Outside the Ring: Allen Furst

By Jill Diamond on August 22, 2014
Outside the Ring: Allen Furst
What happens when once talented athletes try to rekindle the spark with wet wood?

“Everyone has the ability to change lives. By giving your time, your dollars and your support of causes important to you, everyone can make a difference…”

Sports and Philanthropy: A series of articles dedicated to those who’ve given their all and still give more. Each article will feature a different community champion; no belts, no medals, no ratings… just good people passing it on.

Not every kid who plays sports grows up to be an athlete. Some, despite their love of the game, end up on the sidelines. While others, like Allen Furst, become players of a different sort. There’s a shelf life in all careers that depend on physical acuity. Even our best boxers, many who’ve packed stadiums worldwide, get lost and confused as they age-out of their sport. No one teaches them how to turn what was once a successful profession into a lasting legacy for themselves, their families, or the community. We’ve seen the results, when once talented athletes try to rekindle the spark with wet wood.  But, for others, the lucky ones, who have the talent and willingness, they might find a new coach, a life “as it could be” coach; but rarely a qualified mentor like Allen Furst. Allen has a no knockdown rule and puts his clients on the road to social giving, prestige and new, gratifying opportunities. In his capable hands, sometimes, their lives grow bigger than their dreams, or at least they can. The platform an athlete has lasts a millisecond, but the one that’s available after the scoreboard dims and the cameras turn away can last a lifetime. Allen Furst manages the business affairs of high profile, professional athletes and entertainers. He councils and connects them to sponsors in both the corporate and nonprofit world. He helps them market their skills and tries to match their personalities and talents with life outside of the stadium. Allen does it successfully, and in return, makes their lives, and ours, better. As managing partner of Monarch ASF and co-founder of Agency 21, it’s his job to make sure his clients end up the way they started, with strong and exciting lives, engaged in the things they are most suited for, and most of the time, giving back to the community.

You specialize in business management and financial advice for professional athletes of all kinds. Is sports purely a business for you or a business that grew out of your love for sports?

Having a legal and accounting background, I see myself as a business person first; but I have also been passionate about playing sports and enjoying an active healthy lifestyle my entire life. So, I have been very fortunate to have been able to combine my love of sports, law and accounting within the sports/entertainment industry for over 35 years.

Who were your first clients?

I started my career in sports management with ProServ in Washington, DC in the late ‘70s. Donald Dell was one of the early pioneers in sports management. Similar to Mark McCormack who started IMG with golf as the foundation, Donald (who was formerly the Davis Cup captain) founded ProServ when tennis turned open and his first clients were players on his Davis Cup team, including Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith and other top players of that era. So, in effect, when I joined ProServ in 1978, some of my first clients were these great tennis players. The agency had also started representing Pro Basketball players at that time as well, so, I was fortunate that I was on the scene when we signed Phil Ford and Tom McMillen, and, then, within a few years, added James Worthy, Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan. Not too shabby. 

How did you rock their worlds?

By bringing a little bit of professionalism to the world of sports. When I attended the Wharton School for my undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania, I recall receiving some special words of advice from several professors prior to venturing out into the business world: “Hire the best lawyers and accountants you can find, and, you will never regret it.” I believe the same advice holds true for professional athletes, especially in the early days when they were just beginning to make some serious money. So, I felt that my job as their fiduciary/business advisor required me to use my business skills to educate them in the world of finance and business which would not only benefit them during their professional sports careers but for many years post-retirement from sports.

How important is philanthropy in the image of an athlete?

Very important. I believe that all of us as citizens in this great country have an obligation and responsibility to give back to our community. Some people learn it earlier in life than others. Others need to be educated. So I do believe that one of my responsibilities as an advisor is to guide my clients in this area. However, ultimately, the athlete has to assume this responsibility and carry the torch forward. It is not for me to assert my values on my clients and “make the athlete philanthropic.” The motivation and passion needs to take root and come from within his or her heart and soul.

Who do you consider authentic givers? What have they achieved? What was your part in that?

