Magazine article Variety

Visions of Divisions

Magazine article Variety

Visions of Divisions

Article excerpt

Though known primarily as a film studio, Relativity has many flourishing departments, including television, fashion, sports management and digital media. The company recently announced the launch of Madvine, its inhouse agency. We spoke to the heads of several divisions about what the diverse firm's future holds.

Happy Walters

Co-chief operating officer and CEO of Relativity Sports

With his background in the music business, including as owner and CEO of Buzztone Music, Happy Walters originally joined Relativity in 2008 as president of Relativity Music Group. Under his watch, the company created and released soundtracks for such hit films as "Dear John" and "Bridesmaids." A certified NBA and NFL player agent, he was already representing several athletes when he noticed the sports platform Ryan Kavanaugh was building.

Recognizing Relativity created content and had great relationships with brands, Walters suggested a test case: At the time, basketball all-star Amar'e Stoudemire was playing for the Phoenix Suns and had no agent. "I got Amar'e to come in for a meeting, and you know with Ryan, once you come in it's hard to leave without listening," recalls Walters. "He came in, he saw what we were doing, he was comfortable with me, he loved Ryan. He came in on a Friday and by the end of Sunday, he signed with us. It just ended up being a great marriage."

Since then, Stoudemire has branched out in unexpected directions, including writing five children's books in a series called "STAT: Standing Till and Thlented." He is also a producer on the upcoming Relativity release "Blackbird." And Relativity Sports now boasts over 300 athletes.

As Relativity has expanded its reach into everything from fashion to energy drinks, Walters says the platforms find a way to work together. "They all have things in common," he notes. "Athletes are really into fashion and they're in the forefront. Amar'e designed an entire line with Rachel Roy for Macy's. Sports and music are closely related; every rapper wants to be a bailer and every bailer wants to be a rapper." He cites Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks, who is a rapper and a poet, who did a song for the Relativity film "21 and Over."

With all this crossover, Walters says the division is developing an awards show "that combines sports, fashion and music that will kind of compete with the Espys." Asked if they have a name for the kudosfest yet, he jokes, "Let's Compete With the Espys."

Josh Swartz

President, Relativity Sports

Swartz was the CEO of Wassermann Media Group for almost nine years before joining Relativity, and in that time he's seen the landscape change dramatically. "Players today are far more keenly aware of their brand and value off court and off field in a way that only the highest-level people were acutely aware of five, six, especially 10 years ago," he notes.

To that end, a marketing platform is invaluable. "A stand-alone agent that does great player contracts and sits in the 42nd floor of an office building that's part of a law firm can probably do a really good player contract," Swartz says. "But the ability for him to access entertainment, marketing and sponsorship opportunities is almost non-existent. What's really unique about Relativity is that fundamentally it's a content engine. It's a studio, it's been around 10 years making great film and TV, and putting a sports agency alongside that allows the clients to access that entertainment platform with dialing an internal extension. Every other agency has to call Relativity or any of the other studios or networks to try and get their clients placement, while we have an internal pipeline that's really unique."

In the past nine months alone, Swartz says Relativity Sports has doubled up its client list. Clients include Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons and Venezuelan baseball player Miguel Cabrera, for whom Relativity negotiated the largest team sport contract for any individual player in North America - a 10-year, $292 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. …

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