BY CHASE STEWART
Matt Beyer is a sports agent, but not just any sports agent. He is the first and, so far, only foreign sports agent in China.
His first trip to China was when he was 10 years old and his parents adopted a boy and a girl from an orphanage in China. After a second trip, Beyer decided that, instead of going to college after high school, he would head to China to get firsthand experience in the country and perfect his Mandarin. Beyer spent two years in China before returning home to Wisconsin.
Upon his return, Beyer attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison to pursue bachelor’s degrees in Chinese literature, East Asian studies and journalism. During his junior year, the Milwaukee Bucks drafted Yi Jianlian with the sixth pick of the 2007 draft. Realizing Yi would need a translator, Beyer began attempting to contact the Bucks and offer his services. At first the Bucks didn’t respond, but persistence paid off. Four months after the draft, the Bucks contacted Beyer.
Beyer attributes his business success in part to that persistence. “I am a very persistent person. It’s one of the reasons I’m where I am today.”
Beyer spent much of his senior year traveling across the U.S. with the Bucks while attending classes Monday and Friday. His main responsibilities for the team included translating and helping Yi with the team, but Beyer also helped Yi adjust to American culture. “I wanted to make his life as comfortable as possible in this strange land.” That included everything from running errands to finding restaurants to making mix tapes.
Helping out with the “other stuff” is what now sets Beyer apart from other agents in China. “We offer a full range of services, not just helping (athletes) sign their deal with a team.” Beyer started his own China-based sports agency, Altius Culture, in 2012.
After graduation, Beyer moved back to China and did policy analysis and public relations for Edelman and then Weber Shandwick. After nearly a year at Weber Shandwick, Beyer left with his bosses to form a Beijing-based public affairs consultancy called North Head. During his time at North Head, Beyer was allowed to explore the sports side of business a bit and found a sports agency course offered by China’s General Administration of Sports. After enrolling as the first foreigner ever, Beyer finished the eight week course and took the test. Of the over 400 people that took it, only half passed, including Beyer.
Shortly thereafter, his boss informed Beyer that he would need to “start paying more attention to the money-making side of business.” Choosing instead to set out on his own, Beyer quit his job and started Altius Culture.
While it is a very successful business now, starting out was difficult.
“At the time I started Altius, I only had one contract as the local publisher for a mobile sports-themed game.”
Altius has grown from the publisher of that single game to representing 25 percent of the NBA players in the league and 50 percent of its foreign coaches. Whether it’s a seasoned veteran looking to inject new life into his career or a high school graduate looking to bypass the NCAA and capitalize on his talents immediately, Beyer and Altius provide a full service solution for players looking to join the CBA. Drawing on his experience with Yi in Wisconsin, Beyer works with his clients to ensure that their time in China is productive for both the player and the team.
“It’s definitely quality over quantity for us. We would rather focus on growing our business with our current clients than just trying to sign as many players as we can.”
On the horizon, Beyer sees a great opportunity coming in 2017. This is the year the CBA will renegotiate its league management rights, including the media broadcasting rights contract, and many think there could be big changes coming. The biggest of these could be a transfer of management rights from the current rights holder, InFront, to another private company such as LeEco or a consortium of 18 of the 20 team owners led by Yao Ming. Beyer looks to how the China Super League (soccer) renegotiated its deal for clues as to what might come and it could potentially mean millions more for the teams.
When asked about what more the future held for Altius and the CBA: “wait for 2017.”