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Fame Jam

Making millions for NBA Stars: the high-powered world of super agents David Falk, Curtis Polk and Mike Higgins.
Alejandro Benes
From the Print Edition:
James Woods, May/Jun 97

(continued from page 1)

"Absolutely," Falk says, not missing a beat. "You need to make another trip down so that we can talk about Patrick."

"All right," Andy says. "Was everything OK with Michael?"

"Oh, yeah," Falk says, then pauses. He scans the room, then puts his arm around Andy and motions with his head for him to move to a quiet corner. Rob Urbach, FAME's vice president of marketing, walks over with them.

"Everybody's looking for action," Ken Ross says, chuckling and enjoying the show.

Representing so many players in one National Basketball Association game is not unusual for Falk and partners Curtis Polk, the 37-year-old president and chief operating officer of FAME as well as a lawyer and certified public accountant; and Michael Higgins, FAME's senior vice president, who turns 38 in May, who began his career as a Hollywood agent.

The three had worked together in the team sports division that Falk headed at Washington, D.C.'s ProServ, an agency that has traditionally focused on individual sports. They left in 1992 to form FAME so they could concentrate on representing athletes in team sports. Now, Falk, Polk and Higgins are the elite members of an increasingly important group in the sports world: the small cadre of financially sophisticated agents who possess marketing expertise. In a time of increasing competition for the entertainment dollar, they represent clients who have notoriously short careers and need to secure strong financial futures quickly. For the FAME partners, this all adds up to very long hours and between 150 and 200 days a year spent on the road. All three share a way to relax: they smoke premium cigars.

"I wouldn't say I'm a heavy smoker of cigars. I've probably smoked cigars on and off for about 10 years. Probably in the last three years I've gotten a good supply of up-brand cigars," says Falk, a man who, in his own field, is often instrumental in defining what the up-brands are. "It's like a good wine; you start to appreciate the better ones. I really started enjoying smoking cigars while playing cards. I'd say in the last year, I've probably smoked six a month. Normally, one or two a week. I love Cohibas and I love Hoyo de Monterreys. They're so smooth. You come to appreciate those things. Three or four years ago I wouldn't have known. I have a lot of Cohiba Robustos, and a friend gave me the longer Hoyo de Monterreys, the double corona."

While Falk doesn't smoke at home in front of his two daughters, he indulges himself on the road. He is careful, however, to pursue cigars as his own personal passion, and not merely because they have become trendy. "I'm almost fighting myself," he says, chuckling. Falk can afford as many of the best cigars that he wants, yet he says, "I don't want it to become a fad. I want to enjoy it. To me it's more like drinking a great wine. I don't drink it every day and I don't smoke a cigar every day. When I smoke them, I really enjoy them." He says smoking a cigar slowly helps him leave behind a bit of the "cutthroat world of celebrity representation."

Falk attributes the success of FAME to the diverse strengths of its partners. He considers that his major role is to bring experience, creativity and instincts to the partnership. "Curtis is my consigliere, if you will, and I think he's brilliant," Falk says. "I think he's strategic. I think he's analytical. And I think he's 100 percent committed to me and to this office. He advises, and I invariably follow his advice. I don't know that I always agree, but I invariably follow his advice.

"Then Michael comes in," he adds, referring to the graduate of the University of Southern California and Whittier Law School, who looks like an ex-football player. "Michael Higgins is probably much more of a people person than either of us." Higgins partied until 5:30 a.m. with a few of FAME's rookies during the All-Star break in Cleveland. To protect the innocent, the details cannot be reported. Falk praises Higgins' commitment and loyalty to the firm. "I'm a great believer that when you form a team, you should never be afraid to have people who have equal talents or even better talents than you do," says Falk.

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