With an astounding $32.6 billion in combined contracts and $1.5 billion in commissions among them, the World's Most Powerful Sports Agents have proved that ...and more »
Agent Scott Boras, right, with Royce Lewis, baseball's No. 1 overall draft pick, and Derek Falvey, the Minnesota Twins' chief baseball officer, on June 17. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
While baseball may be America's pastime, Europe's beautiful game ― soccer ― has also produced some of the world's biggest contracts for athletes and created handsome commissions for the agents who negotiated them. Indeed, eight of the top 10 spots in this year's World's Most Powerful Sports Agents rankings belong to baseball and soccer agents, and for first time in the five-year history of this list, baseball agent Scott Boras isn't alone in the the top spot: He shares it with soccer agent Constantin Dumitrascu of Germany.
Boras' $1.8 billion in negotiated Major League Baseball player contracts remains impressive, but a significant drop in his overall commission numbers opened the door for Dumitrascu.
European soccer stars are some the highest-paid athletes in the world, and their agents are essentially free to charge whatever commission they choose (the standard hovers around 10%). Some have been able to build sprawling practices, representing players across multiple leagues, most notably England's Premier League, La Liga of Spain and Germany's Bundesliga.
GalleryThe World's Most Powerful Sports Agents 2017
With clients like Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani, Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho, Juventus winger Douglas Costa and Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kanté, the enigmatic Dumitrascu has negotiated $1.08 billion in contracts, netting more than $100 million in commissions. Amazingly, none of his clients have a nine-figure contract. But more than 50 of them are estimated to make more than $10 million a year, helping his Mondial Sports Management secure the No. 7 spot on Forbes' 2017 list of The World’s Most Valuable Sports Agencies.
Moving down to No. 3 is Jorge Mendes, perhaps the world's most recognizable soccer agent. Mendes and his Portugal-based agency Gestifute International ― with approximately $770 million in negotiated deals, netting some $77 million in commissions ― have recovered some of the ground they lost last year after Brexit caused the value of the euro to drop. Mendes' list of contracts is more top heavy than Dumitrascu's and includes the likes of Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo, Bayern Munich winger James Rodríguez, Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Ángel Di María and Chelsea forward Diego Costa.
Agent Jorge Mendes, left, and Monaco forward Radamel Falcao watching a 2014 match. (Photo by Alery Hache/Getty Images)
Coming in at No. 4 on this year's list are brothers Sam and Seth Levinson, whose Brooklyn-based baseball agency ACES has negotiated more than $1.3 billion in Major League Baseball contracts, including the most free-agent multi-year deals in the last decade (with $266 million in 2016-17 alone). The Levinsons have earned themselves more than $65 million in commissions (up a cool $10 million from last year) while building one of the biggest single-sport representation practices in the industry. Among their biggest deals are Jon Lester's six-year, $155 million contract with the Chicago Cubs (signed in December 2014) and David Wright's eight-year, $138 million deal with the New York Mets (struck in November 2012). This past off-season, the Levinsons negotiated Danny Duffy's five-year, $65 million contract with the Kansas City Royals and Josh Reddick's four-year, $52 million deal with the Houston Astros.
Next up are No. 5 Casey Close and No. 6 Jeff Schwartz, who are partners at the second-most valuable agency, Excel Sports Management . Close, who runs Excel's baseball division, matches Boras with two mega deals: Clayton Kershaw's seven-year, $215 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers (signed in January 2014) and Zack Greinke's six-year, $206 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks (signed in December 2015). Schwartz, the world's most powerful basketball agent, has negotiated some $1.7 billion in contracts, almost double the total of his nearest competitor (No. 12 Mark Bartelstein) and second only to Boras' among all agents. His roster of clients includes Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside and Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes.
With an astounding $32.6 billion in combined contracts and $1.5 billion in commissions among them, the 50 most powerful agents have proved that brain power and shrewd negotiation skills can be just as lucrative as the athletic prowess their clients display on the field and on the court. The total contract sum negotiated by agents is up 17% over last year's list while the commissions are up 19%.
Tony Godsick, the first tennis agent to make the list's top 50, with client Roger Federer in 2013. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
This year's list includes nine newcomers, among them No. 24 Fernando Cuza, No. 29 Mark Pieper and No. 40 Doug Hendrickson, all of whom work for Independent Sports & Entertainment (formerly Relativity Sports ). The list also includes for the first time a female sports agent, No. 30 Diana Day, who took over representing Landmark Sports' clients after founder Rob Pelinka left to become general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers. In another first, the list includes a tennis agent: No. 47 Tony Godsick, propelled by client Roger Federer.
The list ranks the world's top 50 agents across six sports: baseball (which has 13 represented), basketball (12), football (10), hockey (7), soccer (7) and tennis (1). While there is only a small correlation between the maximum commission percentage allowable for each sport and the number of agents on the list ― higher commissions do not necessarily mean more agents ― there is a stronger correlation between commission percentage and where the agents appear in the ranking (higher commissions mean higher rankings), with soccer (10%) and baseball (5%) allowing agents to charge the highest commission rates.
These rankings were compiled through extensive research into the client rosters and contracts negotiated by each agent 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: NFL (3%), NHL (4%), NBA (4%), MLB (5%), FIFA (10%). Thus, agents 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 agents 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 athletes 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.
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