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Aroldis Chapman's old agents sue his new ones

Dec 16, 2009, 10:00 AM EST

That little workout in Houston wasn’t the only thing happening in Aroldis Chapman land yesterday. The other thing: Athletes Premier International and Edwin Mejia — his original agents —  sued his new agents, Hendricks Sports Management, claiming that they illegally lured him away after API and Mejia went through all the trouble of helping Chapman defect and setting up residency in Andorra and all of that.

For you lawyers out there, the claims are (1) tortious interference with a contract; (2) tortious interference with business relations; and (3) unjust enrichment.  For you non-lawyers out there, it amounts to a claim Hendricks gave Chapman a big song and dance, talked smack about the old agents, and dangled some unholy combination of lies and shiny things in front of his eyes in order to get him to sign on with team Hendricks, and now stand to unfairly profit from the giant bonus their client is about to receive. A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.

Players are allowed to switch agents if they want, but let’s be clear: there’s all kinds of ugliness in these sorts of relationships. If you want an education about this stuff, read Jerry Crasnick’s excellent book about agents, which gives some pretty good insight about how agents steal clients from one another all the time. It takes a pair of brass ones to make it in that racket.

Obviously this suit isn’t about wanting Chapman back. It’s about wanting a cut of the $15 million+ that Chapman is going to get from one of the teams who watched him down in Houston yesterday. Whether the plaintiffs get any of that depends on whether the change of representation in this case was the usual unseemly affair, or an unseemly affair with a gloss of illegality sprinkled on top.

  1. The Common Man - Dec 16, 2009 at 10:58 AM

    After reading your explanation, Craig, I’m still confused as to what might constitute the illegal stealing of a client if, as you say, players are free to switch agents. Can you give a more complete explanation or example? I think your “lies and shiny things” explanation was either too dumbed down or not dumbed down enough for me.

  2. MHFESQ - Dec 16, 2009 at 11:06 AM

    Craig-
    having experience in tortious interference claims and knowing how difficult they are, would the old agents have a better chance at suing Chapman? I know we attorneys are protected by attorney lien rights. Do agents have any similar protections?

  3. Craig Calcaterra - Dec 16, 2009 at 11:30 AM

    TCM: Sorry, I was being cute. Basically, if the new agents committed fraud or bribed him or did something that was independently wrong which in turn caused Chapman to break his agreement with the old agents, it’s legally actionable. Say, lied about the old agents, told Chapman that they were going to rip him off or something. It’s a hard claim to make, generally speaking, but in professional settings like this they tend to lead to settlements because no agent (or lawyer or whoever) wants the details of his client relationships exposed in discovery.
    MHFESQ: You’re technically right, but I think that any agent that sued his own client, former or otherwise, wouldn’t be in the agent business for long. Players would steer clear. Other agents would say “son, you can sign with who you want, but just so you know, Agent X sued his own amateur client last year . . .”

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