the amateur draft. He represents 75 Major League Baseball players including Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, Greg Maddux, Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon, Barry Zito, Magglio Ordonez and Mark Teixeira.


 

Tom Condon
Football agent, Creative Artists Agency

 

Condon and his longtime partner, Ken “Fuzzy” Kremer, have represented 36 first-round NFL draft picks since 1997, more than any other agent. Condon’s business was the premier practice that Creative Artists Agency acquired first in its entry into the sports business. Condon is credited with negotiating a number of record-setting contracts by NFL position, including quarterback (Peyton Manning), running back (LaDainian Tomlinson) and tight end (Tony Gonzalez). He represents eight starting NFL quarterbacks and rookie Matt Leinart, who at press time was still a holdout with the Arizona Cardinals.


 

Mark Steinberg
Managing director, IMG Golf

 

Steinberg not only personally represents Tiger Woods, one of the most significant sports icons of all time, but also Annika Sorenstam, considered the greatest woman golfer ever. He oversees the most dominant golf agency in the world, which represents 67 PGA Tour players, more than any other agency. Although a number of majoragents have left IMG in the last few months, Steinberg is expected to stay. “Of course I am staying,” Steinberg wrote in an e-mail to SportsBusiness Journal. “I love the job. Big responsibility, but very rewarding and [we] have a great team of people throughout the world.”


 

Drew Rosenhaus
President, Rosenhaus Sports

 

When Rosenhaus was publicly vilified last November for his handling of client Terrell Owens’ departure from the Philadelphia Eagles, rival NFL player agents predicted his imminent ruin. Rosenhaus did get fired by about 10 NFL players, but was hired by another 10 players who were formerly represented by other agents. The fact is he represents about 80 NFL players, including some of the best known in the league. Rosenhaus still faces challenges, including at least one lawsuit and one grievance before an NFL Players Association arbitrator, both cases alleging that he stole clients of other agents.


 

Mark Bartelstein
CEO, founder, Priority Sports & Entertainment

 

Bartelstein started in the business more than 20 years ago, in his early 20s, representing former Buffalo Bills quarterback Joe Ferguson. Since then he has built his Chicago-based company into a major force in representing NFL and NBA players. Bartelstein, as well as Priority partners Mike McCartney, Rick Smith and Kenny Zuckerman, represent about 70 players in the NFL. In the NBA, Bartelstein and partners Reggie Brown, Aaron Mintz and Brad Ames represent about 40 players. The firm, which has had strong drafts recently in both leagues, also represents about 40 pro basketball players overseas.


 

Bill Duffy
President, BDA Sports

 

Duffy’s agency represents 38 NBA players, including stars such as Carmelo Anthony, Steve Nash, Yao Ming, Tayshaun Prince and Drew Gooden. Duffy earns extra points for his international vision, as he was one of the first basketball agents to bring players from Europe into the NBA and now represents 41 basketball players overseas. With the 2008 Olympics coming up in Beijing, BDA agents are in an enviable spot and are having talks with a number of sponsors for Yao. “A lot of people recognize us as one of the top U.S. firms, but our presence in Europe and China is larger than it is here,” Duffy said.


 

Donald Meehan
President, founder, Newport Sports Management

 

Donnie Meehan, who started representing hockey players 26 years ago, has dominated the NHL player agent business for years. His Ontario, Canada-based firm represents about 110 NHL players including Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Lidstrom, Jerome Iginla and Wade Redden. Newport Sports, which has a staff of 21, including five NHL Players Association-certified agents, also represented eight first-round NHL draft picks this year. The company has offices in the United States, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Russia.


Ben Dogra
Football agent, Creative Artists Agency

 

The quiet and unassuming Dogra has quickly risen to the top of the NFL agent business, representing more first-round NFL draft picks — 11 — than any other agent in the last three years, including this year’s surprise No. 1 pick, Mario Williams. Agent Tom Condon, who became partners with Dogra after they both sold their practices to Creative Artists Agency this year, said Dogra didn’t get the credit he should have for helping to advance Williams as the No. 1 pick of the Houston Texans, over Reggie Bush, who was the consensus No. 1 pick for months before the draft. Known for listening more than talking, Dogra could be a force in the agent business for years.


 

Peter Carlisle
Director, Olympics and action sports, Octagon

 

Influence can be defined many ways; one is to have vision and be a first mover. Since the 2002 Olympics, when snowboarding went mainstream, Carlisle has been at the forefront of the action sports space. It’s easy to get marketing deals for LeBron James, but Carlisle has been getting national deals with blue-chip corporations for snowboarders and swimmers. Carlisle’s snowboarding clients, including Hannah Teter and Seth Wescott, got coverage from national media and became cultural celebs. His sights are on Beijing, with the return of client swimmer Michael Phelps and newcomer Katie Hoff, who some say is a female version of Phelps.


