Sandy Montag, who is the agent for some of the biggest names in sports media, is leaving the William Morris Endeavor (WME-IMG), according to three sources familiar with the situation. The sources requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the information. The process of moving his talent representation business to his own firm, The Montag Group, has been ongoing for about two years and will become official at the end of the week. Montag did not respond to an email and phone call seeking comment. An IMG spokesperson declined to comment.
A lot of money is at stake for both Montag and WME-IMG, and perhaps other agencies as well. Montag’s services include representation of coaches, broadcasters, speakers and authors, and his clientele includes John Madden, Bob Costas, Jim Nantz, James Brown, Bud Selig, Erin Andrews, Mike Tirico, Scott Van Pelt, Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale, Mike Shanahan, Peyton Manning, Jeremy Schaap, Trey Wingo and Chris Russo, among others.
Montag will doubtless retain many of his blue chip clients, many of whom have immense loyalty to him. Expect wrangling, though, over his clients, both from within WME-IMG, and from other agencies. Wingo, for example, is expected to remain with WME-IMG. In recent years, Montag lost Kirk Herbstreit, Josh Elliott and Rachel Nichols to CAA. You can bet that rival agents are champing at the bit, wondering things like Tirico was widely assumed to call Thursday Night Football this season, but the NFL publicly put the kibosh on that. Could he be poached? (On the record, Tirico has said that those assumptions were just that, and NBC Sports head Mark Lazarus said that it “was always our plan and expectation” for Al Michaels to call Thursday and Sunday Night Football.)
Multiple Montag clients have privately expressed hope that they could continue to be represented by him for broadcasting, but stick with WME-IMG for marketing opportunities.
Montag joined IMG in 1985 and parlayed a gig as John Madden’s assistant into being his agent. The seeds were sewn for the present move when he formed The Montag Group in 2014. Sports Business Daily reported:
"His new company, The Montag Group, will represent teams, leagues, television networks and corporations in the areas of strategic development, negotiations and content development. Montag will split his time between the new venture and representing about 50 clients at WME-IMG."
Montag, who had a hand in the founding of Ari Fleischer’s sports communications firm (whose work we’ve covered here), soon will take all of his services to his own firm. WME, which is headed by Ari Emanuel (the inspiration for Ari in Entourage), and the private equity group Silver Lake Partners acquired IMG for $2.4 billion in late 2013. WME-IMG also notably, with more private equity backing, acquired the UFC for $4 billion this year.
It will be interesting to see where this story goes next.