It was not all that long ago that IMG was known for its Client Management division, which included many talented athletes not named Tiger Woods. Jonathan Blue was focused on investing in non-sports businesses and Creative Artists Agency (CAA) was known as one of the best Entertainment agencies in the world. Today, IMG only manages athletes in individual sports (i.e. tennis and golf), while Blue Entertainment Sports Television (BEST) and CAA are two of the largest athlete representation firms in existence. CAA represents LeBron James, Peyton Manning, and Ryan Howard. BEST represents John Wall, Reggie Bush, and Chris Johnson. While CAA has a slightly better roster of talent at the moment, BEST may make a push to take over the top spot. Lagardere Unlimited, a large French talent-management company, is expected to buy BEST in the near future, which may create a new World War between mega worldwide sports and entertainment agencies.
Meanwhile, Casey Wasserman’s Wasserman Media Group (WMG), is taking notice, but it is doubtful that the company fears the change in the sports agency landscape. Year after year, WMG’s Arn Tellem defies all odds by continuing to manage clients in the double digits in both basketball and baseball, while finding the time to serve on the Board of Directors for a couple of basketball-related philanthropic events and also write a weekly column for the Huffington Post.
WMG does not represent football players. CAA, through Tom Condon and Ben Dogra have the most successful football agency, and it is only a division of a larger agency. It is very rare for an agency to involve itself in another sport in conjunction with a practice in football. CAA does it, as does BEST, Octagon, and Mark Bartelstein’s Priority Sports, but Drew Rosenhaus and David Dunn of Athletes First are not venturing outside of football any time soon (although Dunn does represent some coaches).
What can be concluded?
1. It is very difficult to manage athletes in more than one sport, especially when the agency has a football division.
2. WMG and Arn Tellem will survive no matter how much other companies grow through acquisitions.
3. CAA’s utter dominance may be threatened.
Roughly a year ago, I suggested that CAA’s dominance may be threatened by a merger. At that point in time, I made that assumption based on the merger of Endeavor and William Morris Agency. I presumed that the new mega-agency would develop a sports practice to rival CAA. Fortunately for CAA and the rest of the industry, that new practice never took shape. Instead of WME, CAA needs to take note of the potential buy out of BEST by Lagardere.