Leon Rose
Partner, Sherman Silverstein Kohl Rose & Podolsky

 

Rose’s name really hit the mainstream press about a year ago, when NBA phenom LeBron James hired him as his contract agent a few months after firing his original agent, Aaron Goodwin. Rose had already been quietly representing Allen Iverson for years. Rose works as part of a management team around James, headed up by James’ longtime friend and adviser, Maverick Carter. Rose scored a coup this year when he signed Italian basketball player Andrea Bargnani, who was the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA draft. Other clients include Richard Hamilton, Eddy Curry and DeSagana Diop.


 

Seth Levinson
Partner, ACES Inc.

 

If you talk to Seth Levinson, or Sam Levinson, his younger brother and partner in their New York-based baseball player representation boutique, they will tell you that they “grew up behind a Dumpster.” That being said, the two have amassed a significant practice of representing 53 major league players. ACES represents budding baseball superstars such as Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon and New York Mets third baseman David Wright. The Levinsons are known in the industry for strong preparation before contract negotiations.


 

Joel Segal
President, Worldwide Football

 

Segal has one of the largest NFL player practices of any independent agent, with about 50 clients. But the reason he makes the list is he was able to win a major recruiting war for No. 2 NFL draft pick Reggie Bush last year, as well as sign Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick to a 10-year deal with the team worth a reported $130 million. In addition to Vick, Segal’s Worldwide Football agency represents Pro Bowl players DeAngelo Hall, Darren Sharper, Muhsin Muhammad, Allen Rossum and Alex Brown.


 

Danny Lozano
Partner, Beverly Hills Sports Council

 

Lozano and partner agents Rick Thurman, Jeff Borris and Dan Horwits own Beverly Hills Sports Council, one of the larger baseball player representation firms with more than 70 MLB clients. Top clients of the firm include Barry Bonds, Trevor Hoffman, Tom Gordon, Jason Isringhausen and Keith Foulke. Lozano personally represents Albert Pujols, considered by many to be the best player in baseball, and future hall of famer Mike Piazza. This offseason, Lozano will represent a number of free agents, including Julio Lugo, Shea Hillenbrand, Rod Barajas and Piazza.


 

Fernando Cuza
Executive VP, SFX Baseball

 

Cuza and partner Pat Rooney represent about 60 Major League Baseball players, including an impressive list of Spanish-speaking players such as Vladimir Guerrero, Mariano Rivera, Pedro Martinez, Alfonso Soriano and Miguel Tejada, to name a few. Cuza has been specializing in representing players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama, Puerto Rico and Mexico for more than 20 years. Sources say Cuza and Rooney are in talks to buy their practice from SFX’s parent company, Live Nation.


 

Alan Nero
CEO, founder, CSMG

 

A longtime baseball agent, Nero has grown his Chicago-based agency into a fairly major, multisport athlete representation firm that represents 317 athletes worldwide. Star clients include NBA Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, future baseball hall of famer Randy Johnson, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella. The agency represents about 100 minor league and international professional baseball players.


 

Pat Brisson
Hockey agent, Creative Artists Agency

 

Brisson and his longtime business partner and agent J.P. Barry represent some of the biggest stars in the NHL, including Mats Sundin, Jaromir Jagr, and Sergei Fedorov. Brisson and Barry worked together at IMG, prior to selling their practice to CAA this month. Brisson, a former Canadian Hockey League junior player, started in the agent business by representing his friend and teammate, recently retired NHL star Luc Robitaille. Brisson has represented the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft for the past two years, including last year’s top pick Sidney Crosby.


 

Henry Thomas
Executive VP, basketball, CSMG

 

Thomas started representing basketball players in 1989, with his first client being Tim Hardaway. His practice has had a big resurgence since 2003 when he sold it to Chicago-based CSMG and signed Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who were both first-round picks in that year’s NBA draft. Thomas recently negotiated four-year, $62 million extensions for both Wade and Bosh with the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors, respectively, and negotiated Wade’s six-year shoe deal with Converse, which is reportedly worth $40 million to $50 million.


 

Steve Loy
Managing partner, president, COO, 
Gaylord Sports Management

 

Loy may be best known as the primary agent for world No. 2 golfer Phil Mickelson, but he also oversees one of the largest golf agencies in the world, which represents about 40 professional golfers. Loy has negotiated Mickelson’s endorsement deals, which have been estimated at $46 million annually. Other golf clients include Aaron Oberholser, Tom Pernice, Cristie Kerr, Grace Park, Hale Irwin and young golfer Ryan Moore. The company’s baseball division represents Tom Glavine, David Wells and Bronson Arroyo.