Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Peter Carlisle stands in front of a gallery of his clients in his office at the MHG Ice Centre in Saco. He said when he started his own agency in 1997, he considered the growing popularity of action sports, such as snowboarding, and saw opportunity. “He was a visionary,” says his brother, Jeff Carlisle.
Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer.
Peter Carlisle talks about his career as a sports agent in his office at the MHG Ice Centre in Saco earlier this summer. He said when he started his own agency in 1997, he considered the growing popularity of action sports, such as snowboarding, and saw opportunity. “He was a visionary,” says his brother, Jeff Carlisle.
Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
Gold Medal Clients
From the time he started his own one-man shop in 1997 to today, where he oversees the Olympic and Action Sports division for Octagon, one of the largest sports agencies in the world, Peter Carlisle has represented some of the most successful Olympic athletes in U.S. history. Here’s a look at some of them:
– By Mike Lowe, Staff Writer
"You're going to come up against people who are smarter than you, wealthier than you, have more resources, have some other edge," said Carlisle, sitting on a couch in his office, dressed in jeans and an Oxford shirt. "But I've always had that confidence that I could outwork anybody. Part of that is outworking them, part of that is hating to lose."
'HE CAN FIGURE THINGS OUT'
Even though sports had always been a big part of Carlisle's life -- he played soccer, ice hockey and tennis in high school (Cape Elizabeth for three years, then Northfield Mount Hermon in Massachusetts) and tennis at Bates College in Lewiston -- it wasn't until his senior year at Bates that his life took some direction.
Some of his professors suggested he go to law school. He had shown an analytical mind and the ability to think creatively. Law, they told him, would help him in whatever field he chose.
So, after earning an English degree from Bates, he went to the University of Maine School of Law. When he graduated from there he took a position at Preti Flaherty, a law firm in Portland. While he liked the work, he wanted his own clients. Watching a Portland Pirates hockey game one night at the Cumberland County Civic Center, he hatched the idea of becoming a sports agent.
He looked down on the ice at former Pirate Jason Christie, a small, popular forward. He thought he could do something to promote players like that, maybe not for millions of marketing dollars, but certainly on a lower level.
"It was creative; it was entrepreneurial," he said. "That got me thinking."
So he left Preti Flaherty and began Carlisle Sports Management in 1997.
"Peter was a very good lawyer," said Harold Pachios, a senior partner at Preti Flaherty. "He's smart and he can figure things out. A good lawyer is a problem solver. And when you're dealing with problems, to be successful, you have to look at the whole picture and decide what's the most efficient and effective way to resolve the problem. Peter was very good at that.
"But he had his heart set on being a sports agent. And when he left, I remember thinking to myself, 'How does a guy just decide he wants to be a sports agent when he has no clients and he's not well known among professional athletes?' "
MASTERING THE MARKET
Carlisle became successful because he didn't target athletes in mainstream sports. He looked at the growing popularity of action sports, such as snowboarding, and saw opportunity.
"He was a visionary," said his brother Jeff. "He saw something in snowboarding that no one else at the time saw and he went after it."
His first client was Ryan Mullen, an alpine snowboarder who is now an FBI agent. Carlisle's goal was simple: market Mullen and earn him enough money so that he didn't have to take a second job. That's still his goal for most of his clients, who rely on marketing and sponsorship dollars for much of their income.
"What drew me to this was this great need," Carlisle said. "Most of these world-class athletes that everyone thinks are funded and able to make money ... not only are they totally underfunded, but they have to compete at a disadvantage to athletes on other national teams because they have to work second jobs.
"My objective was to raise enough sponsorship money to enable them to focus, without distraction, on their sport."
Unlike high-profile agents such as Scott Boras, Arn Tellum or Tom Condon -- who negotiate multimillion-dollar contracts for their clients with professional teams -- Carlisle's job is to negotiate marketing and sponsorship strategies for his clients. While he negotiates industry deals for his clients -- skiers, for example, will have sponsors for their poles, goggles, skis and helmets -- he tries to move beyond the sport and create a demand for his athletes.
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