One of the largest individual luxury spirit purchases in history was delivered to the Giants facility two days before Christmas in 2016, the morning after a loss to the Eagles.
In each locker—and on the desks of each member of the organization—was a bottle of Louis XIII cognac, one of the most expensive bottles of liquor in the world. Current expressions of Louis XIII began with cellarmasters in World War I. Each bottle passes through at least three different masters, meaning that anyone who starts the cognac will never live long enough to see the final product. The bottles themselves take more than 40 hours to make and are hand blown.
The bottles were individually engraved and clasped inside a leather case with a mirrored backdrop. Each player got a pair of glasses to go with it.
Olivier Vernon, then in his first season with the club on what was a record-setting five-year, $85 million contract, called his agent, David Canter, 10 days prior and said he wanted to do something special for his teammates. Canter suggested Apple T.V. Vernon settled on Louis Trez, just for his fellow defensive linemen. But then it became the entire defense. Then defensive coordinator Steve Spagnulo. Then general manager Jerry Reese. Four hours later, Vernon called Canter back and said he’d like to purchase bottles for the entire organization, from owner John Mara down to the trainer who wrapped his feet before games.
“This was not a brand partnership either,” Canter says, referring to a lot of extravagant Christmas gifts players give their teammates that often cost the player nothing. “They’re not handing out $4,000 bottles of liquor. I had to get permission from his financial advisor.”
So began a new, far more advanced era of over-the-top Christmas gifting that has evolved into an art of its own. Arcade sized Pac-Man machines. Guns and pistols. Motorized scooters that look like Harley Davidson motorcycles. Custom snowmobiles. Artist-commissioned portraits. And at the epicenter of this movement are many of the large player agencies that act as a concierge for their athletes, helping them secure increasingly rare and otherwise unprocurable items that can stand out.
Canter, who in 2016 met the shipment of Cognac flanked by armed security guards, alongside Ness Mugrabi, a fellow agent and senior vice president of football client relations and services at GSE Worldwide, are considered experts in the field of one-upping. Ahead of the Christmas holiday, we rang them up to see what they’re searching for this year, and what some of their favorite gifts of all time were.
“It’s getting increasingly hard to be unique and creative for men who are extremely resourceful and wealthy,” says Canter, who represents DeMarcus Lawrence, Xavien Howard, Vonn Bell, Jamie Collins, Asante Samuel Jr. and Vernon, among dozens of others.
• Howard, the Dolphins corner who just made his third Pro Bowl, was gifted a stay at the Versace Mansion, the luxury Miami resort and final home of the iconic fashion designer. The Mansion’s highest-end rooms go for nearly $2,000 per night, with hand-painted ceilings, an italian marble bathroom and a balcony overlooking a mosaic pool (also includes cable television and a DVD player, according to their website). Pool-side New Year’s Eve dinners at the mansion start at $595 per person.
• One of Canter’s clients is gifting his teammates high-end Clase Azul tequila, with each bottle hand-painted by an artist from Mexico. Clase Azul retails for upwards of $150 per bottle, and the artwork is entirely unique.
• As part of a promotional deal, Kamalei Correa, the former second-round pick of the Ravens, once received a $15,000 Titan lawnmower, complete with 26 horsepower engine, zero turn radius and, obviously, cupholder.
• One of Canter’s players described a coach who loved cigars and sought Canter’s help in procuring a luxury smoke. Canter was able to corner a supply of a single-batch cigars hand-crafted entirely by legendary Florida cigar maker Armando Artamendi. The make of cigars will never be replicated.
• Mugrabi and Canter used to sign players to holiday endorsement deals landing them electric scooters and E-Bikes, before they were commonplace. This year, all of their clients are getting a suite of CruxGG kitchen products.
“These guys can get their hands on anything,” Mugrabi says. “So it’s about showing them experiences and times they won’t forget. We want them to know we’re there for them.”
It serves as a reminder to all of us—achy and tired from putting together a Barbie Dream House or defeated from the upmark on your CoCoMelon Deluxe Family House Play Set—that there is an entirely different game being played in the world of competitive gift giving. As hard as it was to snag a Tickle Me Elmo or XBox, you could be an NFL agent right now trying to procure high end French cognac at the volume of a lavish crown prince.
More NFL Coverage: