The landscape of sports and entertainment management can change quickly, but it’s precisely this fluidity and competitive environment of consolidation and adventure that ensures its longevity, while also identifying the leaders and visionaries of tomorrow.
Take Hugh Dodson, for instance. Dodson had been chief operating officer and chief financial officer of The Gersh Agency in Beverly Hills for eight years. Always a forward thinker, it was Dodson who convinced agency founder Phil Gersh not only that the agency needed to add sports to its repertoire, but ultimately that sports and entertainment were in fact synonymous. Dodson imagined a concept that the industry now takes for granted: the athlete who “crosses over” into entertainment via book deals, television, movies and endorsements.
In March of 2006, Gersh became the first talent agency to have in-house sports. CAA followed three weeks later, with William Morris to soon follow. “I felt that if [Gersh] didn’t diversify, we were going to lose market shares and business. I looked at a cooperate model and pushed to get in sports,” Dodson recalls. But just as Dodson was pushing this new found outlook, he was also wondering when would be the right time to try out his ideas on his own terms. It was thus with “excitement and fear” that Dodson opened Paragon Sports Agency this past March. While Paragon specializes in sports, and right now specifically football, Dodson plans to add a talent division sometime this year (whenever the SAG contract, which expired June 30, is settled), as well as baseball, basketball and coaching. Steve Feldman, whom Dodson had brought into Gersh, joined him at Paragon as executive vice president of the football division, bringing with him 28 NFL players from the former Steve Feldman & Associates, including New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison and Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Mike Patterson, and gross annual client contracts exceeding $50 million. Dodson’s vision for Paragon is firmly rooted in the notion of sports and entertainment together. “I believe that there are so many inspirational stories to be told from an athlete’s or coach’s perspective that there needed to be an agency that integrates top players and coaches with writers and directors to develop positive stories across all media platforms; film, television, books and online,” he says.
Dodson’s path into the industry is as interesting as it was divergent. He grew up in Texas and worked for five years after high school before attending the University of Texas-El Paso. He later transferred to Arizona State, where got a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance in 1987. After graduation, Dodson moved to Los Angeles and worked as a financial analyst in the syndicated television and theatrical marketing divisions for MGM, and then Disney. In the years ahead he became involved with four start-up business: Electric Ideas (entertainment advertising), D*REZ (digital visual effects), CCI (motion picture creative services), and Gersh Sports. “I’ve always had this entrepreneurial bent,” he admits. “What makes sense for the company and what kind of strategic planning is needed, are questions I look at.” And while there’s no way to predict the future, Dodson seems confident in his approach thus far. Leaving Gersh was a risk, but it was a risk he had to take to be happy. “Steve [Feldman] and I have worked together for two years and know from experience that this model works well and we look forward to building a strong foundation of support for our clients.”