By Tripp Mickle (Sporting News, Mar. 16, 2011).
Longtime NASCAR driver agent Rod Moskowitz is spinning off from Motorsports Management International to create his own agency by acquiring the contracts of top drivers Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne and Jamie McMurray.
The new agency, which will be known as Fuel Sports Management Group, will be run by Moskowitz, who worked for MMI for 11 years, and former Ray Evernham Motorsports executives Rick Russell and David Jessey. Evernham, who at one time considered buying MMI, will be an adviser and member of the board along with Jack Giarraputo, Adam Sandler’s partner at Happy Madison Productions.
MMI founder Cary Agajanian will continue to represent Tony Stewart and work in NASCAR, as well as drifting and other motorsports. He expects to maintain a close relationship with Fuel Sports Management.
“I’m a big supporter of the entrepreneurial spirit, and that’s why this has been (a) cooperative and agreeable decision,” Agajanian said. “Whatever he does in the future, we’ll still have an affiliation, and it will allow MMI to concentrate on some growth areas we weren’t able to focus on before. I want to see Rod succeed. He’s worked very hard for us and done a great job.”
Moskowitz said, “Cary’s been a visionary in motorsports, and he wants to see people that he’s mentored, like myself, continue to grow in their career. He wanted to put more of his time into driver development, and our interest is in providing elite drivers with first-class support. We have three elite drivers, and to the extent we execute and exceed the drivers’ expectation, we’re confident our business will grow and we’ll add other high-profile drivers.”
Moskowitz, who has a law degree from the University of Maryland, says Fuel Sports Management Group will offer athlete management, sponsorship sales and consulting services. His vision is to put more emphasis on marketing and sales that strengthen the drivers’ businesses.
“For any good sponsorship to work well, it has to make sense for the team owner, the sponsor and the driver,” Moskowitz said.
Jessey, who will serve as the agency’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, will use his experience in team sales at Evernham Motorsports to help teams secure new partners, build drivers’ endorsement portfolios and support the drivers’ other foundations and other businesses.
Jessey’s efforts will be centered on the businesses around McMurray, Hamlin and Kahne. The opportunities around McMurray and Hamlin are somewhat limited because the bulk of the inventory on their cars is sold. McMurray drives Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing’s No. 1 car sponsored by McDonald’s and Bass Pro Shops, and Hamlin drives for Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 12 car sponsored by FedEx Kinkos. But Kahne is moving from Red Bull Racing to Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 car in 2012, and will need to find a long-term sponsor for that car. He also has a World of Outlaws team with three cars for which Fuel Sports Management will sell sponsorships.
“A few years ago, when I was at a race team, we didn’t want outsiders coming in and offering help,” Jessey said. “Now that’s changed. Almost every team is working with agencies or multiple agencies, so the sales business will be one big part of what we’re doing.”
If Fuel Sports Management succeeds in packaging a driver with a sponsor and bringing it to a team, its driver likely would enjoy more leverage in contract negotiations, but Moskowitz said that’s not why the agency is focused on sales.
“For any good sponsorship to work well, it has to make sense for the team owner, the sponsor and the driver,” Moskowitz said. “To the extent we can assist the teams in working to secure additional sponsorship, particularly associated with our driver clients, we view that as a win-win result and the team will have more resources to perform better on the track and the driver will increase his marketability.”
Fuel Sports Management will be based in Mooresville, N.C., where it will lease space from Evernham.
Evernham looked at buying MMI a year ago but backed off in order to focus on his own consultancy instead. As an adviser to Fuel Sports Management, he will lend a supporting role by talking to drivers looking for racing insights.
Agajanian founded MMI in 2000, and quickly built it into one of the leaders in the driver representation business. He said MMI plans to build out its drifting business and develop some new media and marketing capabilities. “I love the business of managing and directing young drivers’ careers, and MMI will still do everything we did before, but I believe we’ll be focused a lot more on these other areas of business,” Agajanian said.
— Tripp Mickle is a reporter with SportsBusiness Journal.