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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
The men who control Beckham
By Tom Fordyce

During the protracted transfer of David Beckham, much was heard from Manchester United's Peter Kenyon, Barcelona's Joan Laporta and Real Madrid's Jorge Valdano.

David Beckham looks concerned
Beckham's image is carefully controlled

But nothing any of those men said had the slightest effect on Beckham's future unless it was agreed by his management agency, SFX.

But just what is SFX, who are the men on whose advice Beckham will act, and how did they become so powerful?

What is SFX?

SFX Entertainments represents some of the biggest names in British football - Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Alan Shearer and David Seaman. But it is much, much bigger than that.

Owned by Robert FX Sillerman, a publicity-shy New Yorker, it has been described as the "cookie monster" of the entertainment industry because of its policy of buying up smaller companies.

Through its purchase of the US agency, Fame, SFX's clients now include basketball legend Michael Jordan.

Who is Jon Holmes?

Holmes, SFX Europe's group managing director, was one of Britain's first sports agents. He is responsible for overseeing Beckham's major sponsorship contracts, along with marketing specialist Jamie Jarvis.

Holmes established Park Associates in Nottingham in 1981.

David Beckham speaks on his mobile phone
Beckham is in constant contact with his advisors

His first clients were David Gower, Peter Shilton and Tony Woodcock, but it was the signing of Gary Lineker and the way he handled the player's lucrative transfers and image which made the company a major mover.

Holmes is the public face of SFX in the UK, the man you will see quoted in the media.

Under his guidance, SFX (Europe) expanded into the wider world of entertainment. Holmes is a programme consultant for BBC Television's They Think Its All Over and SFX has made documentaries for Sky about Beckham, Owen and Seaman.

"The development of the client is what we're interested in. That's where you maximise earning potential, not through moves," says Holmes.

"We can now make our own commercials, so if Lucozade want Owen we can not only provide him but shoot the advert too.

Who is Tony Stephens?

Stephens, marketing director of SFX (Europe), is Beckham's front man in footballing negotiations.

He is rarely quoted and seldom photographed, preferring to conduct his clients' business in the utmost secrecy. It is understood to have been Stephens who made contact with Real Madrid as long ago as April.

Stephens, who as a keen amateur footballer in the late 1970s played for a Sunday League side called Martini International, became commercial manager of Aston Villa in 1983.

After a spell as marketing director of Wembley Stadium, promoting leading sports events and concerts, he founded Tony Stephens Associates in 1988 and, just as Holmes did with Lineker, grew his business through his success with David Platt.

Stephens has negotiated sponsorship deals for Beckham worth 17m a year, including the 4m-a-year deal with adidas.

Who else is involved?

Up to 15 other SFX employees work on Beckham. Public relations are handled by a different company, called the Outside Organisation, who also operate as Victoria Beckham's management company.

They are run by Alan Edwards, the long-term publicist for David Bowie and former publicist for the Spice Girls, who also looks after Elton John.

Edwards decides which newspapers and magazines Beckham speaks to, how often, and when. His fee to represent Beckham is said to be paid by adidas, which is desperate to see their star man's image protected.

Who, in turn, controls SFX?

SFX is part of Clear Channel, a worldwide live entertainment company worth 15bn which owns venues and media channels in 63 countries.

In the USA the company has 1,200 radio stations, with 110m listeners a week. It is also the biggest venue operator, puts on 26,000 events per year and claims to reach half of all US adults via highway billboards and ads in malls, airports and city centres.

It is rumoured to be ready to move into British radio - giving it - and therefore SFX and clients like Beckham - even greater access to the worldwide media.

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