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What Happened to Agent Leigh Steinberg? Sports, Alcohol, Divorce and Clients

Updated on November 29, 2015

Agents for Athletes

Agent Leigh Steinberg speaking at The University of California Berkeley
Agent Leigh Steinberg speaking at The University of California Berkeley | Source

Sports Agencies

If I was to walk up to anyone on the street and ask them about sports agent Leigh Steinberg I would probably get a funny look the vast majority of the time. However asking a random person about the movie Jerry Maguire, or the ‘show me the money’ line used by the film’s star Tom Cruise, their responses would probably be more receptive and understanding.

Recently Leigh Steinberg, who was the inspiration if you will behind the movie, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.

Steingerg’s client portfolio list held such sports stars as NFL quarterbacks Troy Aikman, Jeff George, Warren Moon, Ben Roethlisberger and Steve Young. He also represented other big names from the NFL like Howie Long, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas and Ricky Williams.

Steinberg was one of the professional sports worlds’ “Super Agents”. It has been estimated that he negotiated approximately two billion, yes with a B, dollars worth of professional contracts over his agent career. Modern day fans may not recognize Steinberg’s name but they would probably recall the name of another super agent, Scott Boras. These agents represent numerous clients, across many professional leagues, and possess a great deal of power and clout during contract negotiations.

Sports Industry

So what really happened to Leigh Steinberg? How did he manage to fall so far in such a short period of time? Ironically his demise had nothing to do with what made him as a successful professional agent, but an addiction that many struggle with everyday.

It can be ironic how so many who are viewed as successes can loose that success with a few poor decisions or an addiction of some kind.

David Dunn

Back in 2002 Steinberg’s former business partner David Dunn left their joint agency Steinberg, Moorad & Dunn otherwise knows as SMD. Dunn’s departure probably created a little bit a rift between the two men but when Dunn took numerous NFL clients with him, to his newly created agency Athletes First, tempers flared. Thankfully settlements were made and everyone went their own way; unfortunately the damage was done to Steinberg and he started to look for ways to calm his nerves.

Alcoholism Rehab

Steinberg started to seek refuge in bottles of alcohol, usually vodka. His problems continued to mount with a difficult divorce from his wife in 2008 which didn’t help his abuse of alcohol. Two arrests for DUI occurred as well, once in 1997 and again in 2007; an additional arrest was made for public intoxication in 2008.

Fortunately Steinberg realized the dangerous path he was taking with his alcoholism and he looked for treatment from a rehab center. The problem was he had already traveled too far to just stop and turn around. Those mounting problems are what led him to his recent filing for bankruptcy.

While Steinberg was in rehab, focusing on getting himself better and sober, he didn’t keep tabs on his debts. Steinberg was recently quoted as saying “I just lost track while I was in rehab”.

I guess we can’t blame him for forgetting to pay some bills. He was struggling with an addiction that plagues way too many people in our society. Alcoholism doesn’t discriminate based on your race, religion, sex or financial standings. It may be available to purchase anywhere but, for some people, it can be just as addicting as prescription medication or illegal drugs.

Jobs in Sports Management

Is Leigh Steinberg finished in the agent world? No. I am happy to report that he has stated that he has been sober since 2010. Here’s hoping that he continues that sobriety and is able to re-establish himself in the sports agency world.

Unfortunately he also has a long and difficult journey ahead of him to get back to where he once was. The good news is professional sports is almost the perfect place for him to be while he fights back from his addiction. There are so many athletes who are given a second chance because of their physical talents on a field. Capitalizing on this kind of generosity might be just what he needs to come back.


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    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      Tim - congratulations!

    • profile image

      Tim 5 years ago

      I to have been sober since 2010-keep up the fight Leigh