Maria Sharapova’s Agent May Be Just a Little Insane

U.S. Open season is as good a time as any to consider the role of the sports super-agent. Max Eisenbud, who manages tennis sensation Maria Sharapova, is a great model for success in the business–and then some. In a rare show of openness for a PR pro, he allowed The New York Times to publish a fairly extensive profile of him and his career this week.

In case you didn’t know, Sharapova has been the top-earning female athlete in the world for eight years in a row. Harvard Business School offers a course based solely on the building of her brand.

So what about Eisenbud? Well, he’s been in the ball-and-racket game for some time. A former college tennis player, his first foray into the PR biz came while organizing college parties and concerts, but he came across Sharapova when he was 27 (she was 12) and immediately recognized her as his “meal ticket.” Eisenbud’s background makes him an ideal representative for tennis stars, and given his long history with Sharapova, it makes perfect sense that the two would have a very close relationship (she calls him “half family, half agent”).

In fact, he’s taken his success with Sharapova viral. Where did he look for next big thing? China, of course.

Eisenbud also manages the second highest paid female athlete in the world, Chinese tennis sensation Li Na. In case you haven’t heard, there’s a fortune to be made in selling Western goods to the Chinese public, and she’s already scored endorsement deals totaling more than $40 million.

Seems like Max knows how to pick ’em, huh?

He’s nothing if not professional; he agreed to the Times profile only if he could use it to bring attention to his favorite client’s new business venture, a candy company called Sugarpova. He plays all roles, from organizing clients’ schedules to making sure their hotels are perfectly suited to their individual tastes and even “coddling their overbearing parents.” Sound familiar? He also claims that he initially avoided entering the world of sports management because “he mistakenly thought agents had to be lawyers.” Isn’t he adorable?

OK, PR pros: Does your personal and professional professional history qualify you to specialize in handling certain kinds of clients? And have you ever witnessed a client-agent relationship as intimate and longstanding as the Sharapova/Eisenbud partnership?

Did she make him? Did he make her? Or was it a little bit of both?