Somebody's out to get Dan Lozano. The agent for Albert Pujols, Lozano is pursuing what everyone expects to be the biggest contract in baseball, the financial and professional zenith of a career that's been two decades of success. When Lozano, 44, left the Beverly Hills Sports Council last year, he took with him his entire stable of players—including Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Joey Votto, Michael Young, Brian Wilson, Carlos Beltran, and Jimmy Rollins. Show me an agent with that much pull, and I'll show you 50 others willing to smear him. But here's the thing about professional sports agents: You don't need anything but the truth to smear them. It's a fast-living, hard-partying world, where vice is a virtue, dirty money rules the day, and tactics are only underhanded if the other guy uses them first.
A plain manila envelope with no return address recently appeared on the desks of a number of media outlets, including ESPN.com, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, and Deadspin. Inside were names, documents, and photographs, all telling a story of Lozano's rise to power by any means necessary. When confronted with similar claims in September, Lozano told USA Today it was just jealousy on the part of a rival. We think we know who sent out the package, and if we're right it's someone with no love lost for Lozano. But the claims are verifiable, and with confirmation from multiple sources who have known Lozano for decades, they're impossible to dismiss as just the fanciful products of a vengeful mind. The mailing pointed the way toward allegations of whoring and harassment and a skeeviness in financial matters that goes beyond what's usual for the species. To hear his fellow agents tell it, Lozano's recklessness has already cost Pujols once at the negotiating table, and it could do so again.
This is the same Lozano who introduced himself to the devoutly religious Albert and Deidre Pujols in 2000 as a faithful Catholic. He wore a prominent cross on his chest and began attending church every week. But was it genuine?
With Lozano, that question is always there. Through the years, he has told clients and colleagues that his career began in 1990 as a kid fresh out of USC, where he played Division I ball and earned a law degree. Every part of that sentence is false. Lozano never passed the bar, never went to law school, didn't even earn an undergraduate degree. He told USA Today that he was just one Spanish class shy of graduating, but he once told a co-worker he lasted only "a few semesters." (He also told USA Today he dropped out because he was "negotiating the biggest deal in baseball history." He was referring to Mike Piazza's gargantuan Mets contract, which was signed nine years after he dropped out.) As for his boast of playing baseball for the Trojans? Longtime USC coach Mike Gillespie has no recollection of Lozano, and his name appears nowhere in a list of all-time letterwinners. It's not for nothing that, according to colleagues, people in the BHSC office took to calling him "Lie-zo."
If there's one thing his superiors at BHSC did know, it's that Lozano was good. He had a preternatural ability to meet a baseball player once and become fast friends. More importantly to his bosses and his bottom line, he had a knack for turning those friends into clients.
"He was downright charming," says a former friend who watched the young Lozano's stock skyrocket. "He said exactly what you wanted to hear, and he became who you wanted him to be. And he could move on to the next player and be a completely different person for them."
His reputation as an agent who would go above and beyond for his players was cemented in 1995, the year before he made partner, by an adventure that Lozano was never able to live down at work. He flew to Baltimore to see Cal Ripken Jr. break the record for consecutive games played and checked in on his client Curtis Goodwin, a speedy rookie outfielder. Goodwin had received the usual player's allotment of tickets to the game, and he gave them to Lozano to sell. Lozano set up outside the gates of Camden Yards, where he was detained by plainclothes police officers for scalping. As BHSC lore goes, Lozano was handcuffed, locked in the holding cell under the stadium, and sprung only when Brady Anderson, in full uniform, came to retrieve him. One phone call to Louis Angelos, the owner's son, and Lozano was freed without being charged.
"If he'll scramble like that for a few hundred bucks," says a former co-worker, "imagine what he would do for $91 million." That was the record-setting price tag for Mike Piazza, who in 1999 signed with the Mets for seven years, moving Lozano into that mythical class of superagents. And once again, it started with a friendship. "Danny the Chameleon" became exactly who he thought Mike Piazza wanted to see, and that involved changing his ethnicity.
