Our compatriot Dries Smits is one of the most important cycling brokers in the world. A selection from his portfolio: Julien Alaphilippe, Lotte Kopecky, Michael Mathieu, Arnaud Démare, Yves Lampert, Tim Marlier, Jasper Stuyven, Ties Benoot, Tim Wellens, Luc Plapp, Ben O’Connor, Pavel Sivkov, Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet . Since 2017 he has made Squadra Sports Management into an established value in Peloton.
It is not illogical that Smets attracted Wasserman’s interest in this way. The American sports, music and entertainment conglomerate from Los Angeles has already represented some of the world’s top players in a range of sports, but cycling has been a blind spot until now. Earlier this year it invested a few million dollars in the creation of the Circuit Racing International Tour, a collection of bicycle races in the US, to lift American cycling out of the doldrums.
“The first conversation is over a year ago,” says Smeets. “At first I was a little hesitant. When it comes to business, we sometimes associate American companies with an aggressive and overly businesslike style. But from several conversations, including one with the owner – Those who are fond of cycling themselves – it turns out that they also found the human aspect very important. I also got the necessary guarantees about this. So our day-to-day approach will not change, because the riders will not feel the acquisition. In other words, right now my colleagues are solving their questions and problems, as we have always done and will continue to do so.”
With the acquisition of Squadra Sports Management, the cyclists have now become the second largest sports management company in the world, good for $9.5 billion in contracts for 2,000 clients. Top soccer players – Federico Valverde (Real Madrid), Nathan Ake and Josh Stones (Manchester City), Denzel Dumfries (Inter) and Leander Dendonker (Aston Villa) – NBA basketball players – Klay Thompson, Brittney Griner – Olympic swimmers to seven times champion Katie Ledecky and the world’s top players in golf, ice hockey and athletics. Wasserman is also huge in the music industry. It represents world stars such as Kendrick Lamar, Billie Eilish, David Guetta, Strome and Coldplay.
“I have informed the riders in recent weeks and they are enthusiastic,” said Smets. “They understand the benefits. Look, I’ve been in the business myself for sixteen years. I know a lot more about the technology of cycling now. But I can learn a lot from other sports. In the new structure, We will hold regular online consultations with people who have a similar situation in other sports.
“There are still many traditional thinking patterns in cycling. We can definitely learn from other sports, in terms of sponsorship activation or social media presence.”
Dries Smits becomes Senior Vice President at Wasserman and may continue to operate out of Mechelen under the American flag along with the rest of his current staff. “I want to be a part of the story,” Smets said. “Believe me or not, but for me it was about taking the next step as a company. More than the right price when selling. I involved everyone in the office in the decision. To put it bluntly – we sell a lot and we’ll see.
Can we call it shocking that an American agency is acquiring Squadra Sports? Cycling is a very minor sport in the United States. “I’m not surprised,” Smets said. “There is no tradition of cycling in the United States, but there are many people who actively cycle. Manufacturers like Trek and Specialized are also American companies. The full Netflix story, along with the documentary about the Tour, It wouldn’t have happened if there was an insufficient base for cycling in America. That’s the challenge for us, too: to find that untapped potential.”
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