I am proud to post, finally a great article about my friend and agent Eric Wiesel. He is an attorney and female basketball agent. I cannot say enough about him but I think from this article you will understand why!
Agent makes inroads on WNBA
He takes on low-paid women clients because they’re nicer … and loyal
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Kelly Johnson Sacramento Business Journal
Like the women he represents, it’s the enjoyment of basketball, not the
pay, that drives Sacramento sports agent Eric Wiesel.
Compared to the men’s side of the game, there’s 99 percent less money in
women’s pro basketball. But for Wiesel, the rewards that matter rival
those of any big-star agent.
Wiesel, 38, is one of about 40 WNBA sports agents nationwide and the
only one in the Sacramento region, according to the California Secretary
of State’s office. He is also the only local sports agent actively
working with clients on any pro team.
Wiesel, a partner in the Sacramento law firm of Matheny Sears Linkert &
Long, is relatively unknown among sports agents. He’s been growing his
agent business within the law firm for six years. With about a dozen
players and one college coach as clients — all are women, and one is a
Sacramento Monarch — Wiesel is one of few agents with multiple WNBA
Wiesel says he represents women because they’re more courteous and
kinder to work with than men. Some in the industry return the
compliment, saying WNBA agents overall are a pretty good bunch
“There’s not enough money to attract sleazy people,” says Bruce Levy,
whose New York City-based firm represents 53 female athletes. “It’s like
trying to rob a lemonade stand rather than a bank. If you’re a sleazy
agent and want to get rich quick, the WNBA is not the route to riches.”
Levy knows about Wiesel, but hasn’t met him. “I’ve heard good things
about him,” Levy says. “I believe he’s an ethical person.”
The average salary for NBA players during the 2003-04 season was $4.1
million. The average for the WNBA is around $50,000, or nearly 99
percent less. The minimum salary is $31,000 and the maximum is $87,000.
The agents get up to 5 percent of that as commission, or $2,500 on the
Wiesel could probably make that much in one reasonably busy week as a
But Wiesel is happy: “Being an agent is almost a dream,” he says.
“There’s so much good you can do. As an agent I can touch people.”
“If I am unhappy, he will do whatever he can to make me happy,” says
Jordan Adams, a client writing in an e-mail from Athens, where she’s
playing basketball. “He’s not my agent, he’s one of my best friends. I
talk to him about just about everything that goes on in my life! He’s
just a great listener and knows the right things to say.”
Adams was drafted 18th overall in 2003 by the Minnesota Lynx, but was
not picked to return for the 2004 season.
Wiesel knows his clients’ favorite foods and music, how they like to
braid their hair, their rituals before a game.
“I know their friends, their hobbies, what they were like growing up,”
Proudly referring to several displays in his law office, Wiesel shows
newspaper clippings, photos and basketballs signed by his clients. Their
stats and accomplishments flow easily off his tongue.
There’s Adams; Rebekkah Brunson, 10th overall in the 2004 WNBA draft,
the Sacramento Monarchs’ first pick, and currently playing in Belgium.
There’s Pokey Chatman, Louisiana State University women’s head coach.
Wiesel is also an attorney, but not sports agent, for Jerome James, the
Seattle Supersonics’ starting center and a former Sacramento King.
In fact, it was James who started it all for Wiesel.
It was James who suggested Wiesel become an agent. Then working
full-time as a defense attorney, Wiesel had a client whose friend,
James, needed advice handling an unsatisfactory relationship with his
sports agent. Wiesel immediately liked James, and James appreciated
During their talks, Wiesel mentioned his daughter. James befriended her,
surprising Wiesel by flying in to watch the young girl play at her
“That’s when I really saw … how much impact they could really make,”
Another client introduced Wiesel to a WNBA player who needed help. From
that point on, Wiesel was hooked on promoting and working with athletes.
He didn’t want to work with just any athlete, especially not the
blowhards with swollen egos. “My reputation will be married to them,” he
says, both to their ability and to who they are as people.
He wanted to work only with people who had impressed him like Jerome
Other WNBA agents say they also seek clients who haven’t gotten into
trouble. Players who compete overseas are ambassadors for the firm and
the country, says New York-based agent Levy, so it’s important to pick
athletes who will be good representatives.
But other agents, well, they aren’t as choosy.
Many agents choose athletes based on the money they can make regardless
of character. “Character is not a factor that goes into their selection
process,” says James Tanner Jr., a Washington, D.C., sports agent whose
law firm represents 36 male and female athletes.
“All of our people,” he adds, “are good people to work with.”
Looking for men: For Wiesel, building his client base was slow. Wiesel
wanted clients he’d care enough about to earn his dedication. The only
ones he found were women.
“I knew the women were different. They’re not as affected by (the
money),” he says. “I’ve found more women I could feel passionate about
helping than male players.”
Women athletes are more loyal than men and remain with agents longer,
Wiesel does intend to approach some male athletes this coming year.
He looks for clients he’d be proud to leave his daughter with. He needs
clients he can always be excited about. They must be willing to do
something charitable. If his client has a favorite charity, that charity
becomes important to him.
Agents Levy and Tanner encourage charitable giving, but don’t require
it. They say giving is a very personal decision.
Obviously, Wiesel also looks for talented players who can play
professionally. He starts with most when they turn pro, and looks at
some as early as high school.
To protect players’ college eligibility, agents must keep their distance
— or at least make no promises — until after the players complete
their collegiate game.
“Usually I make contact during the senior season,” Wiesel says. He tells
potential clients the agent relationship will be one of their most
important relationships during their pro career.
