Aug
04

Sport Agency Power Rankings

Now that the drafts for the major professional sports leagues have passed, and we continue our mid-summer grind toward the start of the NFL, NBA, and NCAA seasons, I felt it was a good time to release the first edition of the Sports Agency Power Rankings. As more and more agencies merge into larger conglomerates and others continue to rise and fall in an already crowded and extremely competitive market, it seems only natural to try and identify which agencies wield the most power and respect.

First of all, an agency must have multiple representation or business divisions to be considered for the Power Rankings.  In order to determine why one agency deserved to be ranked above another, I created several criteria for judging purposes. Listed below, in order of relative weight of importance, are the criteria.

  1. Quality of athletes in each division
  2. Track record and respectability of division’s agents
  3. Recent success in NFL/NBA/MLB/NHL drafts
  4. Quality of overall agency leadership
  5. Recent growth, acquisitions and startups
  6. Future growth potential
  7. Quality of services provided by each division
  8. Number of athletes in each division
  9. Number of divisions
  10. Quantity of athletes lost to other agencies

Notice that much more weight is given to qualitative factors rather than quantitative. It can be agreed that representing two 1st round draft picks is worth more then representing six 7th round picks. Almost as important as the actual clientele are the agents and management that run the firm. Agencies who are well known for their negotiating talent, respectability amongst industry peers, and visions for the future fair much better then ones who have gotten their clients terrible contracts and are loathed by clients and competitors alike.

Sport Agency Power Rankings

#1 Wasserman Media Group

To say that Wasserman Media Group (WMG) has had incredible success over the last year is a true understatement. With already strong baseball and soccer divisions, WMG was able to expand and then position itself to dominate its own niche in action sports representation. More importantly, and due largely in part to the hiring of agent BJ Armstrong, Wasserman’s basketball division has absolutely exploded, and has become THE premiere basketball representation division in the country. WMG’s leadership is second to none as Casey Wasserman, arguably the most successful young executive in all of sports, heads the company.

Notable Clients: Sammy Sosa, Ben Wallace, Antawn Jamison, Derrick Rose, Landon Donovan.

#2 Creative Artist Agency

In terms of sheer quantity and quality of athletes, one would be hard pressed to find a better and more prestigious agency than Creative Artist Agency (CAA). With strong divisions in all major sports and entertainment and an instantly recognizable client base, it is difficult not to give CAA the top spot in the rankings. What has dropped it to the #2 spot, though, is the bad reputation of some of its agents, a ‘relative’ lack of success in the recent NBA draft (notably losing Derrick Rose to WMG), and its sheer size, which for most athletes and personalities is just too big. Leon Rose, Tom Condon, and Ben Dogra amongst other agents of the firm are far from admired by most of their colleagues and industry peers.

Notable Clients: Derek Jeter, Lebron James, Payton Manning, Sydney Crosby, David Beckham, Tony Hawk.

#3 Blue Entertainment Sports Television

During the course of the last year, the sports and entertainment subsidiary of venture capital firm Blue Equity, Blue Entertainment Sports Television (BEST), has positioned itself as one of the top players in the sports representation industry. With acquisitions of Black Wave Media (Basketball), Joel Segal (Football), Game Seven (Coaches) and SFX (Tennis), BEST has surpassed (or just brought up) many firms who have been around for decades more, and is poised to give both WMG and CAA a run for its money. BEST did not see great success in this past year’s NFL and NBA drafts, but strong leadership by COO Michael Principe most definitely insures that BEST will be on the track to future growth and success.

Notable Clients: Reggie Bush, Michael Vick, Rasheed Wallace, Tom Crean, Andy Roddick, Justin Henin.

#4 International Management Group

International Management Group is the grandfather of all agencies and is considered amongst the old guard of athlete management and representation firms. For sheer monetary value, IMG and its respective properties cannot be matched by any other agency. Recent estimates have put the company’s worth at over 2 billion dollars. IMG has divisions in sports and modeling representation, collegiate and professional sports franchise marketing, and corporate and media sports consulting. IMG has moved away from team sports representation in recent years, its football division most notably ending up at CAA. Regardless, IMG represents the most financially successful athletes and personalities in the world and is by far the largest mover and shaker in the world of sports marketing and representation.

Notable Clients: Tiger Woods, Freddy Adu, Jeff Gordon, Tom Coughlin.

#5 Octagon

Also considered amongst the older guard of agencies, Octagon has set itself apart from IMG by continuing to be a strong player in not only sports marketing and consulting, but athlete representation as well. With solid football, basketball, Olympic sports and golf divisions, Octagon remains one of the elite management firms. Octagon will soon expand to both the MLB and NHL and has strong leadership under CEO Rick Dudley and Phil de Picciotto, President of Athletes and Personalities. There is little doubt that Octagon will continue to be a major player in the representation industry and one of the premiere leaders in the sponsorship marketing and consulting sector.

Notable Clients: Chris Paul, Rudy Gay, Aaron Rodgers, Bill Cowher, Mike Hulbert.

