NEW YORK -- Last summer, as Creative Artists Agency expanded its business at a time when similar firms were holding pat, one rival entertainment-company CEO told Daily Variety that CAA's moves were all about symbolism.
|Super Bowl-bound Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts is with CAA Sports, the year-old agency quickly establishing itself as a one-stop shop for athletes looking for a single entity that can handle contract negotiations, endorsements deals and speaking engagements.
Said the unnamed CEO: "They are saying to the industry, 'My d--- is bigger than yours.'"
Well, in sports, size matters.
And CAA is quickly lapping the field in that category.
Two weeks after CAA and Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment negotiated soccer star David Beckham's $250 million deal to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy, the company's year-old athlete business, CAA Sports, hired three more heavy hitters to run the division: Howard Nuchow, most recently president of Mandalay Sports Entertainment; David Rone, previously exec VP, Fox Sports Networks and general manager of Fox College Sports; and Michael Levine, former president of Van Wagner Sports Group.
The trio will jointly run CAA Sports -- Mr. Levine will be based in New York -- and oversee sports agents Tom Condon and Ben Dogra, who run the football practice, baseball agent Casey Close, and hockey's Pat Brisson and J.P. Barry. CAA lured the hotshot agents away from other companies last year to start its own sports business, and the agents brought with them notable clients such as New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Super Bowl-bound Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and National Hockey League leading scorer Sidney Crosby. Messrs. Condon, Close and football agent Ken Kremer all came from the granddaddy of sports-representation firms, IMG.
Messrs. Nuchow, Rone and Levine will help CAA Sports expand into broadcast rights, corporate-marketing initiatives and sports properties for sales/sponsorships opportunities.
"Howie, Mike and David are proven leaders and a natural match for CAA's culture of collaboration," CAA President Richard Lovett said in a statement. "They have exceptional reputations within the sports industry and have been friends with one another for a long time. Their areas of expertise complement not only each other but also the success of our athlete-representation business. ... We are confident that Howie, Mike and David will build upon the momentum CAA Sports has experienced to date, providing every possible opportunity for our clients."
CAA is the third Hollywood talent agency to open a dedicated sports division after William Morris -- which counts tennis star Serena Williams and golf prodigy Michelle Wie as clients -- and the Gersh Agency. But CAA is quickly establishing itself as the premier one-stop shop for athletes looking for a single entity that can handle their contract negotiations, endorsements and marketing, speaking engagements and more.
CAA Sports now has 350 athletes on its roster.
"There definitely were some raised eyebrows, so to speak, when CAA decided to get into sports, because I think everybody in our business wondered if they were going to have the assets -- not necessarily the money, but the people and the time -- to pull it off," said one high-powered agent who handles several high-profile athletes. "But now I think there's a lot of concern among [agents], especially in smaller practices, who wonder if they can compete. Now when you knock heads with CAA you have to play the flip card. Whereas CAA is probably hyping how big it is and how many resources they have, other companies are going to have to use it against them and say [to athletes], 'Do you really want to get lost in a place that big?'"
But it's hard to say no when athletes see fellow stars such as LeBron James possibly flirting with CAA. Rumors have flown during the last three weeks that CAA Sports will acquire the sports-representation practice of attorney Leon Rose, who serves as Mr. James' agent and negotiated the National Basketball Association superstar's most recent contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mr. Rose also represents NBA star Allen Iverson, recently traded to the Denver Nuggets.
Such a move would give CAA Sports an entry to pro basketball. However, it is unknown what would become of LRMR Marketing, the firm formed by Mr. James and his three childhood friends to handle his endorsements. Attempts to reach LRMR CEO Maverick Carter were unsuccessful.