Until very recently, Dan Fegan was one of the most powerful agents in the NBA. He represented John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Dwight Howard, Ricky Rubio, DeAndre Jordan, and others, while the agency he was president of (Independent Sports & Entertainment) represented scores of NBA, NFL, and MLB players. However, less than a month ago, ISE fired him and sued him for damages in California Superior Court. Worst of all, they replaced him with disgraced former Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson.
Fegan is a serious player in the sports representation business, but he’s now tangling with an ISE bolstered by the financial heft of billionaire grocery store magnate Ron Burkle. This is a power struggle that will test some of the most powerful people in sports, and it has already gotten extremely ugly.
ISE claims that Fegan, whom they paid $20 million to in 2013 to bring aboard, had actively tried to undermine the business by making deals via his own side business instead of within the agency. Fegan claims that the charges were trumped up as a means to sabotage his credibility. Court filings reveal that five of Fegan’s clients have switched over to ISE since he was fired, which Fegan claims is the desired result of an ISE power play to oust him and steal his clients. It’s worth noting that Fegan has lost a few prominent clients, including Howard and Jordan. Jordan fired him after he probably engineered a failed signing with the Mavericks, due perhaps to his personal friendship with Mark Cuban.
ISE sought both damages and a temporary restraining order against Fegan. The case has been removed from California court and bumped to federal court. In a recent declaration, Fegan states that the NBPA is the only authority that can bar him from doing business. NBPA general counsel Gary Kohlman filed an injuction of his own in the case that supports Fegan’s assertions and states that NBPA has the legal authority under federal law to assess whether or not Fegan may act as a player agent.
That’s all fairly procedural and boring, and Fegan makes a convoluted case for his innocence that appeals to bureaucratic process instead of offering specific denials. However, ISE didn’t hesitate to outline much spicier revelations about Fegan and the supposed side hustle he was working on when he got shitcanned.
Several ISE execs filed declarations in court, getting into the allegations against Fegan and detailing an ugly few years of working together. New ISE president Hank Ratner says that in 2016, he and Fegan were working on signing ISE’s agents up for long-term contracts, when Fegan supposedly told him he preferred not to tie agents to ISE long-term so that he could take everyone with him if he decided to ditch the company. Fegan apparently tried to get ISE agents to sign a “loyalty pledge” to him. As Ratner says, “When I reminded Fegan about his duties to the Company, Fegan stated ‘I don’t give a shit about the company.’”
Travis King, an agent and senior VP with ISE, alleges that Fegan was trying to leverage ISE so that he could earn 20 percent of other agents’ commissions, even for negotiations that he had no involvement in. He says he chose to stay with ISE instead of follow Fegan out the door, which Fegan took extremely hard.
One of the agents who stayed with ISE and helped start the rupture between Fegan’s camp and ISE’s was James Dunleavy, who chose to sign a deal with ISE, prompting King and another agent to do the same. Dunleavy says that Fegan made him sign a deal with Fegan Sports when he came on in 2015, and that he was never technically an employee of ISE until January 2017, when he signed a long-term deal. He says Fegan retaliated against him, in ways both petty (delaying reimbursement on expense reports) and serious (undercutting his attempts to sign a new client).
David Bauman is the general counsel for ISE, and he submitted a 137-page whopper of a declaration. While many have detailed Fegan’s supposed side business, the power agent has thus far denied the he operated it while under contract with ISE. However, Bauman alleges that Fegan signed an NBA player to a lucrative shoe deal with Fegan Sports rather than ISE. The agency later found out that Fegan had sidestepped them when they didn’t receive any commission on the deal, and they forced Fegan to pay up.
According to business records on file with the state of California, Fegan Sports LLC is an active business that has been registered in the state since September 2013, only a few months after Fegan signed on with ISE and sold them his previous business, Relativity Sports. His contract with ISE was set to expire at the end of the year, and ISE had been trying to sign him to a long-term deal in an attempt to consolidate the business and stall the infighting. Fegan is now on his own, and although the legal fight is far from settled, he has a few old ISE agents with him. Jarinn Akana, who represents DeMarcus Cousins, has since left ISE to join Fegan, as has Aylton Tesch, who represents several prominent international players. This lawsuit is already ugly, and it seems like it’s only going to get thornier as things progress.