A lot of what America knows about sports agents it learned from Jerry Maguire. As in, “It’s not show friends, it’s show business.” And “show me the money.”
But did you know that “Dicky Fox,” Jerry’s mentor and imparts wisdom throughout the movie, wasn’t played by an actor at all? His real name is Jared Jussim, and he’s the actual Deputy General Counsel and Executive Vice President of the Intellectual Property Department of Sony Pictures. He was cast on a lark by director Cameron Crow to be the movie’s wise, old sage.
Being a sports agent takes more than just lawyerly qualities. On top of master negotiation skills, it requires adept public relations and finance acumen. Every move you make on behalf of your client is important. And if can’t hack managing a huge roster of clients and/or don’t have the thickest Rolodex in the business, you’re doomed.
But if you got what it takes, the reward can be huge. Like really big. Like “best money anywhere” big. Just think about what athletes earn, and then consider the fact sports agent makes three to five percent of every negotiated contract. Yeah. Huge.
Sports agent Darren Heitner, the creator of SportsAgentBlog.com who is also currently a 3L at the University of Florida-Gainsville, has been trying to crack his first million since he started his own agency back in 2007 at the age of 22. He’s addicted to sports law, enjoys offering leads on how to break into the biz and even published an article in the Dartmouth Law Journal calling for the formation of a federal sports agent registration system.
While Heitner continues to work his way up, these five lawyers (along with seven honorable mentions) reign as the world’s biggest sports agents. In other words, these dudes net the mighty “quan.”
President & Chairman, Rosenhaus Sports
Law School: The Duke University School of Law (1990)
Superagent or devil? He tops the list based on his own fame more than his clients’. At only 22—before even graduating law school—Drew Rosenhaus registered as a sports agent (the youngest at the time) and founded Rosenhaus Sports in 1988 with his brother, fellow lawyer Jason Rosenhaus. Rosenhaus Sports is now “a leader in NFL Athlete Representation.”
Drew has negotiated over $2 billion in NFL contracts, and he is reportedly the basis for the character “Bob Sugar” in Jerry Maguire. He’s comfortably ranked on SportsBusiness Journal’s “20 Most Influential Sports Agents.” And with a client list of 110 active players, Rosenhaus currently represents the most unrestricted free agents in the NFL for 2010.
Sideline Note: A lover of the spotlight (and subject of satire), Rosenhaus is the only agent to ever appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He even stared in his own “dubious” ESPN SportsCenter commercial.
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2. SCOTT BORAS
President & Founder, The Boras Corporation
Law School: University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law (1982)
Clients with Recent Buzz: Jacoby Ellsbury and Johnny Damon
Some call him the devil, some say he’s not that bad, some say he’s actually “the embodiment of the American dream.” Regardless, it all about two words: Alex Rodriguez. (Boras negotiated ARod’s $252 million deal.) Scott is, by far, the most powerful agent in baseball and the most successful independent agent based on the value of contracts negotiated.
Boras is a former second baseman and center fielder who played in the minor leagues for the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals organizations. After four years, he retired due to knee injuries and returned to school to earn his law degree. Before becoming an agent, Boras defended drug companies for the Chicago firm Rooks, Pitts & Poust (now Dykema Gossett).
Sideline Note: The Cubs paid for Boras to attend law school. And not to be outdone by Drew Rosenhaus, Boras has an ESPN commercial of his own.
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3. TOM CONDON
Co-Head Football, CAA Sports
Law School: University of Baltimore (1981)
CAA Football represents 130 NFL players, including “11 of the 32 NFL starting quarterbacks, seven of the last eight NFL MVPs, 21 players selected to the 2010 Pro Bowl, three of the last four Super Bowl MVPs and five of the last six #1 overall picks in the NFL Draft.” As part of that, Tom Condon was personally named the SportsBusiness Journal’s “Most Influential Agent” in 2008.
Condon merged with CAA in 2006 to create the mega-agency’s football division shortly after joining forces with Ben Dogra (next on our list), uniting pro football’s top two agents under one roof.
Sideline Note: Condon began his career as an NFL player: Offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs (1974-1984) and the New England Patriots (1985). Earning his JD during off-seasons, Condon was president of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) from 1984 to 1986.
4. BEN DOGRA
Co-Head Football, CAA Sports
Law School: St. Louis University School of Law (1994)
Clients with Recent Buzz: Brodney Pool and Tashard Choice
Along with partner Tom Condon, Dogra rules the newly developed CAA Football, which represented more first-round selections in last year’s NFL Draft than any other agency. “Ben Dogra is involved in the representation of eight of CAA’s nine first-round picks. That makes this the sixth straight year he has at least tied for the most first-rounders.”
Dogra was ranked #6 on Sports Business Journal‘s “Most Powerful Sports Agents” list in 2008.
Sideline Note: Dogra was born and lived in New Delhi until his parents moved to Virginia at age six.
5. ARN TELLEM
President, Wasserman Media Group Management
Law School: University of Michigan Law School (1979)
Clients with Recent Buzz: Tracy McGrady and Hideki Matsui
Unlike most sports agents, Tellem is a double threat who built majorly successful practices in two sports: Basketball and baseball. Representing seven of the first 15 picks in the 2009 NBA draft, Sports Illustrated called Tellem “a mix of mix of integrity and absurdity.”
He was the SportsBusiness Journal’s “Most Influential Agent” in 2006 and ranked #98 on BusinessWeek’s “Power 100” list of most influential figures in sports. He’s even a frequent contributor to Huffington Post—although he has his share of critics.
Before becoming an agent, Tellem worked for Manatt, Phelps, and Phillips in Los Angeles and served as General Counsel for the Los Angeles Clippers from 1982-1988. He’s also an occasional adjunct professor at the University of Southern California School of Law.
Sideline Note: Arn is married to Nancy Tellem (fellow lawyer, Forbes’s #32 most powerful woman in 2008 and former President of CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group) who now works as senior adviser to Les Moonves.
Seven “Lawyer Sports Agent” Honorable Mentions:
Global Managing Director, IMG Golf
Law School: University of Illinois College of Law (1992)
7. JOEL SEGAL
President, Best Football
Law School: Hofstra (1989)
Michael Vick’s dawg who just got his client re-upped by the Eagles.
8. ROB PELINKA
Law School: University of Michigan (1996)
Agent-ed Kobe Bryant right through the flames Bryant’s notorious rape scandal.
President of Athletes & Personalities, Octagon
Law School: University of Pennsylvania Law School (1981)
10. EUGENE PARKER
President, Maximum Sports Management
Law School: Valparaiso University (1982)
Do the names Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Richard Seymour ring a bell? ‘Nuff said.
11. LEIGH STEINBERG
Law School: University of California—Berkeley Boalt Hall (1973)
Drew Rosenhaus may be the guy behind “Bob Sugar,” but Steinberg is credited for being the real-life inspiration for Tom Cruise’s lead character Jerry Maguire.
12. DONALD MEEHAN
Founder, Newport Sports Management, Inc.
Law School: Canada’s Faculty of Law, McGill University (1975)
Broke his parents’ hearts when he gunned to be the best agent in the National Hockey League.