August 25, 2013

Sports agent from Maine builds world-class reputation

Some of the biggest names in Olympics sports say Peter Carlisle is 'more than just an agent.'

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 4)

click image to enlarge

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.

20130620_Carlisle
click image to enlarge

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: 

KELLY CLARK,
snowboarder
The Vermont native has won Olypmic gold in the halfpipe in 2002 and bronze in 2010. Has won 10 X Games medals. Named to ESPN’s 50 Most Influential People in Action Sports.

 

 

APOLO ANTON ONO,
speedskater
Has won the most medals (eight) of any U.S. Winter Olympics athlete. He has two golds, two silvers and four bronze medals. Won ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.’’ Retired from competition.

 

 

 

MICHAEL PHELPS,
swimmer
Has won the most medals of any U.S. Olympian in history (22). Also holds all-time Olympic record for gold medals (18). Won eight gold medals in 2008 Beijing Games. Started the Michael Phelps Foundation, to promote swimming and healthy lifestyles. Now retired, but speculation that he will return.

 

ROSS POWERS,
snowboarder
The sport’s first child prodigy won Olympic gold in the halfpipe in 2002, as well as bronze in 1998. The Vermont native started the Ross Powers Foundation, which has since been expanded to the Level Field Fund.
 
 
ALY RAISMAN,
gymnast
Was the captain of the U.S. gymnastics team that won the Olympic gold medal in 2012, while winning an individual gold in floor exercise and bronze in the balance beam.
 
 
 
 
SETH WESCOTT,
snowboardcross
The Carrabassett Valley resident has won the only two Olympic gold medals awarded in snowboardcross (2006, 2010). He is heavily involved in Maine charities and part of the Level Field Fund, which provides grants to gifted athletes in financial need.
 

– By Mike Lowe, Staff Writer

"They had talked to other agencies," he said. "And once that happens, an athlete wants to make a decision, to get on with it."

Instead, Phelps waited and the two eventually met in a lawyer's office.

Early on, as others spoke about Phelps' earning potential, Carlisle looked at Phelps and asked him a simple question -- and clinched the deal.

"I had the opportunity to sit with a number of different agents, to see what they had to say, to read their body language," Phelps said in a phone interview. "The thing that separated Peter from all of them is the first thing he said to me -- 'What can I do for you?' I didn't need to hear anyone else or see anyone else after that.

"It made me feel relaxed. And it took me a little by surprise too because no one else had took the time to ask it. He has since worked with me to achieve my goals: to help swimming and take it to the next level."

The two put together a 10-year plan to elevate swimming. Winning a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing gave Phelps a platform like no other athlete has ever had. And Carlisle has managed his career, providing him marketing opportunities to promote the sport.

Along the way, Phelps said, Carlisle "became more than just an agent to me. He's a friend, a part of the family. He's been there for me through a lot of hard times, picking me up and guiding me."

The hardest time came after the Beijing Games, when a British newspaper published a photo of Phelps smoking a marijuana pipe.

Carlisle counseled Phelps to stand up, don't lie and admit he made a mistake. He told him to call his sponsors and apologize, then to address the media.

In the end, only Kellogg's dropped Phelps. Others, including Visa, Subway, Speedo, Omega, Under Armor, AT&T and Procter & Gamble, retained their business relationships. In fact, that was one of the reasons Sports Illustrated included Carlisle on its list of top agents, noting, "Others listened to Carlisle and stood by Phelps." Phelps now earns about $7 million a year in endorsements.

"My life hasn't been perfect," Phelps said. "I've made a lot of mistakes. But he's been there with me, he's stayed with me. He's picked me up off the ground."

ON STAYING IN MAINE

When Octagon bought Carlisle Sports Management, Carlisle insisted his operation remain in Maine.

He had other suitors, none of whom were willing to agree to that. And Octagon walked away from the negotiations once over that point, only to return six months later.

The company wanted what Carlisle had -- not just his clients, but his experience in Olympic sports -- but he wasn't going to budge. "It's home," he said. "I'm not going anywhere."

He did leave the charm of the Old Port for Saco and the MHG Ice Centre, home to the Portland Junior Pirates and a whole lot more. The Orthopedic Sports Center offers physical therapy and performance centers. The Parisi Speed School is there. The Michael Phelps Skill Center, a new addition for swimming training, is located there.

"For elite athletes, this is totally in line with what we do," Carlisle said.

Carlisle also travels less these days. His children -- 12-year-old Aiden, Kenny, 9, and Meron, 5 -- are getting older and he wants to spend time with them and his wife, Justine. He doesn't see the need to be at every competition on every weekend and his clients respect that.

He keeps active by playing tennis and ice hockey. When he's at his home base, he skates at least twice a week, early morning, in a non-checking hour of fun. He recently got back into hockey when he introduced Aiden to the sport and helps coach his son's team.

"Once I got back on the ice, I realized how much I missed it," he said.

Pachios, at Preti Flaherty, called Carlisle a success story on many levels.

"He's brought a lot of people up here to work who want to be in the sports agency business," Pachios said. "So besides everything else, Peter is good for the local economy and a good example of how a Maine person can start a small business in Maine and then grow it so it becomes a significant Maine business."

There are people who think he's based in Portland, Ore. There are prospective clients, he said, that he knows he won't get as soon as he says he's based in Maine.

He's willing to risk losing a client or two to stay where his heart is.

"People expect him to be in New York or L.A.," said Octagon's Johnson. "But he's a Mainer through and through. That's at the core of who he is." 

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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