LeBron James, the hottest athlete on the planet, has left longtime agent Leon Rose and the Creative Artists Agency and will join a newly formed agency led by longtime friend Rich Paul, the Sports Business Journal reported. You can bet the new agency will become the hottest on the planet, just like its centerpiece client.
It is more of a new partnership than a breakup, sources said, as James is not making the move because of any hard feelings with Rose or his longtime partner William “Wes” Wesley. It’s more about James and his relationship with Paul, who only has been an agent for a few years, working under Rose at CAA. But Paul quickly has earned the respect of league executives and owners.
The switch to Paul could be the beginning of a shift of major power in the NBA. Paul represented rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 overall pick of the Charlotte Bobcats, Tristan Thompson of the Charlotte Bobcats and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Eric Bledsoe., among others at CAA.
According to sources, Paul is expected to take some players with him to his new agency as is standard practice in the business. CAA also represents 2013 free agent-to-be Chris Paul, who is one of James’ closest friends and is also close to Rich Paul. The two are not related.
James has been reorganizing his business affairs since joining the Heat. In 2011, he turned over his marketing management to Fenway Sports Group and received a piece of ownership in Liverpool FC in return. James group of friends Paul, Maverick Carter and Randy Mims, call themselves “The Four Horsemen.”
James was at the centerpiece of CAA’s rise to prominence in the NBA during the past five years. James signed with Rose in 2005, when he left his first agent, Aaron Goodwin. Two years later, CAA purchased Rose’s practice and the right to do business with James.
Rose negotiated James’ last two contracts, an extension with the Cavs in 2006 and a six-year deal with the Heat in 2010. James has an opt-out clause in his deal in 2014.
Rose and fellow CAA agent Henry Thomas, who represents James’ Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh worked closely together in bringing the stars together two years ago. Representing those three players in addition to other top stars who recently switched teams – notably Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul — made CAA a major power broker.
James and Rich Paul met when the former was a teenager and quickly formed a strong relationship. By the time James reached the NBA in 2003, Paul had become one of his closest friends and confidants. When James left Goodwin and formed his own marketing company, LRMR, Paul became a business partner.
Paul organized events and for-profit parties for James and even did some fashion modeling. But Paul started focusing on player representation four years ago when he joined CAA.