Lozano's parents were born in Mexico and he had always been "ashamed of who he was," says an acquaintance. For Mike Piazza, he happily became just another West Coast Italian bro, according to two of Lozano's co-workers and a rival agent. Years later, a framed photo of Piazza in his WBC Team Italy jersey would hang in Lozano's office.
Piazza also liked partying and was a frequent guest at Lozano's frequenter gatherings. Sometimes a bunch of guys would get together at one of Hollywood's newish clubs, and if you had to buy bottle service to get in, then Lozano would buy bottle service. As a matter of course, says a co-worker who often went out with Lozano's crew, there would be women—hired for the occasion.
Other times the party was at Lozano's house in Marina Del Rey, with a backyard opening onto the lagoon. It was at one of these smaller gatherings, on a New Year's Eve in 2001 or 2002, that Piazza was seen in the living room making out with a girl he had met that night. According to a partygoer who was there when the woman was hired, she was a professional escort brought in by Lozano.
According to one competitor, Lozano "was known around the agent scene as a hooker ringleader," and women were his primary and most effective method of wooing potential clients.
"You come out for a meeting," explains that agent, who emphasizes that the practice isn't limited to Lozano. "You have a good time, some good drinks, you take a girl to bed, what's going to happen? You're a 20-year-old kid, and you think every agent is pretty much the same. You're going to pick the one who's fun to hang out with."
Not to mention, he adds, it lets an agent "have something on the guy."
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There's a science to it, and it begins with a little black book. According to a person who saw it, Lozano's was literally a little black book filled with escorts' names and phone numbers. The book would adapt with technology: In 2000 he had the information transferred onto his PalmPilot. A few years later, say co-workers, Lozano had broadened his horizons: He would contact escorts straight off amateur modeling sites, or through their own webpages. When choosing a new woman, says a co-worker who saw the occasional parade of women through the workplace, Lozano would sometimes bring her to his office for a "personal interview." He would take photos—one shows him performing oral sex on an unknown woman—and send them to players to see if they approved.
Nothing so uncouth as exchanging money in front of a professional baseball player ever happens. Sometimes the players don't even know the women are prostitutes. When a potential client came into town, Lozano would go to a convenience store and purchase Green Dot Money Packs, reloadable and untraceable prepaid cards. He would read the pin numbers to the escorts over the phone and give them an up-front fee before they arrived, according to someone familiar with the transactions. Since the maximum amount on a Green Dot Money Pack was $500, he would need to buy a handful for the night.
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Sometimes the women were local, and a hired car service picked them up and took them to the club or his house. But when they were from out of town, he often had his assistant pick up the girl at the airport and chauffeur her around, even taking her shopping, according to a friend of the assistant. The assistant would have to put it all on her own personal credit card, and it would often take months for Lozano to reimburse her. (We contacted the former assistant. She declined to comment and asked that we not name her.) By splurging for his clients, acquaintances say, Lozano was getting himself into serious money problems.
From the moment he was hired, Lozano was never more than just barely out of debt, living contract percentage to contract percentage. He told colleagues he hadn't put a dime into retirement accounts. He borrowed against his pension. When he tried to buy his house in 1997, his credit was so shot that he had to borrow money from Jeff Borris, a senior partner at BHSC, to make a down payment. Borris made sure that the entire office knew he had lent the money and made sure he was repaid with interest.
There was no single demon sucking up Dan Lozano's money. He was doing well, making high six figures annually according to a co-worker's estimate. He just lived beyond his means: a home steps from the beach, a new Range Rover, a tailored suit. It was always something new.
"As soon as he made money, he spent it," recalls an acquaintance, who says Lozano would think nothing of dropping thousands of dollars on dinner, most of it on wine, and would think even less of dropping thousands of dollars on women for himself.
