Agent Spotlight: Arn Tellem

Arn Tellem is a sports agent best-known for his representation of professional basketball and baseball players and is the principal of WMG Management, a part of the Wasserman Media Group headed by Casey Wasserman.

Tellem is in charge of the agency’s athlete representation clients and is also involved in the strategic direction of the company. He oversees 12 baseball agents, representing 125 MLB players, and seven basketball agents, representing 79 NBA players.

The fictional agent Arliss Michaels of the HBO sitcom Arli$$ was somewhat based on Tellem.

Tellem is a certified agent by the Major League Baseball Players Association and the National Basketball Players Association and is a member of the American Bar Association and the State Bar of California.

As a player agent, Tellem has negotiated a number of lucrative and high-profile contracts for National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball players.

For seven straight years, Tellem’s firm has represented the most first-round draft picks of any sports marketing and management company and has over $3.5 billion in client contracts since 2008.

CAREER START

Tellem is a native of Philadelphia and he graduated from Haverford College in 1976 and then in 1979 from the University of Michigan Law School.

Tellem began his career as an attorney in the law firm then known as Manatt, Phelps, Rothenberg & Tunney, where he was mentored by sports attorneys Alan Rothenberg and Steve Greenberg.

He specialized in sports law and commercial litigation at MPR&T. Eventually he became a partner in the firm and began his agent career representing baseball players.

In 1981, Tellem signed his first professional athlete, pitcher Mark Langston and in 1989, he negotiated a record five-year, $16 million free agent deal for Langston with the Anaheim Angels.

From 1982-1989 Tellem served as general counsel of the San Diego Clippers and he was instrumental in the teams move to Los Angeles in 1984.

Tellem made a name for himself as an NBA agent in 1996 after he outwitted that year’s pro draft when he pulled some strings to get 18-year-old Kobe Bryant to the Los Angeles Lakers.

SPORTS AGENCIES

In 1989, he launched his own sports agency, Tellem and Associates.

In 1999, Tellem sold the agency to SFX Entertainment to which he was later named chief executive of SFX Sports.

Tellem said he decided to leave SFX because “I came to the realization that I wanted to start fresh and to do something where I felt I was in control and partner up with financial backers and strategic investors that shared my vision of growing this business.”

In 2006, Wasserman Media Group (WMG) acquired Tellem’s MLB and NBA player representation practices but part of the deal was that Tellem became the President of WMG.

He brought along a client base of about 50 NBA and 50 MLB clients with him to WMG.

AWARDS

Tellem has earned numerous awards for his work including:

  • Sports Business Journal’s “Most Influential Agent in Sports”- 2006
  • The Sporting News “Most Influential Sports Agent” -2006
  • The only NBA player agent named to The Sporting News’ “50 Most Influential People in Sports Business” -2004 & 2005
  • Industry’s Top Agent- 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006

In 2009 & 2010 he wrote a semi-weekly sports column for The Huffington Post and has also written for the Op-ed page of The New York Times.

CLIENTS

Tellem currently represents 11 NBA All-Stars including:

  • Derrick Rose- Chicago Bulls
  • Joe Johnson- Brooklyn Nets
  • Pau Gasol- LA Lakers
  • Marc Gasol- Memphis Grizzlies
  • Russell Westbrook- Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Brandon Roy- Portland Trail Blazers

Tellem also represents numerous MLB players including:

  • Jason Giambi- Colorado Rockies
  • Hideki Matsui- Tampa Bay Rays
  • Barry Zito- San Francisco Giants
  • Chase Utley- Philadelphia Phillies
  • Yu Darvish- Texas Rangers

Tellem has negotiated over 500 contracts and his clients have seen his success rate and know that signing with him almost always leads to a better contract or trade.

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