Entertainment Sports Business

CAA Sports: Disrupting The Industry Across All Spectrums

As athlete’s profiles have increased and evolved throughout the last decade, the sports representation business has become an uber competitive landscape.

Last April, several new deals were inked across the spectrum of the sports industry. Josh Allen and Sony Michel were two of 11 players that were drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft represented by CAA super-agents Tom Condon, Jimmy Sexton and Todd France. Jason Witten and Joe Tessitore became the new voices of ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The WWE signed a blockbuster $2.35 million TV deal. “The Match”, a pay-per-view golf event, between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson was in the midst of being finalized as well as discussions regarding sports venues in Milwaukee, San Francisco and Las Vegas were taking place. The common player included in all of these deals: CAA Sports.

CAA Sports was launched in 2006 led by co-heads, Michael Levine and Howard Nuchow. Originally, the agency broke into the sports representation industry signing many superstars across the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL. Clients include Chris Paul, Drew Brees, Dwyane Wade, Sidney Crosby and Shohei Ohtani, to name a few. According to an article written by Forbes writer, Kurt Badenhausen, “by 2015, CAA Sports was the agency’s largest division by revenue, outdistancing film, television and music”. Although CAA just negotiated both Matt Ryan and Aaron Donald’s new contracts worth a combined $130 million, the largest deals that CAA Sports has been closing involve their non-athlete divisions.

Alan Gold, head of the media division and Nick Khan, sports broadcasting director, have closed three deals since the 2018 NFL Draft ensued. Spearheaded by Gold, Khan with assistance from Levine and Nuchow, CAA Sports agreed to deals with the WWE, WarnerMedia’s Turner division and boxing promoter, Top Rank.

CAA executed a five-year deal for WWE worth $2.35 billion with Comcast’s USA Network for Raw and 21st Century Fox’s Fox Sports for SmackDown Live. Supporting WWE’s decision to part ways with Endeavor for CAA, Howard Nuchow said, “Our people had intel on what we thought that market could bear. We got the WWE to understand there were some more dollars in there. We gave them reads on the market over a long period of time”. Since CAA started negotiating this mega-deal for WWE back in May, WWE’s stock has doubled creating $1.45 billion of capital gain for WWE chairman, Vince McMahon.

Although CAA Sports clientele does not include any golf athletes, they were chosen by the PGA Tour and PGA of America to negotiate the TV deal for “The Match” between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at the end of November. As a result of CAA Sports efforts, “The Match” has a worldwide media rights agreement with WarnerMedia’s Turner division. All content will be distributed across a wide range of Turner and AT&T platforms including pay-per-view.

The final deal that CAA Sports finalized in August entailed a seven-year agreement with ESPN and the boxing promoter, Top Rank. The deal is “the most comprehensive, exclusive rights agreement in the history of boxing”.

In 2007, CAA Sports hired Levine and Nuchow who quickly started to expand beyond just representing athletes. Running a global operation, Levine and Nuchow lead the offices in New York City and Los Angeles, respectively.  Their first full time hire was Paul Danforth as Director of Property Sales. Over Danforth’s tenure, his division has helped launch many of the most prominent sports venues including handling the sponsorship sales for Yankee Stadium and Levi’s Stadium. Recently, Danforth’s team has been working on the Chase Center, which is the new $1 billion home for the Golden State Warriors that is set to open in 2019. Due to CAA Sports efforts, $2 billion in revenue from sponsorships, luxury suites and membership fees for season ticket holders has been secured. The largest sponsorship agreement involves the centerpiece to this entire arena –  a 20-year, $400 million deal with JP Morgan Chase for the naming rights.

CAA Sports projects with venues really took off when they acquired ICON Venue Group in 2016. According to Levine, “the ICON acquisition allowed us to connect with teams at the ownership level. ICON acts as the project manager for new sports venues, a kind of general contractor.” The latest CAA projects include the MLS stadiums in Nashville and Atlanta, the aforementioned Chase Center and the stadium and practice facility for the Oakland Raiders when they relocate to Las Vegas in 2020.

Relationships and connections are what CAA Sports strives on. Whether it is spearheading the sponsorship sales for the Chase Center, setting the table for their new client, Aaron Rodgers, to purchase an ownership stake in the Milwaukee Bucks or hosting an NFL vs. NBA Ryder Cup-style golf event, “The Showdown,” sponsored by Turner Sports, CAA is constantly trying to be an innovative disrupter in the sports industry.

CAA’s next major concentration is their international presence. “We are just starting to hit the international front in a bigger way. It is the early days, and we are planting flags”, says Nuchow. After acquiring Momentum Sports, a Chinese sports marketing agency, the new “CAA China” has already expanded Bose to China. CAA is looking to expand their work handling sponsorships for Formula 1 and the soccer federation UEFA as well as working closely with international stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo.

According to the Forbes SportsMoney Index, which tracks how links in the sports world fit together to create wealth, “CAA is 9th overall and the top agency. CAA leads the annual ranking of sports agencies with $9.4 billion in contracts and 11 of the top 50 most powerful agents are from CAA.”