Tennis star Roger Federer has joined a growing wagon of boutique sports management agencies, forming a new unit called Team8 with his long standing aide and agent, Tony Godsick. The new company will be based in Cleveland, Ohio and will be headed by Godsick. Early clientèle include Juan Martin Del Potro and it is understood that Grigor Dimitrov will also hop on board from 1 January 2014.
The move is in line with the global trend in boutique agencies that seem to be springing up across the globe. Earlier this year, Rory McIllroy, the Irish golfer, also established a boutique of his own to manage his affairs. The name of the agency is believed to be a reconstructed version of the word teammate. Christopher Clarey of the New York Times broke the story and twitterverse has latched on to the development with excitement.
The increasing rewards of an international sporting career have raised the monetary stakes in recent years and athletes seem to be keen to consolidate their potential earnings under their own umbrella rather than incur the high management fees levied by international firms such as IMG and the like. Last year, Federer earned a whopping $71.5 million, second only to Tiger Woods on the list of highest paid athletes.
Reports suggest that there are also two other investors – Ian McKinnon and Dirk Ziff - who have taken a stake in Team8. While we do not have adequate information on the background of the former, 49 year old Ziff is a billionaire worth nearly $5bn as per the Forbes list of wealthiest people. He was ranked 98th on the Forbes 400 in September this year.
Federer is among the highest paid athletes in the world and in Del Potro and Dimitrov, Team8 seems to have struck an ideal mix of players to keep the operations sustainable, at least for the immediate future. But Max Eisenbud, the agent from IMG who represents Maria Sharapova and Li Na, among other top athletes, expressed reservations about the sustainability of the boutique model.
“I just don’t think I could manage my global clients on my own,” he told the NYT.
Godsick, though, was diametrically opposed in his views. “I think small is the new big,” said Federer’s agent. “We’re for more of a personalized approach, and you’ve seen it now with so many different athletes.”
Godsick has already confirmed that the effort was not to create a behemoth like the IMG, where he worked for 20 years, before leaving along with Federer in 2012. Godsick told the New York Times, that the aim was not to create a new giant sports management business.
“We’re trying to be a boutique agency that will manage just a small stable of iconic athletes. We’re really going to try to be selective here,” said Godsick. Some of the other groups, they look to sign as many players as they can and hope a few of them stick and make it, and they really go after the juniors. We’re not going to (do such a thing).”
It is also believed that the agency will provide a solid platform to help Federer transition into business at the end of his long and illustrious career. Team8 is expected to spread its wings into other sports besides tennis and also look into managing events in the not too distant future. Godsick is married to former tennis player Mary Joe Fernandez, who is pursuing a career in sports broadcasting and has homes in Cleveland and Florida.
This is a space that we ought to watch with interest. There is speculation that they might be very close to signing a leading golfer too in the near term. It will also be interesting to hear Federer speak about the venture and his vision for the organisation.