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The World's Most Valuable Sports Agencies 2018

A number of Wasserman’s agents photographed at the agency’s L.A. headquarters, including 2018 ‘Most Powerful’ inclusions Joel Wolfe, Thad Foucher, Adam Katz, Doug Hendrickson and Darren Matsubara.WASSERMAN

The sports agency business is booming as ever-increasing media rights deals continue to pour profits into professional sports leagues, raising salaries and making seven-figure athlete contracts the norm.  The firms featured in Forbes’ 2018 ranking of the World’s Most Valuable Sports Agencies have negotiated a collective $45.7 billion in current professional athlete contracts, netting more than $2.35 billion in commissions, an increase of almost 10% over last year.

Leading the way for the sixth consecutive year is Los Angeles based Creative Artists Agency (CAA), whose $9.3 billion in contracts under management is more than double its next closest competitor. With a $900 million uptick in deals over the last year, the agency now stands to earn $348 million in commissions from its clients- a $30 million increase from 2017. Perhaps more impressively is the rise of CAA’s individual practice areas: the agency’s football ($4.1 billion), basketball ($2.3 billion) and hockey ($1.9 billion) divisions rank No. 1, and its baseball ($1 billion) division ranks No. 3. CAA’s football division by itself would be the fifth most valuable agency in the world.

CAA once again lands eleven agents on this year’s World’s Most Powerful Sports Agents list, including three in the top 11 – No. 9 Pat Brisson (hockey), as well as No. 10 Todd France and No. 11 Tom Condon (football). Among CAA’s biggest deals include Robinson Cano’s $240 million deal with the Seattle Mariners, Karl Anthony Town’s $187 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Matt Ryan’s $150 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons, and Sidney Crosby’s $104 million deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In total, CAA has sixteen clients signed to contracts worth more than $100 million. 

Moving up to the No. 2 most valuable agency this year is Wasserman, whose $3.7 billion in contracts net $175 million in commissions, representing a respective $1 billion and $40 million increase over last year. Founded in 2002 by Casey Wasserman, grandson of legendary talent agent Lew Wasserman,  Wasserman has steadily climbed the sports agency business ranks, representing more than 750 athletes across football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, and golf.  In addition to the sports included in these rankings, Wasserman represents top Olympic athletes and is unmatched in women’s sports such as the WNBA (Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, Brittany Griner) and the NWSL (Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe).

Wasserman lands five agents on this year’s World’s Most Powerful Sports Agents list, including No. 12 Joel Wolfe and No. 18 Adam Katz (baseball), No. 29 Thad Foucher and #46 Darren Matsubara (basketball), and #42 Doug Hendrickson (football). Among the agency’s top deals are Giancarlo Stanton’s massive $325 million contract with the New York Yankees (the largest deal in all of professional sports), Russell Westbrook’s $233 million contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Andrew Luck’s $124 million dollar contract with the Indianapolis Colts. Wasserman also expanded its soccer division with the purchase of European agency Mondial Promotion, giving it the strongest soccer division of any multi-sport agency in the world. Likewise, it has increased its hockey practice by acquiring equity in No. 31 Orr Hockey Group earlier this year. 

Moving down a spot to No. 3 on this year’s list is Excel Sports Management. Founded by in 2002, Excel is home to the No. 2 basketball, baseball and golf practices. While the agency only has three agent’s in the top 50 — No. 4 Jeff Schwartz (basketball), No. 6 Casey Close (baseball), and No. 43 Mark Steinberg (golf) — its commission-per-agent is also by far the highest in the industry at $48.2 million each (which is also almost 50% greater than the list average).

Excel Sports Management is home to one of the top golf representation practices in the world. Led by agent Mark Steinberg, Excel’s clients include Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas and Matt Kuchar. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)

This year’s top ten includes an equal split between large conglomerated multi-sport agencies like No. 4 Octagon and No. 7 Independent Sports & Entertainment, as well as single sports practices like No. 5 Boras Corporation (baseball) and No. 6 Gestifute (soccer). Octagon had a strong year, moving up a spot to No. 4 with $28 million in additional commissions, buoyed by phenom Stephen Curry’s $201 million deal with the Golden State Warriors as well as solid numbers from their golf and tennis athletes.

There are three new agencies in this year’s rankings: No. 19 YouFirst Sports, No. 33 Key Sports Management and No. 40 Tandem Sports + Entertainment. YouFirst Sports, a European soccer agency, acquired the remnants of ASM, the agency which came under scrutiny during the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption.  One of the biggest climbers in this year’s agency rankings is RocNation Sports – headed by mogul Jay-Z – which rose eight spots to No. 25 with the negotiations of massive new contracts for clients such as Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley.

The 41 agencies featured in this year’s rankings represent more than 3,600 clients, which equates to some 60% of all professional athletes in the four major US sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA). In fact, the five largest conglomerated sports agencies in the world (CAA, Wasserman, Excel Sports ManagementOctagon and Independent Sports & Entertainment) by themselves represent more than one-third of all professional athletes — proof of the incredibly high barrier to entry in the sports agency business.

Methodology:

The valuations in these rankings were compiled through extensive research into the client rosters and contracts negotiated by each agency in the team sports of basketball, football, baseball, hockey and soccer. The total contract value under management for each sport was then multiplied by the maximum agent commission (or average where no maximum exists) as allowed by each respective players’ association. Such rates are as follows: NFL (3%), NHL (4%), NBA (4%), MLB (5%), FIFA (10%). Thus, agencies are ranked in order of the maximum commissions obtainable from the negotiated contracts, instead of the total value of the contracts. In tennis and golf, sports agents do not make commissions from their client’s on-court/course earnings, but only from the marketing dollars they help generate, for which they receive an average of 20%.

While agencies also earn income from negotiating marketing and endorsement contracts for their clients in the big five sports, the overall value derived from any such deals is negligible for the average player. While no concrete data exists, Forbes estimates that average professional athlete may make an additional 1% to 2% of their overall player contract in endorsement earnings, and their agents earn just 20% to 25% of that.

The World's Most Valuable Sports Agencies 2018 The World's Most Valuable Sports Agencies 2018 Reviewed by mujeeb Olagunju on September 27, 2018 Rating: 5

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