It appears likely that WTA sensationEugenie Bouchard will switch management agencies by the end of the month.
Bouchard’s current representation, Lagardère Unlimited, had been unwilling as of last week to match an offer from IMG that includes commissions below 10 percent and hiring her mother to work on her team, sources said. Factoring into Lagardère’s decision not to counter bid, the sources said, is that if she were to renew with sponsor Nike — that deal expires at the end of the year — those commissions could flow to Lagardère at the 15 percent to 20 percent rate called for in the agency’s current contract, but only if the company declined to match.
Commissions on renewals typically flow to the company that was involved in the original signing.
Lagardère could make less money if it keeps Bouchard.
In other words, if Lagardère were to match IMG and then renew for Bouchard with Nike, it could end up making less money on the deal (with the lower commission structure) than it could by letting her go (but having the connection to the original Nike contract and the higher commission structure that came with that deal).
There are other factors at work, as well, including the different economic structures of IMG and Lagardère. IMG has a vibrant consulting and events business that can also make money off of Bouchard, so it is able to offer lower commissions. Lagardère’s tennis unit, by contrast, is far more dependent on athlete commissions, which are based on a percentage of endorsements, exhibition fees and, in some cases, prize money. Sources said Lagardère is concerned about what kind of message changing with Bouchard could send to its star clients like Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki, who are paying the higher rate.
Both Lagardère and IMG declined to comment.
If Bouchard does switch to IMG, it is believed that Jill Smoller would represent her. Smoller represents Serena Williams, and the move would mark the first major integration of IMG and William Morris Endeavor on the tennis front since the IMG sale to the Hollywood talent agency closed earlier this year. Smoller was with WME before the acquisition.
Wimbledon would like to host more celebs like the Beckhams.
■ BRINGING A-LIST TO ALL ENGLAND: Speaking of WME-IMG, the firm may be bringing some of its A-list talent to Wimbledon. Co-CEO Ari Emanuel met with executives from the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in New York last week, and one agenda item was more glitz.Mick Desmond, the club’s commercial director, who also was at the meeting, said the tournament could benefit from more celebrity sightings in the stands.
The U.S. Open has a staff that seeks out celebrities, but Wimbledon has not done the same. IMG has been the longtime marketing and licensing agent for the All England Club, and the biggest days in social media for the tournament this year were when David Beckham and later former Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar attended the tournament.
■ ADDITIONAL REP FOR KYRGIOS: Signing
Bouchard wouldn’t be IMG’s only new player-rep deal should it happen. Sources said the agency has signed to jointly represent Australian player Nick Kyrgios, who upset Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon this summer. Kyrgios is represented by Global Tennis Connections, a firm run by John Morris, a tennis coach who also has gotten into the agent business. Morris has no other client the stature of Kyrgios, whom he has under contract for another two years.
Morris declined to comment, as did IMG.
Peng Shuai made her first Grand Slam semi after 36 tries.
■ GOOD TIME FOR A DEAL: Peng Shuaichose a fine time to make her first Grand Slam semifinal after 36 previous tries. The Chinese player, who was into the final four of the women’s draw at press time, has her apparel deal with Li Ning expire at the end of the year. That deal was negotiated by Zou Marketing, the Chinese sports marketing firm run by former Nike executive Terry Rhoads.
Peng also uses her coach, Alan Ma, to handle deals, so it’s unclear who would represent Peng in any coming talks. But Rhoads, via email, said, “We’ll talk to Peng when she [returns] to China. Everything is in play with her.”