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Chelsea reach for stars with Hollywood agency deal

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Chelsea's Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack could soon be rubbing shoulders with George Clooney and Tom Cruise after the London football club struck a deal with Creative Artists Agency, Hollywood's most powerful talent agency.

CAA represents Clooney, Cruise and many of Hollywood's other leading names such as Steven Spielberg, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. But the agency also has a fast-growing sports division - CAA Sports - which has struck a commercial agreement to represent Chelsea.

CAA Sports will arrange sponsorship and marketing deals for Chelsea and its star players in the US and in other international markets.

The company made its first foray into soccer last year when it helped orchestrate David Beckham's transfer from Real Madrid to the Los Angeles Galaxy. CAA represents Simon Fuller, Beckham's manager, who was the brains behind the Spice Girls and American Idol.

The Chelsea-CAA deal also covers branding, tours and stadium development. Chelsea is keen to expand its Stamford Bridge ground in west London while CAA Sports recently won a tender with the New York Yankees baseball franchise to market a corporate sponsorship for the new Yankee Stadium.

Peter Kenyon, Chelsea's chief executive, said CAA Sports was a "market leader". Howard Nuchow, co-head of CAA Sports, said the company would help Chelsea build upon its growing popularity.

CAA Sports is only two years old but has become the dominant player in US sports talent, representing more than 400 athletes.

In 2006, the group hired two agents from IMG, the sports agency founded by Mark McCormack, and quickly built a business that dominates American football, basketball and baseball.

The company represented four of this year's top eight NFL draft picks - a record for a single agency - and has a roster of top sports stars on its books including Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It sees football as its next growth business and has signed several deals for Beckham. It also brokered Freddie Ljundberg's transfer from Arsenal to West Ham and has struck endorsements for Ronaldinho, Barcelona's Brazilian midfielder.


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