Students start business to help athletes make leap to the pros

Cliff Reeder/Daily
Brandon Graham is one of the first clients for a new student start-up. Buy this photo

BY JOSEPH LICHTERMAN
Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 29, 2009

At the beginning of the year, Michigan football players Brandon Graham and Brandon Minor knew they were likely to enter the 2010 NFL Draft. They also knew that when the time came, they would need a lot of help.

They knew they would have to train for the NFL combine, an annual event in which college football players showcase their athleticism in front of coaches, general managers and scouts. But when it came to the business side of things — finding agents and managing portfolios as well as numerous other money-related issues — they were at a loss.

That’s where LSA junior Jordan Klein and Business junior Daniel Sillman came in. The two started Compass Management Group to help college athletes manage their business affairs when they are transitioning to the pros. Graham and Minor are their first clients.

Graham said he and Minor asked Sillman and Klein to help them find agents and handle their finances because they trust them.

“A lot of things have happened in my life where I’ve not known somebody I can trust,” Graham said in a telephone interview with The Michigan Daily last night. “(Jordan) and Dan know a lot and this is the best situation for me.”

Sillman and Klein said they met Graham and Minor through mutual friends and have been close ever since.

"These kids are family to us," Sillman said. "They come home for the Jewish holidays. They know all our families. And they really are family."

And when the athletes came to them for help finding an agent, they gladly accepted.

Due to NCAA rules that prohibit student-athletes from having paid representatives, Klein and Sillman did not form Compass Management until the Monday after the football game against Ohio State University. During the season, though, the two assisted the players by researching potential agents.

“We felt when they asked us to do this, we wanted to do it legally, legitimately and correctly.” Sillman said. “By forming a company after the season, we could handle all the affairs they asked us to (handle).”

Sillman said a surprising number of professional athletes go bankrupt because they don’t know how to manage their money. He added that Compass Management was formed to help its clients handle, invest and budget their money wisely.

“There is a lot that needs to be done with (a professional athlete’s) investment portfolios, CPAs, tax and estate planners, insurance agents, their large purchases and so on,” Sillman said. “We feel we create a checks-and-balances system to protect the player and help them.”

Sillman said they have already helped Minor and Graham sign with an agent. He added that the company will now focus on ways to “preserve (the players’) wealth and create business opportunities for them.”

The two football players are currently the company’s only clients, but Klein said they expect to sign more athletes — in a variety of sports — by June.

“Professional athletes lose money in all different leagues.” Klein said. “It’s not only the NFL, it’s the NBA and the NHL (as well).”