Leigh Steinberg

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Leigh Steinberg
Leigh Steinberg speaking at Berkeley.png
Speaking at UC Berkeley
Born Leigh William Steinberg
(1949-03-27) March 27, 1949 (age 65)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
Education University of California, Berkeley (B.A., J.D)
Occupation Sports agent, Lawyer
Years active 1974-present
Known for Sports agent, Jerry Maguire, philanthropy, advocacy
Religion Jewish[1]

Leigh William Steinberg (born March 27, 1949, in Los Angeles, California) is an American sports agent. During his 30-year career, Steinberg has represented over 150 professional athletes in football, baseball, basketball, boxing, and Olympic sports. He has represented the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft a record eight times, a milestone unmatched within the sports industry.[2]

His client list has included Steve Bartkowski, Steve Young, Troy Aikman, Warren Moon, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Kordell Stewart, Jeff George, Ben Roethlisberger, Myron Rolle, Matt Leinart, Mark Brunell, Ricky Williams, Howie Long, Eric Karros, Dusty Baker, Lennox Lewis, Oscar de la Hoya, and John Starks.[citation needed]

Steinberg is often credited as the real life inspiration of the sports agent from the film Jerry Maguire.[3]


Steinberg was born and raised in Los Angeles by his parents, a teacher and a librarian, who pushed public service along with ambition.[4] He attended Hamilton High School, and was elected student body president and voted most likely to succeed.[5] He attended the University of California, Los Angeles, for one year (1966–67) before transferring to the University of California, Berkeley. Upon his arrival at Berkeley, Steinberg became a member of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity.[6] Steinberg eventually formed his own student government political party, called Unity. His moderate politics at the protest-prone Berkeley at the height of the Vietnam War drew such a following that he was elected President of the Associated Students of the University of California, the university's student government.[7][8] He subsequently resigned from his post as a result of a cheating scandal.[9] He earned a B.A. in political science from UC Berkeley in 1970.

He attended Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law where he was intending to become a public defender when he met his first client, Cal quarterback Steve Bartkowski while working as a dorm adviser, and subsequently was asked to represent the future number one pick.[citation needed] Steinberg was admitted to the California State Bar in 1974 after earning his J.D. from Boalt in 1973.


For many years Steinberg and Jeff Moorad had a sports agency partnership (Steinberg, Moorad & Dunn or "SMD"). They sold that firm in October 1999 to Assante Sports Management Group, a Canadian financial-management firm, for a reported $120 million.[10] Assante acquired several other sports agencies. In February 2002, David Dunn left SMD to open Athletes First, taking about 50 N.F.L. players with him and opening offices about a mile from Steinberg's in Newport Beach, Calif. Extensive litigation ensued involving Dunn and Assante.[11] Steinberg later reacquired some pieces of the agency he had sold to Assante. Steinberg’s firm, Steinberg Sports & Entertainment, maintains offices in Newport Beach, California.[citation needed]

Steinberg has successfully negotiated over $2 billion in contracts for superstars like Troy Aikman, Steve Young, and Ryan Leaf.[12] He has represented the No. 1 pick overall in the NFL draft a record eight times,[2] in addition to representing over 60 other first round draft picks in the NFL. He has also represented multiple first round picks and hall of famers in MLB and the NBA. Furthermore, his practice evolved beyond traditional representation into both golf and the Olympics. In addition to athlete representation, his firm represented multiple teams and colleges.[citation needed]

Steinberg has been rated the #6 Most Powerful Person in the NFL according to Football Digest, and the #16 Most Powerful Person in Sports according to Sporting News. His firm was the pinnacle of athlete representation, while also ensuring that his clients sought out social responsibility over social status.[citation needed]

In addition to representing players, Steinberg has been a leader in advocating player safety. He has campaigned for the removal of Astroturf from stadiums and held symposia on concussions to promote changes in rules, equipment and diagnostic methods to better protect players. Leigh's experiences have driven him to champion this cause, becoming a keynote speaker at several conferences, including the “New Developments in Sports-Related Concussions” conference hosted by a worldwide leader in traumatic brain injury research: the University of Pittsburgh Medical College Sport Medicine Department. Leigh was one of the first to shed light on the concussion issues in professional sports, calling it a “ticking time bomb” and an “undiagnosed health epidemic”.[citation needed]

Steinberg is also a board member for DeskSite.[13]


Steinberg is also well known for his desire for athletes to make a positive contribution to society. Steinberg insists that every contract negotiated for his players include clauses that require the athlete to give back to their hometown, high school, university or national charities and foundations. According to Steinberg, this allows the athlete to function as a positive role model by repaying the community that helped shape him. As a result, Steinberg's clients have donated over $600 million to various charities around the world.[14]

