The Tennis Space: People of Influence:
Number 4: Max Eisenbud.
Sphere of influence: Maria Sharapova; Li Na; tennis endorsements; tennis’s cross-over into celebrity culture, fashion and lifestyle; the growing Chinese tennis market.
Eisenbud is the most powerful agent in women’s tennis, representing the world’s two highest-earning sportswomen, in Sharapova and Li. The American, who works for International Management Group, was powerful enough when he was just Sharapova’s agent. And then he signed Li, who last year won the French Open to become China’s first singles grand slam champion – suddenly, here was a player who could help Western companies make an impression in the East.
Eisenbud is not afraid to use his power at the negotiating table. While other Nike players, such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Sharapova are prohibited from having any other sponsors’ patches on their clothes, just the company’s swooshes, Li has special dispensation to do so. That was because Eisenbud made it plain to Nike that a Chinese clothing company were interested in his client. Even if Sharapova and Li never win another slam, it will take a while for their power to fade. So, by extension, Eisenbud will retain his power and influence.
What next: Looking for the next generation, who will replace Sharapova and Li on the talk-shows and billboards.