#6 CSMG

CSMG marks a drop off from the larger agencies with unlimited budgets and millions of dollars invested in intellectual properties and events. CSMG’s areas of strength include its basketball and baseball divisions. The firm also has a ‘masters’ division, which includes many of the top baseball coaches in the country as well as many notable play-by-play announcers. CSMG has not had recent success in the NBA draft, but its MLB division continues to grow and is one of the largest amongst all agencies.

Notable Clients: Dwyane Wade, Anthony Parker, Felix Hernandez, Ken Macha, Neil Everett.

#7 Career Sports & Entertainment

Career Sports & Entertainment has one of the more prominent basketball coach representation divisions in the nation, which includes many of the most celebrated NBA and college coaches. Along with their coaches, Career Sports has a respectable baseball and golf division and one of the leading sports broadcasting divisions around. Interestingly enough, as their broadcasting division continues to gain strength, their coaching division has taken a substantial hit as of late with the losses of Billy Donovan, Tom Crean (now at BEST) and the scandal laden Kelvin Sampson.

Notable Clients: Doc Rivers, Eddie Jordan, Clark Kellogg, Erin Andrews, Bobby Cox

# 8 Premier Sports Management

Premier Sports Management was a mid-size but relatively low-key football representation firm until this spring. It joined forces with the law firm of Stinson Morrison Hecker to create Premier Stinson, a firm that represents over 75 elite level coaches. With hands down the largest multi-sport coaches division in the country, combined with a respectable football division and several broadcasting clients, Premier has launched itself into the Top 10 of the Agency Power Rankings.

Notable Clients: Drew Bennett, Willie McGinest, Laila Ali, Pete Caroll, Roy Williams

#9 Athletes First

Headed by David Dunn (of Steinberg, Moorad, and Dunn infamy), Athletes First’s concentration is football with a small but respectable baseball division, and a handful of football coaches on both the NFL and NCAA level. Athletes First has not had incredible success in either the NFL or MLB draft as of late, but represents several recent late first day and second day draft picks.

Notable Clients: Joey Harrington, Matthew Hasselback, Ray Lewis, Dennis Erickson, Bill Musgrave.

#10 The Agency

The Agency Sports Management & Marketing has continued to build a legitimate sports management practice by creating partnerships with larger firms and independent agents. The Agency only exclusively represents a few of its clients, notably its coaches and some of its broadcasters. At any rate, they have become proven leaders in sports and client marketing, which in turn has allowed them to build a deep network of agencies willing to outsource work to them.

Notable Clients: Troy Aikman, Carmelo Anthony, Ben Howland, Mike Brey, Stephon Marbury.

This article is a guest contribution by Jason Belzer.  His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of any SportsAgentBlog.com contributors.<–>

  • TheBigGun

    Seriously – Sammy Sosa and Landan Donovan??
    I guess you have to do an interview with Heitner to get on the list.

    Again, another clueless and pointless post!

    - thebiggun

  • Jason

    Pointless? I thought that one of the missions of the Sports Agent Blog was to inform and analyze the state of the sports representation and agency business. Then again, if we seem to be wasting our reader’s time with these pointless posts, maybe we should just fold up operations completely.

    Clueless? I think this article was far from clueless. In fact it took quite a bit of time to research and more importantly I took the initiative to write it in the first place because I personally worked with, know or have spoken to almost all of the executives I mentioned. If the list was made of arbitrary names and facts its one thing, but to have a compressive understanding of the factors involved in having a successful agency makes for something we at the Sports Agent Blog like to call, ‘good journalism’.

  • Lachlan

    Did you take into consideration the dollar amounts agencies made? Do you take into consideration whether or not the agency does the marketing deals on behalf of the client, or whether it’s sourced out?

    Who exactly are “The Agency”? Last time I checked Carmelo was a client of Calvin Andrews, of BDA. “The Agency” don’t do contracts or player management, they’re purely in marketing from what I understand.

    I don’t agree with the list, but it’s really down to personal opinion. “The Agency” should be no where near a top 10, considering their not a sports agency. They’re more of a marketing/ Honestly, I’ve never heard of them. I’d certainly have BDA on there, with Yao Ming, Carmelo, Steve Nash & Greg Oden under management. Mark Batelstein and Priority Sports would be another edition, seeing as they have the 3rd biggest total salary commission for the NBA.

    Excel Sports, Scott Boras Corporation, Rosenhaus Sports, & Goodwin Sports Management arguably have more under contract than a few of the agencies on your list too. I’d probably find space for all of them on a top 10, Goodwin purely because they’re going to be massive when their young clients get off the rookie contracts.

  • http://www.sportsagentblog.com Darren Heitner

    I definitely would have had Boras Corp, Priority Sports, and Excel Sports up there as well.

  • Jason

    The goal of this power ranking was to rank agencies who did not focus on a single sport, however powerful some single sports agency’s might be. The reason why I chose to rank only multi-division agencies was because generally speaking larger agencies play a greater role in sports as a whole, and if we take into account ‘dollar amounts’, those single sport agencies have NOTHING on many of the larger agencies I listed in the power rankings. Boras, Priority, Excel, and Rosenhaus may negotiate a great deal of player contracts but that’s about it. Agencies like BEST, Octagon, and IMG see millions of dollars in revenue from their events, licensing properties and sports consulting divisions. Hence why an agency such as IMG is estimated to be worth over 2 billion. Once all those contracts are over for Rosenhaus or Boras clients, their agencies worth goes right down to zero.

