It's a bombshell of a story and one that nobody is going to delight in. Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson is going through bankruptcy and the path to financial ruin seems to have been blazed by his own parents.
Columbus Dispatch reporter Aaron Portzline has the shocking story and it really is worth the full read. In a nutshell, Johnson left super agent Pat Brisson in 2008, right before signing his $30.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Kings and went unrepresented, turning his finances and power of attorney over to his mother, Tina Johnson. I've been told by a source (not Brisson) that Johnson's parents didn't want to pay the agent fees.
From there, Tina and Jack Johnson Sr. allegedly burned through their son's money – not to mention money he didn't even have yet – on trips, cars, a house and high-interest loans. They kept their son in the dark as to where his earnings were going, but eventually the lawsuits began piling up.
Johnson is now free from his parents' clutches and has surrounded himself with real professionals who are attempting to entangle him from the financial web he is ensnared in. This is certainly a cautionary tale for hockey players and the most obvious thing that jumps out to me is that this never would have happened if Johnson stayed with Brisson.
The agent to Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane and Nathan MacKinnon, Brisson sits atop a CAA hockey roster of agents alongside J.P. Barry and many others. CAA is a large agency and one of the premier firms in the sport, with an infrastructure that includes financial planning and many resources for clients. Rand Simon is an agent with Newport Sports Management, a CAA competitor and another premier agency in hockey with clients including Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty and P.K. Subban. Simon also holds a certified financial planner designation at Newport and notes that his firm has a section of staffers dedicated to their clients' well-being. Their services include reviewing paychecks, making sure the player's bills get paid, that he has proper insurance and that he's on budget.
"It's not a mandatory service," Simon said. "But I'm pleased to say that the vast majority of our players starting out do use the service."
I know player agents can get a bad rep, but there are some very good firms and very good individuals out there. They may dislike each other, but they also care for their clients. Are there some bad eggs out there? Sure. My experiences have been almost entirely positive with various agents over the past decade, but I'm not naive. What I do know is that unless your parents are both chartered accountants, they shouldn't be in charge of your huge windfall. And make no mistake: There are just as many bad hockey parents out there as there are agents.
"You worked very hard for that money," Simon said. "Just preserve it. You don't need to turn $30 million into $60 million."
It's easy to think about these large lump sums as never-ending, but Simon believes conservative investments are smarter. Keep in mind: With escrow payments and personal taxes, the take-home on $30 million may only be about $12-13 million in the end. And yeah, that's more money than I'm ever going to make in my lifetime, but I'm not out there buying California beach property or Ferraris.
If there's a silver lining to Jack Johnson's plight, it's that he found out about this while he still had plenty of earning years left in him, not after he retired. With the right people surrounding him, hopefully he rights the ship. And if any young Blue Jackets are thinking of ditching their agents in favor of their parents, he can tell them it's not a good idea.