Show me the money: The agents behind skiing’s biggest stars

Show me the money: The agents behind skiing’s biggest stars

 

Watching sports agent Michael Spencer while one of his athletes competes is almost as exciting as spectating the event itself. Spencer’s piercing blue eyes settle on the course and narrow in intensity. As he paces back and forth, his gloved hands come together with such force, they create a loud thwap through layers of insulation. His repetitive shouts of support— “Come on, [insert athlete name], come on!”—rise above even the loudest X Games crowd. It’s the only way he knows how to release the nervous energy that overcomes him at every high- stakes event. Spencer might turn red in the face, and he might lose his voice, but if you are a high-profile skier, he’s just the kind of guy you want negotiating your contract.

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As vice president of action sports and Olympics at Wasserman Media Group, Spencer manages the largest roster of any agent in freeskiing: Simon Dumont, Gus Kenworthy, Torin Yater-Wallace, Jossi Wells, Byron Wells, Kelly Sildaru, Justin Dorey and Lyman Currier. He’s also been in the game the longest. He signed Dumont in 2003, when Tanner Hall was the only other skier with an agent. The 43-year-old holds a law degree and lives in Park City with his wife and two young daughters. His intensity doesn’t surface until it needs to—say, one of his athletes is on the cusp of qualifying for the next round or losing a major sponsorship deal.

Before Dumont ever climbed atop a major podium, he hired Spencer to secure brand partnerships and endorsement opportunities and to negotiate his contracts. More than a decade later, Dumont credits Spencer for much more than securing his salary. “He’s like a father to me,” says Dumont. “He’s kept me as grounded as he could and always pointed me in the right direction. He helped mold me into what I am today.”

In the last ten years, sports representation in freeskiing has gone from unheard of to commonplace. Chairlift deals between ski companies and parents have evolved into 15-page, six-figure contracts from the legal desks of car and energy drink companies, making the role of the ski agent indispensible for athletes in the sport’s upper echelon. The role is evolving as quickly as the sport, but the agent’s primary responsibility remains the same—deal with the business side so their clients can focus on skiing.

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