One person who continues to fascinate me is John Rickert of Niskayuna. Rickert runs an agency that represents professional athletes, called JR Sports Enterprises, and he also works through another agency, Authentic Athletix.
His official website says, “JR Rickert is one of the most successful agents in the country today. JR represents over 100 professional athletes, entertainers, personalities, and performers and has negotiated over $250 million in professional contracts. From 2007-2011, JR has had a total of 36 clients drafted in the NFL, MLB, and NBA drafts.”
A recent posting said, “Now that the 2012 NFL draft has come and gone, Agent JR Rickert is setting his sights on the Major League Baseball draft, which will take place from June 4th to 6th. Rickert is one of the very few agents in the country who works with players in all 3 major professional sports leagues.”
He was quoted as saying, “We are actively recruiting some outstanding baseball players from around the country, and I am anxious to announce our draft class in the near future. I am very interested in a pitcher from a small New York college and a centerfielder from a California school who reminds me of Johnny Damon.”
An article in the Business Review about a month ago described him in a room at the Holiday Inn in Colonie with several employees working 10 telephones during the National Football League draft. “At one point Rickert had two teams on his phone at the same time with a third trying to butt in,” as he negotiated a deal for a player who had not gotten picked in the draft, the article reported.
In other words, a busy, hard-charging, successful man, running what must be a multimillion-dollar business. During football season he even co-hosts a radio show, “Inside Football,” on Fox Sports 980.
I don’t have much interest in professional sports myself, and even less in the contracts that are negotiated on behalf of its players. What interests me about Rickert is that in addition to his sports business, he is also the principal of Niskayuna High School, a full-time job for which he was paid $133,768 last year.
The last time I asked him how he manages to juggle those two large responsibilities, which was two years ago, he declined to answer in any detail but would only say, “I work real hard to keep the two separate.”
The question occurs to me again now that I see him featured in Forbes magazine’s online edition as the defendant in three separate lawsuits having to do with his business. As near as I can make out, he is being sued by former partners or associates who contend he shortchanged them or otherwise did them dirty.
I got him on the phone to ask him about this, but he put me off by saying he was in the midst of evacuating the high school because of a tornado warning — this was Tuesday afternoon — which turned out to be not strictly accurate. After-school activities were canceled because of the wind-and-rain storm, I learned, but school was let out at the usual time.
I figure he just didn’t want to talk to me. He did say he would email me the same statement that he sent Forbes regarding the lawsuits, but he didn’t, so all I have on that matter is what Forbes had.
It doesn’t matter. I don’t really care about the rights and wrongs, the claims and counter-claims, I just wonder how the devil he
manages to do his job as principal while negotiating contracts with multiple sports teams, representing the business interests of more than 100 athletes and now fighting off lawsuits as well.
I understand that he has employees. He doesn’t do all the lifting himself, but even so.
I asked his boss, Niskayuna’s new superintendent, Susan Kay Salvaggio, about this, and she gave me the old “personnel” dodge, favored by so many public officials: “Oh, that’s a personnel matter. I can’t discuss it,” as if I were inquiring into the deepest secrets of the Knights Templar, when all I wanted to know was whether her high school principal, a public employee, was doing his job.
Her predecessor, Kevin Baughman, had no hesitation in endorsing Rickert two years ago when I made a similar inquiry. “He’s at every school function, he’s at every board meeting, even though he’s not required to be,” Baughman told me. “He’s been a principal for 10 years, and he’s excellent at what he does.”
I found it amazing then, and I still find it amazing.