    Also, most of the above listed agencies do in-house marketing for their clients. Some selectively outsource that marketing to companies such as… The Agency. For instance, BEST recently outsourced the marketing for Reggie Bush to The Agency. I also specifically mentioned that they do not represent the majority of their clients, but do have a strong Broadcaster and Coaching Division. It was hardly a week or two ago that they negotiated a new contract for UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland worth upwards of 2.3 million a year.

    Finally, and more often then not, those single sports agencies do not garner the same respect as the larger ones. Individuals such as Drew Rosenhaus, Scott Boras or Bill Duffy may be feared, but are often far from respected and admired. One cannot underestimate the power of good agency management, which helps drive innovation and catalyze further success.

  • The Source

    Darren… you and your writers are taking your strength, ‘transparency’ and turning it into your weakness. You look awfully unprofessional offering up your top 10 agencies. Never mind the fact that it was poorly executed. You are quick to point out particularly powerful agents have bad reputations amongst their colleagues… If you actually believe your agency is a legitimate competitor (or could be one day) you are considered a colleague of such agents. You have alienated yourself and you haven’t even signed a big client. Why would you want to stir the pot? Don’t wake sleeping giants. They don’t care about you, but they could one day. Hope you can right this ship.

  • http://www.sportsagentblog.com Darren Heitner

    I appreciate the comment, and I want to be quick to address it. For yourself and future commentators, please note the byline on each article. I do have editorial powers over everything that is published, and I made sure to note at the bottom of the post:

    This article is a guest contribution by Jason Belzer. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of any SportsAgentBlog.com contributors.

    If you want to view the post as a reflection of my non-professionalism, then so be it. I have cultivated very strong relationships with agents all across the board, and would never jeopardize them over a single post. I do not believe that I am alienating myself in any way, and actually attempt daily to bring the entire agent community closer together. When Jason told me he was going to write this post, I told him that I was very skeptical of it all and would make sure that it was known that his opinions do not reflect those of this writing community.

    I do not believe that there is any ship that needs to be righted. I have some great plans for the future that will bring our entire profession closer together.

  • Jason

    The opinions in this article are mine, and mine alone. When I researched and wrote this article, I had only good intentions. This article was written to highlight the successes of the companies in this industry, and not the contrary. Let it be known that as a fellow agent, four of my largest competitors are ranked in the above article… and I have said only good things about them.

    For the select few agents who I may have mentioned as being less then admired, my statements are nothing new to them. Furthermore, it does not make them any less of an agent or a person. In fact in many ways it provides further proof of their quality because it is their great success that brings others to be in contempt of them.

    I wish everyone in this industry the utmost of success. Their is plenty of pie to go around for everyone, and as an agent and a moral human being I refuse to EVER bad mouth or demean any of my competitors.

  • TheBigGun

    I hope that you got a good sleep last night. It is time to get a solid morning workout in and then get your draft binders out and find a comfortable place on the couch where you can enjoy the early rounds of the MLB Amateur Draft on TV and follow the remaining 40+ rounds on your trusty laptop. Team Dynasty had an hour-and-a-half conference call last night which included myself, Frank Zaino (Director of the Baseball Division), and Dynasty’s summer interns. We have a strong game-plan for the draft, and all of us are very excited for the event to begin. As a company, we decided to throw the interns into the fire and give them a large role in shaping Dynasty’s 2008 MLB Draft class. Let’s see how it turns out.

    AUGUST 15TH

  • TheBigGun

    is just around the corner… has dynasty placed any of clients from the 4 1/2 meeting?

  • jason

    Seriously, the comments here make me laugh. Magazines like Forbes and Sports Business Journal do rankings all the time. Everyone understands they’re just subjective opinions. No one cares really or takes them personally. They’re interesting, for what they’re worth, and are meant only to spur discussion and debate. No one is losing sleep at night, especially agents or agencies, because they didn’t crack Mr. Belzer’s Top 10. Get real…

  • DeJuan Hendricks

    Good take Jason

    First the criteria

    Quality of athletes in each division
    Track record and respectability of division’s agents
    Recent success in NFL/NBA/MLB/NHL drafts
    Quality of overall agency leadership
    Recent growth, acquisitions and startups
    Future growth potential
    Quality of services provided by each division
    Number of athletes in each division
    Number of divisions
    Quantity of athletes lost to other agencies

    I don’t why anyone would have a problem with the rankings unless you knew of an agency that was left out but excelled in the criteria given.

    That being said…
    Jason you were definitely heavy on the QUALITATIVE..lol

    The number 2 and 3 categories seem to cancel each other out…any thoughts?

    DeJuan Hendricks
    National Sports Risk Management

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  • Kam

    Nice list, who are the top agents in CAA, I know of Leon Rose and Tom Condon right?