American Way: How did you get to be CEO of the largest sports agency in the world?
David Falk: I was one of those rare individuals that went to college and knew what they wanted to do. I knew that I wanted to be a sports attorney and get into sports representation while I was in law school at George Washington University. I met two pioneers in the industry [Larry Fleisher, who led the NBA Players Association and was a top agent representing Bill Bradley at the time, and Bob Woolf, who represented Larry Bird and Carl Yastrzemski] who suggested I contact sports attorney Donald Dell. After leaving several messages and eventually calling him 17 times in one day, I got an interview with his firm, which, at that time, represented several big tennis names, including Arthur Ashe. I went to work for them at night for free, after I finished my day job clerking at the D.C. law firm of Sidley & Austin. I worked for Dell all summer, hoping for a job when I graduated law school in 1975. Dell finally offered me a job the day I graduated, with a salary of $13,000 a year starting as a lawyer. [Falk's first client was John Lucas, an assistant coach for the Denver Nuggets, then the No. 1 pick of the NBA draft for the Houston Rockets.]
I stayed there through 1991. In the time I was with Dell, I basically went from an unpaid gofer to president of the company. I left the firm in 1992 to go on my own, but unlike the Jerry Maguire character who took only one client with him - I took all 40 I had. Five years later, I was approached by Bob Sillerman [chairman of SFX Entertainment at the time] about selling my firm to SFX. We weren't looking to sell, but he was very persuasive. We gave him a price we thought he wouldn't accept. He did.