Sports

Some pro athletes have a new home after sports firm GSE Worldwide acquires talent agency

Key Points
  • New York sports firm GSE Worldwide completed its acquisition of Miami-based Grutman Sports, a talent representation agency.
  • CEO Michael Principe told CNBC the move is the first step toward starting an NFL player representation division.
  • GSE represented off-the-field marketing deals for NFL stars including New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints runs the ball during a game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on December 22, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Wesley Hitt | Getty Images

New York-based sports marketing and management agency GSE has completed its acquisition of talent agency Grutman Sports in a deal that is the first transaction to expand its football division to player representation, the company announced Tuesday.

Former Grutman CEO Ian Grutman will now work with Russ Spielman, GSE president of sports marketing, to build off-the-field marketing strategies for its National Football League roster. 

Spielman said the move adds youth to its football marketing, targeting individual sponsors only interested in signing "younger, active players." Terms of GSE's acquisition were not made available.

"You have to have a constant infusion of young talent. This got us a lot younger, a lot quicker," said Spielman, praising Grutman's track record of recruiting younger NFL stars.

Grutman primarily represented NFL athletes' off-the-field marketing negotiating deals for players including New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who became the first NFL player ambassador for clothing retail company H&M.

GSE is also known for representing some of the more notable legends in sports, including NFL players Steve Young, Warren Moon and Bo Jackson and Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell. Last June, GSE also acquired golf agency Impact Point AG, whose clients include PGA Tour golfers Sergio Garcia and Vijay Singh.

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry #80 of the Cleveland Browns signals touchdown toward an official, after a 20-yard touchdown by wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. against the Cincinnati Bengals on December 29, 2019 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Nick Cammett | Diamond Images via Getty Images

Agencies expanding

Despite the economic impact of Covid-19, CEO Michael Principe said GSE is in "opportunity growth mode. Sports are not going away, and we're going to continue to invest and grow our business opportunistically."

Midsize agencies continue to expand by acquiring smaller firms, hoping to compete with more prominent agencies such as Wasserman Media Group and Creative Artists Agency. After expanding Klutch Sports Group in 2019 — getting the backing of United Talent Agency — CEO Rich Paul oversaw the acquisitions of a smaller NFL and Major League Baseball agency. Both Kamara and Landry are represented by Damarius Bilbo, head of Klutch's football division. 

Principe told CNBC that GSE is currently engaged in "a number of conversations" about acquiring smaller agencies and could look to hire existing NFL agents. He added GSE would be "positioned nicely" after adding player reps.

"I think the smaller or independents (agencies) are looking for deeper resources to compete and make it a more level playing field," said Principe, whose firm is backed by Gatemore Capital Management, led by chairman partner Liad Meidar.

Principe said GSE would also look to start up an NBA operation. The company ended its MLB division in February, selling the operation to California-based Rep1 sports firm. 

Principe said agencies are "stabilizing their businesses and executing cost mitigation strategies, which we've done. But with chaos comes opportunity. It's an overused phrase, but I do truly believe that."

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