Lozano often entertained prospective clients by bringing them to porn shoots, a co-worker says, but gradually he began dating adult film stars and escorts. There was Alisha Klass, the former fiancée of porn mogul Seymore Butts. There was Julián, the androgynous Filipina. But these flings never lasted long. One of his steadier relationships, lasting a year, was with a pretty blonde named Kristen, who told at least one person in Lozano's circle that she had been a call girl. She was now trying the sugar-baby route: A source familiar with Lozano's finances says he spent $50,000 a month taking care of her.
"He has had no meaningful relationships because he's incapable of it," says a former co-worker. There was one long-term relationship, with a normal girl from Florida, and they got engaged. When she broke it off, it hit him hard. He didn't come in to the office for three weeks.
He drank; drank wine and drank regularly. A co-worker said there was rarely a night out where Lozano didn't get "borderline shitfaced." In a 2005 profile, he listed his fantasy job as "wine sommelier." On March 29, 2007, he was charged with DUI in Scottsdale, Ariz. He pleaded guilty, later telling USA Today that he had "too much wine at dinner."
A former co-worker concedes that there's nothing unique about an agent lying, drinking, or whoring. They're all common vices in that world of long hours and brutal competition.
"You kind of accept that you're getting into the sleaze," the agent says. "It's a sleazy world. But Danny was King of Sleaze Mountain."
If his lifestyle was hard on Lozano, it was grating on his co-workers, who say he got lazy after he made partner. They accuse him of never doing prep work for his clients, never bothering with the nuts and bolts of contracts, and never once attending an arbitration hearing—a claim confirmed by a league source. He left the grunt work to his subordinates, they say, then swooped in to close the deal and take the credit and his cut.
"He'd do this one thing all the time," a former co-worker recalls. "Say he'd get an offer of a million. He'd go back to his player and tell him they'd been offered $800,000, but that was way too low and he'd do what he can. He'd wait a few days, accept the original offer, then tell his player: ‘I talked them up to a million. See how I fight for you? See how I fight for you?'"
Lozano fought for his own star as well. It is common for company PR managers to push to get agents on SportsBusiness Journal's "40 Under 40" power list, but BHSC's never championed Lozano. So in 2005, according to colleagues, he paid the PR manager himself. His one-man campaign was successful.
"He was a bully," a former colleague says. "He got off on humiliating people." On one occasion, according to multiple people who witnessed it, Lozano blew up at a co-worker and forced him to sit on a water jug in the corner, in "time out."
His anger got the better of him on one occasion. In 2005 or 2006, Lozano was involved in a road-rage incident near his home. Lozano told his co-workers that when the other driver got out of his car, he rolled down his side window—only to get sprayed in the face with mace. He briefly went to the hospital, but returned to the office the next day, his face still bright red.
Worse than any of this, as far as the industry is concerned, are accusations that Lozano stole clients. It would happen the same way every time, according to people who witnessed it. After a junior agent brought in a promising player, Lozano would insinuate himself into their relationship. He would insist on being present for any meeting. He would start hanging out with the player and become fast friends. Later, he would forbid any other BHSC agents from speaking to the player when he called. Soon it would be formalized: Young player X, in line for a handsome payday, was to be represented by Dan Lozano.
Colleagues say it happened with Michael Young. It happened with Jimmy Rollins. And it certainly happened with Albert Pujols. Though Pujols has been nominally represented by Lozano since 2000, the actual, physical work of signing him had been done by a subordinate. But Lozano won over Pujols completely, and co-workers say he again did it by becoming who he thought Pujols wanted to see. Danny the Chameleon.
In this case it meant becoming a pious man. Danny the party animal, Danny the drinker, and Danny the Lothario were all gone. It was Good Catholic Daniel Lozano who came courting, though a colleague at the time says Lozano confided about his church attendance that he "was only going to meet hot chicks." (He wasn't always so courteous to his star client. According to a source, a co-worker once overheard him calling a young Pujols "just some Dominican monkey.")
Albert Pujols was the best thing that ever happened to Dan Lozano, who by 2004 was nearly broke, colleagues say. A source familiar with the negotiations says the Cardinals knew of Lozano's money issues (as did many GMs around baseball), and they knew he was desperate to get a contract extension signed as soon as possible.
