Los Angeles Business Journal

Burkle, Kavanaugh Partner on Sports Agency

By Jonathan Polakoff Monday, July 16, 2012

Supermarket magnate Ron Burkle has teamed up with Hollywood financier Ryan Kavanaugh to launch a sports agency that represents professional athletes, coaches and broadcasters.

The venture, called Relativity Sports, it is a partnership of Burkle’s holding company, Yucaipa Cos., and Kavanaugh’s independent studio, Relativity Media. Earlier this year, Burkle bought an undisclosed stake in the studio from private equity firm Elliot Management.

The agency’s clients include NBA, NFL and MLB players, including Amar’e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks, Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers and Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. Part of the focus will be on securing off-the-court opportunities in movies and TV.

“In addition to their careers in professional sports, we can offer athletes opportunities in film, television, music and gaming,” Kavanaugh said in a statement.

Relativity already operated a sports agency focused on basketball called Rogue Sports. The new venture was formed when Rogue merged with two other agencies this year, SFX Baseball of Northbrook, IL and Maximum Sports Management of Fort Wayne, Ind., which brought a roster of football clients. The new entity claims to have more than 150 clients and more than $1 billion in current contracts.

The venture will compete with other agencies with sports divisions, such as Creative Artists Agency in Century City, which claims to have more than 650 clients, including LeBron James and Peyton Manning.

Interest in sports has been rising among Hollywood agencies as players are able to negotiate multimillion dollar salary and endorsement deals. At the same, cost cutting among studios has hurt their core talent business.

Relatively Sports will be run by Happy Walters, co-chief operating officer of Relativity Media, who hopes to distinguish the agency with sponsorship opportunities.

“Relativity Sports will utilize its marketing relationships with global brands and studio assets to offer athletes unique access not available at other agencies,” Walters said in a statement.