Is Jay-Z Expanding Roc Nation Too Far?

April 3rd, 2013

(Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

By: Gee King

Jay-Z’s ambition has always pushed him beyond the perceived limits of art and business. But while being ahead of your time can be a great advantage in both worlds that the rapper/mogul inhabits, Mr. Carter’s unmatched drive could also lead to disaster if he doesn’t slow down from time to time to take a look back at the past.

Jay’s recent venture into sports management, Roc Nation Sports, is brimming with opportunity for both him and his new clients. But it could also be a dangerous endeavor for the highly respected brand he’s built as a self-proclaimed business, man. Roc Nation Sports recently signed its first client, New York Yankees All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano, creating a huge buzz in the sports and music worlds. But before Jay fancies himself the rap Jerry McGuire, he would be wise to consider the rise and fall of his predecessor atop hip hop’s mogul mountain, Master P.

The No Limit capo was, at one point, the biggest boss in the game thanks to his brilliant strategies for independent marketing via music, movies and apparel. But when P decided to try his hand at sports management, signing Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams and a number of NBA players in the late 1990s, he failed epically and ruined the momentum he’d spent over a decade building.

Hindsight clearly shows that P’s ambition exceeded his preparation for the journey into a new industry. While he should be respected as a pioneer for even attempting to infiltrate the agency structure that rules athletics, many of his forward-thinking ideas seem laughable today because of poor execution.

P’s partnership with Leland Hardy, who famously managed the finances of Venus and Serena Williams, was thought to be the bridge needed to safely navigate the gap between music and sports. But while he clearly mastered the art of attracting talent to his company (Sam Cassell, Ron Mercer and Brian Shaw were NBA clients), he found a limit to his ambition after the unorthodox rookie contract his company negotiated for Williams turned out to be a disaster. The $20 million training complex P began building for his clients was maybe the most telling that he was thinking bigger than he was capable of acting.

But Jay-Z has rarely failed when venturing into a new business. From fashion lines to executive positions, Jay’s calculated approach to new challenges will likely lead Roc Nation Sports to greater heights than its No Limit predecessor was able to reach. Jay shares an even greater cultural kinship with top athletes than P did in the 1990s and his decision to partner with CAA (Creative Artists Agency), the world-renowned agency who currently counts David Beckham, Derek Jeter and Dwyane Wade as clients, will eliminate much of the risk P took on with his in-house approach.

As a full-service management company, Roc Nation sports will be able to offer athletes like Cano opportunities in entertainment that few other companies could match. Jay is clearly dedicated to making the most of this opportunity considering the fact that he would have to sell his ownership shares in the Brooklyn Nets to start signing NBA players, something he is clearly interested in doing. As long as he doesn’t get too far ahead of himself or the rest of the world, Hov could add yet another empire to his dynasty.

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