Famed agent Arn Tellem joins Pistons, Palace

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Arn Tellem has been a powerful sports agent since the early 1980s.

Legendary sports agent Arn Tellem, who's negotiated more than $3.5 billion in contracts for baseball and basketball players while building a reputation as one of the most powerful men in sports, is leaving that world behind to join the Pistons and Palace Sports & Entertainment.

The News learned of the hiring early Friday morning, and has obtained a copy of the press release announcing the move.

"Arn is one of the most accomplished and respected sports executives in the world," owner Tom Gorres said in a statement "He has great passion, integrity and honesty, and he shares my belief that sports can be a catalyst for change in the community. He is an outstanding addition to our leadership team who will help make us make a real difference in Detroit.

"Given his experience and all of his success, Arn could have gone just about anywhere and he chose Detroit. His excitement and enthusiasm about coming here says a lot about this community, about the Pistons tradition, and about the potential of the franchise. This is a big win for Detroit."

Tellem will move to Detroit, serve as the vice chairman of PS&E and will report directly to Gores. His start date is Aug. 3, giving him time to wrap up his commitments at the Los Angeles-based Wasserman Media Group.

While Tellem lists a long list of prominent NBA players as clients -- including the Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green, the former Michigan State star who is playing in the NBA Finals -- he is not expected to be involved in any personnel moves with the Pistons. Those will be remain with Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons president and coach who is entering the second year of a five-year, $35-million contract. Van Gundy will continue reporting to Gores.

In the press release, Gores said Tellem, as part of his role with PS&E, will be in charge of business strategy, public affairs and development, and strengthening community outreach. As part of his role with the Pistons, he will be in charge of business operations, league initiatives and will serve as an alternate governor on the NBA's Board of Governors.

The news first was reported early Friday by Yahoo! Sports, and confirmed by other outlets, including The News.

"The decision to change careers was in one sense a difficult one, because I am leaving a terrific job with great clients and an outstanding leader in Casey Wasserman," Tellem said in the press release. "But in another sense it was an easy decision, because I am joining another great organization with an outstanding leader in Tom Gores, who is committed to ensuring Palace Sports & Entertainment is a championship organization both on the court and in the community.

"I'm energized by the potential in Detroit and throughout the region -- in commerce, the arts and on the basketball courts and playing fields. I hope to make a constructive impact on the Motor City and contribute to the turnaround that is under way."

In the press release, Van Gundy said even though Tellem's role will be on the business side of things, he "won't be shy" about turning to him for insight on basketball matters.

Tellem, 61, a Philadelphia native with a law degree from the University of Michigan, began his professional career as an agent representing Major League Baseball and NBA players in the early 1980s. He has represented more than 500 players, among them Ben Wallace, for whom Tellem negotiated the four-year, $60-million contract with the Bulls in 2006. That concluded Wallace's first run with the Pistons.

This past season, Tellem's NBA clients combined to earn nearly $325 million. Tellem's most notable current MLB client is Yu Darvish, the injured Rangers ace who got a six-year, $56-million deal after leaving Japan in January 2012.

He has been one of the most influential people in sports for decades -- the title character in the HBO show "Arli$$" was, in part, based on Tellem -- and has previously shown interest in moving to the other side of the bargaining table and joining a sports franchise. He was part of a group that bid unsuccessfully for the Dodgers in 2012, and some thought he might get in on the bidding for the Clippers last year, but he didn't. Tellem did serve as general counsel for the Clippers from 1982-88.