Shawn Carter, better known by his stage name, “Jay-Z,” is a modern day Renaissance Man.
As a rap and hip hop artist, Jay-Z holds the record for the most number one albums by a solo artist on the Billboard 200. As a music producer, Jay-Z is the former CEO of Def Jam Recordings and the current founder of Roc Nation, representing clients such as Rihanna, M.I.A. and Shakira. As an entrepreneur, Jay-Z is the co-creator of the Rocawear clothing line and the owner of the 40/40 Club, a sports bar with locations in New York City, Atlantic City and Chicago.
Now, Jay-Z is about to try his hand at a new endeavor: professional sports agent.
On April 2, 2013, ESPN announced that Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is launching his own sports agency, Roc Nation Sports, an extension of the artist’s Roc Nation brand. The agency, moreover, will partner with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), a renowned talent agency with athletic clients the likes of Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, Sidney Crosby and David Beckham.
“Because of my love of sports, it was a natural progression to form a company where we can help top athletes… the same way we have been helping artists in the music industry for years,” Jay-Z told reporters after the announcement.
In conjunction with the launch announcement, ESPN also reported that Robinson Cano, the New York Yankee’s All-Star second baseman, would leave former agent Scott Boras, one of the industry’s highest-profile sports agents, to join Roc Nation Sports and CAA. Only days later, reports surfaced that New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz would also join the agency.
Jay-Z has filed a formal petition to become a certified baseball agent, and the Major League Baseball Players Association is currently considering his application. Jay-Z has likewise expressed interest in becoming certified to represent clients in both the NBA and NFL. Before he can represent NBA players, however, he must first sell his 0.67% stake in the Brooklyn Nets organization.
Jay-Z is not the first high profile rapper to try his hand in the world of sports. In 2009, rapper T.I.—who happens to be represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation—signed a collaborative record label deal with then Phoenix Suns—and now New York Knicks—player Amar’e Stoudemire. In an action more similar to Jay-Z’s, however, Percy “Master P” Miller launched No Limit Sports, a sports management firm and an extension of the artists’ No Limit brand, back in 1999. Master P’s agency had one client of note: NFL running back Ricky Williams, widely considered one of the league’s hottest players at the time he was drafted in 1999. With Master P’s negotiating help, Williams received a $68.4 million contract from the New Orleans Saints, who drafted him fifth overall. The problem? The contract, now considered one of the worst contracts in sports history, was highly incentive-based. Williams met few of said incentives and walked away from the deal with only $3.8 million, not including his signing bonus. The running back left Master P’s agency in 2000, and No Limit Sports has since folded.
Jay-Z is hoping to have more success than his former rap counterpart, but opinions appear mixed on whether or not he will.
“I don’t know how big of a deal it is right away,” says Keith Reed, senior editor at ESPN the Magazine, who specializes in sports and business management. “I think it’s fair to say that entrepreneurs have their first acts… and if they’re really successful and transformative, then they get a second act. A great example of that would be [BET founder] Robert Johnson. Here’s a guy who started a television network, ran it, built it, took it public, took it back private and made a billion dollars. And then he started his second act. [He’s the former majority owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats.] When I look at Jay-Z beginning his second act, I have to ask the question, ‘Is this a guy who’s second act is going to be all about building the kind of clout, the kind of influence in sports that he already has in entertainment?’”
Yet despite Reed’s lukewarm sentiment, Jay-Z may just have the skills and resources to achieve what Master P couldn’t.
Unlike Master P, Jay-Z appears to know the sporting business fairly well—or, at the very least, he is connected to the business. After all, Jay-Z is, as previously mentioned, a minority owner of the Brooklyn Nets basketball franchise, and his 40/40 Club locations have become hotspots for professional athletes.
And, unlike Master P, Jay-Z is not alone. Roc Nation Sports’ partnership with CAA Sports not only provides the agency with much needed credibility, but also brings in an experienced team on contract negotiators. CAA Sports’ agents have, over the past few years, negotiated over $1 billion in client contracts. At least until Jay-Z is certified, CAA Sports agents will handle most of the direct contract negotiations.
As such, Jay-Z’s major role with Roc Nation Sports will be outside of the boardroom, and this is exactly where he can excel. As Ira Childress, president of Childress Sports Consulting notes, Jay-Z’s biggest asset could be his skills as a recruiter of sorts.
“The biggest thing Jay can provide… is the ability to build and have relationships,” Childress says. “The reason why he was able to land Robinson Cano is because they developed an interpersonal relationship over years. Jay will provide access. That’s key. It’s all based upon trust. Robinson Cano knows that Jay-Z is working with people who can get the numbers. But he also knows ‘I trust Jay.’ So that’s a big step.”
Beyond that, Jay-Z could provide clients with branding and image building off of the field. After all, few alive today are better at doing just that than Jay-Z, building an empire around, of all things, himself.
As he rapped in Kanye West’s song, “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” “I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.”
Only time will tell whether this “business” will come to include a successful sports agency.
Courtesy of NorthwestBusinessreview.com