"How can you handle your client's finances when you can't handle your own?" asks a rival agent.
The result: eight years at $14.5 million a year. One executive called it "the best owner's contract in baseball," according to a baseball source.
If it wasn't full market value, it was money right when Lozano needed it. A year before, he had paid out nearly a million dollars to settle accusations of sexual harassment from two former employees. On Jan. 2, 2003, one of those complaints was filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the state agency responsible for discrimination and harassment cases. (The complaint, which isn't public, was included in the packet sent to us. A source familiar with the case confirms that it's legit.) From the charging party's description of events:
Mr. Lozano began grabbing Ms. [Redacted], pressing himself against her and on at least two occasions, Mr. Lozano forcibly tried to pull her shirt off. Mr. Lozano told Ms. [Redacted] that he would pay her gas and telephone expenses only if she would let him fondle her breasts. Mr. Lozano also frequently told Ms. [Redacted] about the prostitutes and strippers he booked for his clients and he instructed her, as part of her job, to input the names and numbers of these prostitutes and strippers into his PalmPilot.
The cases were quickly settled, with Lozano paying $750,000 to the accusers. Last month, Lozano told USA Today that the harassment cases were company matters and not specifically his own. People familiar with the cases dispute this, and say that in 2003 BHSC served Lozano an official letter of reprimand, assigning him full responsibility and ordering him to personally cover all legal fees.
When Lozano left BHSC to start his own agency in May 2010, he didn't immediately have enough funds on hand—bank records show that in November, he took out a $2 million loan against his house. In addition, four fellow agents suspect that Lozano's clients were providing extra cash by purchasing stakes in his company—a clear conflict of interest. According to sources who have worked with Lozano's players, the transactions are made through a Merrill Lynch money manager in Coral Gables, Fla., so as to hide the deals from the MLBPA. One rival agent went so far as to confirm the dealings with his own contact at Merrill Lynch. According to that contact, Alex Rodriguez is one of Lozano's larger investors.
When Rodriguez signed with Lozano in May, it raised questions: Rodriguez's contract runs through 2017, and his endorsement deals are handled by another agency, so there's little a new agent could do for him. But Rodriguez is reportedly doing plenty for Lozano. According to agents familiar with the South Florida baseball scene, Lozano has repeatedly used Rodriguez as a recruiter for young talent.
Over the winter, even before Rodriguez made it official with Lozano, he was seen hanging out with a trio of highly ranked Miami-based prospects: the Orioles' Manny Machado, the Reds' Yonder Alonso, and the Twins' Danny Valencia. A South Florida-based agent says Rodriguez was the elder statesmen showing the kids a good time: parties, events, and just chilling at his condo. In February, all three left their current agencies and signed with Dan Lozano.
According to people familiar with Icon Sports Group, Lozano has been promising them the world—in the form of Albert Pujols. The grand plan, which he thought foolproof enough to allow him to leave BHSC, was a $200 million-plus contract, with Lozano taking four or five percent. When that ship comes in he'll be able to repay his players everything they've allegedly lent him, with money left over.
"It all hinges on Albert," one agent says. "He's got this house of cards, but there's really only one sure thing in the deck. He's built his entire career on the back of Albert. Pujols basically saved this guy's life twice, and he and his wife still have no idea what he's really about."
What is Dan Lozano really about? "I don't think even he knows anymore," says a person who's known Lozano for 15 years. "He's told these lies so many times, he believes them."
Lozano told USA Today that the allegations against him are the product of jealous agents whom he's beaten out for the biggest names in the game. That doesn't mean the claims are lies, or that they can't be verified by people familiar with his past. Among the people who were willing to discuss their experiences with Lozano, there was anger that he'd been able to get away with his tactics for so long without repercussions. But there was also pity and a sense that everything got away from Dan Lozano long ago, and the life he's living is no longer the one he wanted, but one that requires more lies to keep it going. For an agent, it's possible to keep up a life like that indefinitely—at least until somebody decides it's time to take you down.