Tellem Teams Up With Wasserman Group

Times Staff Writer

Longtime agent Arn Tellem, who represents about 70 professional basketball and baseball players, has sold his business to Los Angeles-based Wasserman Media Group for an undisclosed amount, the companies said Thursday.

The deal makes privately held WMG, which represents about 50 action sports athletes, one of the nation's largest player agent representatives.

The combined firms' roster includes baseball players Nomar Garciaparra, Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi; basketball stars Jermaine O'Neal and Tracy McGrady and extreme sports athletes Dave Mirra and Travis Pastrana.

WMG's athlete lineup won't include Laker star Kobe Bryant, who is represented by Rob Pelinka, a longtime Tellem associate.

Pelinka, who will not be making the move to WMG, did not return a telephone call on Thursday.

Tellem said that he "wishes [Pelinka] well ... this deal isn't about client lists, and it isn't about Kobe Bryant, who is a wonderful basketball player. For me, it's about being able to work with the right people, people who believe in the same goals and beliefs."

By aligning himself with WMG Chairman and Chief Executive Casey Wasserman, Tellem ended rumors in the sports world about what was next for the longtime agent. Tellem sparked speculation last year when he reacquired his agency from what was then a Clear Channel Communications Inc. subsidiary.

Tellem, along with such agents as Newport Beach-based Leigh Steinberg, profited handsomely during the late 1990s when several large corporations went on a sports-agency buying binge.

Less than a decade later, however, several of those agents have reacquired their businesses.

"By their nature, agents don't seem to want to be part of a behemoth," said David Carter, executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute. "Whether it's Arn Tellem or Leigh Steinberg, they don't want to have to navigate their way through the broader corporate infrastructure."

Wasserman and Tellem said Thursday that WMG hopes to expand its player representation business, both into new sports where it now has no presence, as well as in sports-hungry countries in Europe and Asia.

The firm also will concentrate on developing off-the-field opportunities for athletes in the sports marketing and entertainment industry. Though sports agents generate a significant portion of their income from athlete contract negotiations, they increasingly are searching out off-the-field business opportunities that can generate profits.

About a dozen people from Tellem's Los Angeles-based business, including agents Bob Myers, Joel Wolfe, Thad Foucher and Jeff Wernick, will move into WMG's West Los Angeles office. Tellem, who will serve as president of WMG Management and join the privately held company's newly formed executive committee, also took an unspecified equity position in WMG. The combined companies will have about 110 employees.

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