The importance of an agent in sports is secondary only to athletes, coaches, owners, front office management and corporate sponsors. Agents sit on the near outskirts of this association of power players, heavily impacting the money that flows amongst them. Due to contract language complexity and on-field time commitments, few players and coaches represent themselves, making agents a part of almost every deal signed across professional sports. They represent players, coaches, executive-level front office personnel and top-tier media members, primarily negotiating complicated team contracts and, for some, sponsorship deals. Beyond contract dealings, agents are life coaches, sounding boards and spin doctors for players, coaches and media members that need guidance or take missteps. Some agents are independent but many work for a sports agency, a group that shares resources and are formed to attract the best talent. The landscape of sports agencies is ever-changing, the most recent shake-up being the addition of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports to the mix. Several top sports agencies represent the richest, most marketable athletes in the world. Research them, follow them and consider them as potential employers.
Power agent Scott Boras leads The Boras Corporation, a baseball-only agency which touts a clientele list that includes Prince Fielder, Stephen Strasburg and Jered Weaver. Considered the most powerful baseball agency on the market, The Boras Corporation is based in Newport Beach, California and has a stable nearing 200 players. Boras’ sports business empire has been built on mega deals and shrewd negotiating. From multi-millionaire sluggers to newly drafted amateur picks, Boras and his employed agents use leverage including media planted stories and off-season signing deadlines to get their clients, and themselves, the most cash.
More than just a sports agency, Creative Artists Agency is second to none in the athlete representation business. Film and television stars, musical artists alongside sports professionals fill the coffers of the top agency in the world. Dwayne Wade, Ryan Braun, Carmelo Anthony, the brothers Manning and Sidney Crosby are just a few of the superstars under the CAA umbrella. Its sports division – CAA Sports – won the Talent Representation and Management category at the 2013 Sports Business Awards proving it continues to thrive even in a growing sea of competition. A variety of offices – Los Angeles, London, Chicago, New York, Stockholm and St. Louis – coupled with a foothold in all major pro sports across the globe makes CAA Sports the cream of the sports agency crop.
It’s quality not quantity with Excel Sports Management. What the agency lacks in numbers, it makes up for with all-stars and future hall-of-famers. Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, Deron Williams and Blake Griffin are current headliners for Excel Sports Management, headquartered in New York but with a strong LA presence. Basketball – stateside and international – is the agency’s primary focus. With big names like Jeter and Woods signing on, its baseball and golf representation business is now established too.
Located in New York, IMG – International Management Group is a 50 year old agency representing professionals in baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, golf and more. IMG is much more than a sports agency but its sports division has a storied history and a solid present. While it’s no longer the hottest agency in the business, it’s a resourceful and impactful company; it remains a big fish in the pond.
Post lockout NHL hockey is healthy again. And Newport Sports Management Inc. is an agency dedicated to representing hockey players on and off the rink. With so many agencies attempting to snare the best athletes in the front line sports – football, baseball, basketball – there is a niche for a pure hockey rep outfit. Located in Ontario, this agency doesn’t shy away from under-the-radar athletes and boasts a representative list that tops 125, the largest single client list in the hockey business. With the National Hockey League clearly having a broader Canadian presence than other American sports, agents at this company must understand both US and Canada law as well as mesh with the “interesting” stylings that make up a hockey player.
One of the most valuable agencies in the world, Octagon Worldwide represents athletes in all four major sports including the likes of Justin Tuck, Steph Curry and Felix Hernandez along with Olympians like world record holder, Michael Phelps. Octagon’s offices are located in 22 countries across the global; it has a truly worldwide footprint. The agency touches all area of sport including those somewhat less followed – cricket, beach sports and action sports – making it a company for ell-rounded, fast learning agents.
A boutique agency based out of both Chicago and Southern California, Priority Sports and Entertainment makes an impact on both the National Basketball Association and National Football League. Led by influential agent Mark Bartelstein, the agency represents the likes of Adrian Foster, A.J. Hawk and David Lee. And with the recent hiring of former Jets GM, Mike Tannenbaum, Priority Sports is making a concerted push into coaching, front office and broadcasting representation too. A small but powerful agency that continues to strengthen its position in the industry.
With Jay-Z at the helm, newly minted Roc Nation Sports becomes an immediate player in the industry. The New York based agency has recently signed Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano, scoring superstar Kevin Durant and Jets rookie Geno Smith. When two of your first few signings are future Hall of Famers, you’re off to a good start. Roc Nation Sports is the new, cool agency on the block, sure to claim more-and-more defectors from the more established sports agencies.
Drew Rosenhaus steers the company that bares his name. Rosenhaus Sports Representation is football-focused and damn good at it. Over 200 clients are represented by Drew, his brother Jason and a handful of other agents out of their Miami-based business. Like Scott Boras in baseball, Drew Rosenhaus is a polarizing agent and a celebrity in his own right. As entertaining as he might be, it’s his work ethic and due diligence at the negotiating table that is his bread-and-butter. Bears linebacker, Lance Briggs, called him a “shark” and the fact that rookies and veterans both trust him come negotiation time backs up that statement. Rosenhaus Sports will continue its growth behind the man that lightens the wallet of NFL owners across the nation.
It’s mostly basketball at the Wasserman Media Group which generally represents the most lottery picks selected in the NBA Draft on a yearly basis. While baseball and football names like Hanley Ramirez and Andrew Luck are tied to WMG, Arn Tellem and his fellow agents really make their money on the NBA. Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis are just a few in the large client base managed by WMG. With North American offices in Toronto, New York, Raleigh, Miami, Southern California as well as locations in South America, England and Singapore, WMG is a global company with global appeal. It most definitely is considered a top-tier sports agency in the US and around the world.