Burger mailer, host, off-court employer: Agents negotiate contracts and
endorsement deals and sometimes handle public relations. For free
agents, Wiesel tries to find a team that will match their needs and
skills. He’ll step in if a team provides his client a bad apartment or
car, or if there are clashes with a fellow player.
“I’ve arranged for their pets to go to the vet,” Wiesel says.
He’s mailed an In-N-Out Burger care package to a homesick client. When
his clients are playing overseas, he exchanges e-mails with some of them
daily, whether it’s to talk about movies, music or anything.
When client Jordan Adams was recovering from a foot injury, she lived
with Wiesel and his family, even though she has relatives in Auburn,
says mom Carla Adams, who lives in Nevada. Wiesel loaned Jordan Adams a
car, set her up at his athletic club, lined her up with a personal
trainer to improve her ball-handling skills, and hired her as a legal
runner at the firm.
“Eric’s become like a part of the family,” Carla Adams says. “He’s taken
such good care of our daughter. Anytime I call him — it doesn’t matter
when — he answers.”
The bigger money is overseas: The WNBA allows agents to charge up to 5
percent of their clients’ contract amount — compared to 4 percent in
the NBA. There’s no limit for the overseas contracts. Some charge up to
10 percent. Agents also take a percentage of marketing endorsements and
Wiesel sometimes takes a hourly fee if he doesn’t do much work. If a
player is drafted high in the first round regardless of what Wiesel
does, he says it’s not fair for him to take 5 percent. He may take
nothing. If a player isn’t drafted, Wiesel has a lot of work to do, and
says his fee is justified.
None of Wiesel’s clients have paid endorsement deals.
Female basketball players — and their agents — make most of their
money outside the United States, says Levy, who says he was the first
agent to place a female basketball player overseas 25 years ago.
Some agents will argue that for a salary alone, players don’t need an
agent for their WNBA contract, because most salaries are set. In that
case, some players are better off paying agents an hourly fee for
service, Levy says.
Overseas, though, agents need to handle placement with a team, living
arrangements, bank accounts, and ensure that the coach doesn’t hit on
Levy does some scouting and consulting on the side, which are lucrative.
But there’s not much money for agents in the rest of it, considering
what WNBA players are paid.
Overseas, players make a few thousand dollars a month plus room and
board and transportation costs, says Dan Whaley, a Sacramento attorney
who previously worked as a sports agent for male and female athletes.
Unless an athlete is a marquee player, he says, an agent is lucky to
make $2,000 to $3,000 a year from a female basketball player.
Most are also attorneys: The disparity between the pay of male and
female basketball players is frustrating, says Sacramento attorney
Johnny Griffin III. His practice included a sports agent division until
2003, when the attorney who handled that work moved on.
Security concerns overseas after the 2001 terrorist attacks scared some
athletes off from playing overseas. And agents rely on overseas work to
pay the bills, Griffin says.
Brunson, Wiesel’s Monarchs player, says she gets value for what she pays
Wiesel. “Eric is very reasonable and understands the pay difference
between men and women,” she writes in an e-mail. “With this in mind, he
still doesn’t overload himself with clients in an attempt to make up for
the difference. He wants to be able to give each one of his clients the
individual attention needed to ensure they excel.”
Working solely for female basketball players makes it tough for an agent
to earn a living, agents say. Like Wiesel, most also work as attorneys.
Wiesel says he essentially has two full-time jobs, although both his
sports agent work and his lawyering work — handling appeals, insurance
coverage, product defect and general civil defense — are all on behalf
of the law firm. He works at the office from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 or
6:30 p.m. Of that time, one to three hours are devoted to sports
At home, he’ll work three to four hours more on sports agent work. He
says he sleeps four to five hours a night. During the WNBA season, he
travels at least every other weekend to watch existing and prospective
Hard to do two jobs well, agent says: Agent Levy questions the
effectiveness of agents who split their time with other work. What if a
player overseas needs her agent and he’s stuck in trial? How does an
agent place clients overseas if the agent hasn’t been there before?
“You’re being blind,” he says. “How do you know if you’re putting your
player on the right team?”
Levy has the benefit of an established firm with a long history and five
experts who specialize in such categories as marketing, administration
and travel logistics. He speaks six languages and can read and
understand a couple more, and he travels to Europe at least a dozen
times a year.
“You can’t be a jack-of-all-trades and do the best job,” he says.
But agents with 100 players can’t be in two places at once, either. No
one can drop everything for one client, notes Ken Shropshire, a
professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who
has written extensively about the sports industry. He co-authored a
book, “The Business of Sports Agents.”
“I think I have a great advantage as an agent and attorney because of
the fact that I am both,” Wiesel says. “As an agent, I use and benefit
from the skills and knowledge I have gained from being a litigating
attorney. … I am used to doing battle for my clients.”
League is losing money: The future of the 8-year-old WNBA remains
uncertain, but Wiesel and other agents remain confident that they’ll
have work for the long term. The NBA took time to get established too.
The WNBA loses money, and Val Ackerman, league president since the
beginning, is resigning in February.
But the league and team owners remain committed, Wiesel says. Besides,
the WNBA isn’t the only game in town. There are the overseas teams and
the 5-year-old National Women’s Basketball League, for which Wiesel’s
client Molly Creamer will play next year.
Female basketball players will always find some forum in which to play
professionally, he says.
Wiesel plans to approach male athletes and will consider representing
athletes in track, swimming and other sports. “I’m open to anything,” he