Woolf, Bob

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WOOLF, BOB (1928–1993), pioneering U.S. sports and entertainment agent who emerged in the mid-1960s as the first of a generation of agents and lawyers who altered the way athletes are paid – from five-figure salaries in the 1960s, before free agency, to $250 million for multiyear contracts today. His sports clients included Larry Bird, Carl Yastrzemski, Joe Montana, Julius Erving, Doug Flutie, and Vinny Testaverde; his entertainment clients included Larry King, Gene Shalit, and New Kids on the Block; he negotiated big deals with Donald Trump, Ted Turner, Roone Arledge, and Red Auerbach. Woolf's family moved from Portland, Maine, to Boston when he was 16, and he graduated from Boston Latin School, and later from Boston College (1949), where he received a four-year basketball scholarship. After obtaining his law degree from Boston University Law School, and enlisting for a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, Woolf opened a successful Boston practice. In 1964, Earl Wilson, a Boston Red Sox pitcher who used Woolf as a tax lawyer, asked him also to handle his endorsement contracts. This led, in 1966, to Woolf's first contract negotiation with a team for Wilson. Since most players had no contract representation, Woolf quickly built a stable of clients, representing nine of the 12 Boston Celtics in their late 1960s championship years, and 14 of the members of 1967 Boston Red Sox. Within five years, Woolf had acquired 300 clients in all sports in all major cities. Woolf was not only an agent, he was a fan. His office in Boston's John Hancock building overlooked Fenway Park, with a telescope aimed at the mound and batter's box. Woolf estimated that he had negotiated more than 20,000 contracts by 1992, but grew increasingly concerned by the spendthrift ways of young clients who did not know the value of a million dollars. "I'm very Jewish-oriented," said Woolf in 1992, "[and] … I'm proud of the basketball tournament that's been held in my name in Israel for the past 15 years." Woolf's widow, Ann, administers the Bob Woolf Foundation. Woolf is the author of Behind Closed Doors (1976) and Friendly Persuasion: My Life as a Negotiator (1990).

[David Brinn (2nd ed.)]

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Woolf, Bob

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