UPDATED: I don’t follow the daily ins and outs of the sports agency biz — but I try my best to keep up with powerhouse CAA‘s when it makes headlines. So I’ve confirmed that basketball superstar LeBron James just made another “Decision”: he has left his veteran sports agent Leon Rose at CAA and followed his childhood friend, young CAA agent Rich Paul, out the tenpercentery’s door. LeBron is joining Paul’s new representation boutique Klutch Sports Management based in Cleveland (where James played with the Cavs before infamously jumping to the Miami Heat in 2010). LeBron filed paperwork with the NBA Players’ Association on Wednesday to make it official. Meanwhile, Paul is getting officially certified to become LeBron’s third agent since the forward entered the league in 2003 and now ranks 4th on the latest Forbes’ list of richest athletes. “Paul is a good guy who’s starting a little 4-person business,” a CAA insider tells me. “We wish them well.”
The news about the three-time NBA MVP, and 2-time Olympic Gold Medallist was first tweeted by Sports Business Journal‘s Liz Mullen overnight and is causing ripples in the sports representation world. Especially because CAA was instrumental in bringing James to the Miami Heat (but did not package that TV primetime sports special The Decision about where LeBron was going to play). James’ playing contract still has $73.9 million over four years remaining. CAA will continue to reap LeBron’s rewards — until James’ player opt-outs in 2014 and 2015. This “could be the beginning of a shift of power in the NBA,” ESPN is reporting. “James was at the centerpiece of CAA’s rise to prominence in the NBA during the past five years … and made CAA a major power broker.”
ESPN is quoting sources that “Paul is expected to take some players with him to his new agency as is standard practice in the business.” At CAA, both Paul and Rose represented Charlotte Bobcats rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. But Paul counts among his clients Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson, Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe, and San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph among others at CAA. And 2013 free agent Chris Paul is said to be one of LeBron’s and Paul’s closest friends. (The two are not related.)
According to sports reports, Paul and James are childhoood pals and, together with Maverick Carter and Randy Mims, call themselves ‘The Four Horsemen’. Later, after LeBron joined the NBA, they started a management group/marketing company called LRMR, which for the past 7 years runs James’ sports portfolio and is led by Carter. Paul was a business partner there until he joined CAA in 2008. He worked under veteran sports agent Rose, who has been LeBron’s rep ever since 2005 when the player 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. But it was LeBron’s 6-year deal with the Heat in 2010 that created a media coverage blitz. That’s because CAA’s Rose and CAA agent Henry Thomas teamed up to put together LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh together in Miami.