Steinberg contributes his time and efforts to a variety of humanitarian causes. He has actively been involved with the Human Relations Commission, Children Now, Children's Miracle Network, Coro Fellows Program, and the Starlight Foundation. He founded and underwrites the Steinberg Leadership Institute, a nationwide program run by the Anti-Defamation League preparing students to fight racism and inequality throughout the world. He has endowed scholarships at his high school, donated time and resources to organizations such as Special Olympics, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, and Junior Achievement. He has also endowed a classroom at Boalt Hall at the University of California at Berkeley. Steinberg's community activism has drawn praise from the political world. He has received accommodations from Congress, State Senate, State Legislature, The Los Angeles City Council, Orange County Board of Supervisors, President Reagan, President Bush, and President Clinton.[2]

Steinberg's Annual Super Bowl Party brings together the elite individuals in sports, entertainment, business, and politics to raise money for a selected cause. Examples of past parties and their causes include: Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, FL which facilitated live satellite hookups between the party and troops in Iraq and in military hospitals around the world, and Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, AZ had an environmental emphasis and featured Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, Governor Janet Napolitano, and Leigh releasing an endangered hawk back into the wild.[citation needed]


Steinberg is frequently sought out to act as a consultant on a variety of entertainment projects. He has received screen credit as a Technical Consultant on the following feature films: Jerry Maguire, starring Tom Cruise; Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday; and For the Love of the Game, starring Kevin Costner. He has also worked as a consultant for the HBO original series Arli$$ and served as the title sponsor of the annual Newport Beach Film Festival.[2]

Steinberg made an appearance in the film Jerry Maguire,[15] and is often credited as the real life inspiration of the sports agents from that film.

He has developed original television and film content for Fox Television, Warner Brothers Studios, ABC Entertainment, and HBO. He has been at the forefront of the Internet revolution, creating and building sports websites, strategically aligning his firm with ESPN's Sportzone.com and developing online marketing courseware for professionals and students alike. He has lent his marketing expertise to the video game software business and served as a member of the Board of Directors for two software manufacturers.[2]

Media appearances and book writing[edit]

He has been featured on national television programs such as 60 Minutes, Larry King Live, The Today Show, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Frontline, NFL Films, and in magazines such as Business Week, Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine, People, SUCCESS, Forbes, Playboy, and GQ. Currently, Steinberg contributes a weekly column to Forbes, The Huffington Post, and Daily Pilot, as well as occasionally contributing a guest column to The New York Times and Sporting News.[citation needed]

Steinberg wrote a best-selling[16] book with Michael D'Orso, Winning with Integrity: Getting What You Want Without Selling Your Soul, published by Three Rivers Press in October 1999.[17] The book providing readers insight on how to improve their life through non-confrontational negotiating.[2] The majority of the proceeds raised on his 1999 book tour were donated to the Junior Achievement Educational Foundation.[citation needed] He has also penned the foreword in Pray Ball! The Spiritual Insights of a Jewish Sports Fan. His book The Agent: My 40-Year Career Making Deals and Changing the Game will be published in 2014.

Steinberg was a speaker at the independently organized TED Talk hosted by Chapman University.[18] He spoke about "Making an impact in the world through sports". Steinberg gave key insights into the changes he's brought to the world through sports; one of his strategies was to encourage his clients to give back to the high school community that helped shape them. Steinberg made it a practice not to take any clients who weren't interested in contributing.[18][19]

Other endeavors[edit]

An accomplished speaker, Steinberg has traveled the world addressing topics ranging from sports and entertainment, to political and economic issues. In 1992, Steinberg helped lead a successful campaign to prevent the San Francisco Giants baseball club from relocating to Florida. For his efforts, then San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan honored him by declaring “Leigh Steinberg Day” in the city of SF soon after.[2]

In 1994, then Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris utilized Steinberg as a consultant in his successful bid to prevent the Oakland Athletics baseball club from relocating to Sacramento or San Jose.[2]

Steinberg also served as co-chairperson of the “Save the Rams” committee in its unsuccessful attempt to keep the franchise from leaving Southern California and has been active in pursuits to attract a new football franchise to locate in Los Angeles.[2]

Personal life[edit]

He lives in Southern California and has three children.[citation needed]


Steinberg describes his financial problems as having mounted since 2003, when he became involved with extensive litigation with Dunn and Assante[20] (see above), escalating with his 2008 divorce settlement,[21] and also exacerbated by problems with alcoholism.[20][22] Steinberg was arrested for DUI in 1997[23] and again in 2007,[24] and for public intoxication in 2008,[25] all in Newport Beach, California. In December 2011, it was reported that a bench warrant had been issued against Steinberg after he failed to appear at a scheduled hearing, concerning an unpaid judgement of $1.4 million, by far the largest of several debts he owes;[21] in fact the bench warrant was authorized by a judge but never issued.[20][22] On January 11, 2012 Steinberg filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.[20][22]


On March 24, 2012 Steinberg’s friend and business partner, Richard Gillam, threw Steinberg a party at Gillam’s Shady Canyon home in Irvine, California to commemorate Steinberg’s second year of sobriety and to celebrate his 63rd birthday. Two-hundred (200) guests were in attendance, showing a broad range of support for Steinberg’s sobriety achievements.[26]


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