Athletes who take the initiate to give back and lead by example – when it is genuine, sincere and comes from their inner self. Many athletes want to give back but may not know how. One of my roles as a fiduciary is to help educate them and bring some “professionalism” to their desire and effort to give back, such has helping them form non-profit foundations, and, then, making sure they understand their responsibility as stewards of the public’s money in terms of accountability and compliance. I consider Alonzo Mourning one of the more authentic givers. He initially approached me about his desire to help others. One of his first major gifts took place when he was with the Charlotte Hornets. He wanted to make the gift anonymously and benefit children in need. Alonzo then asked me to help him carry out his wishes as his trusted advisor.

Tell me about the organizations you work with? Why?

Since I have assisted my clients in creating their non-profit organizations, they usually ask me to serve on the Board and also become an officer of the company (usually either treasurer and/or secretary). As a result, I have been the financial advisor and compliance officer for Alonzo Mourning’s Mourning Family Foundation & the Overtown Youth Center and Dwyane Wade’s Wade’s World Foundation, just to name a few. These organizations help underserved children and families in the areas of education, health and other community services. I also serve on the Board of Athletes for Hope which was formed by many of the most giving-back athletes in various sports (e.g., Mia Hamm, Andre Agassi, Muhammad Ali, and Alonzo Mourning to name a few). These athletes founded this organization with the hopes of passing their passion for philanthropy onto the rest of the sports community and providing their peers with a go-to resource for philanthropy. They wanted to increase public awareness of their efforts and inspire others to do the same. I represent Alonzo’s interests by sitting on the Board of Athletes for Hope. So, this is another example of how I represent my client’s interests as their advisor and fiduciary.

Has a plan ever backfired?

I cannot really think of one.

What advice would you give to a celebrity athlete, or a young athlete who wants to help their community? How do you match them up person/corporation/cause?

I interview my client-athlete to create a personal profile based on his or her personal goals and preferences. Likewise, I research charities and create similar profiles based on their mission and programs. Once we research each opportunity, I present the client-athlete with a range of options, and, then try to match them with a charity of their choice. Through this process, we bring athletes and charities together to achieve a greater difference in the community. In some cases, I may recommend doing some additional due diligence on a charity if we are not as familiar with their work in the community. The good news is that we do not have to re-invent the wheel when there are a number of quality charities to partner with. Athletes for Hope offers a similar service to all athletes for every sport. Sometimes after my client goes through this process of partnering with a charity of choice, he or she may have a burning desire to create their own non-profit organization with a very specific purpose. In these cases, I have been able to help them form an organization and apply for 501c3 status with the IRS. For example, as stated above, I have helped Alonzo Mourning, and several other professional basketball and baseball players do the same. 

Whose life have you changed?

I would like to think that I have had a positive impact on all of my clients and have directly, or indirectly, changed their lives for the better by providing them with professional guidance and acting as a true fiduciary. 

If you could do more, what would it be?

Have more hours in a day to service my clients and their respective philanthropic interests. 

A role model?

Coach John Thompson Jr., the former head basketball coach at Georgetown University. In addition to being a fantastic college basketball coach (and in the Basketball Hall of Fame), John was an educator first and foremost, and, really had a positive impact on all of his players (both on and off the court) that made it through Georgetown.

A disappointment?

Lance Armstrong. Notwithstanding the fact that he has been a real inspiration to all cancer survivors, his cheating, lying and covering up his use of performance enhancement drugs, has been a real disappointment to everyone that looked up to him as a role model.

A story you’d care to share.

When Michael Jordan signed with ProServ after he left college and entered professional basketball, I was fortunate to have been head of ProServ’s financial advisory division, and as a result, I was Michael’s first financial advisor. Funny story which really left an impression on me – when Michael and I were having a business meeting over lunch one day at his hotel, a father and son (about five years old) came up to our table to ask Michael for an autograph. They were very polite and hesitant to interrupt us during our meeting. However, Michael said it was fine and began chatting with the kid and asking him friendly questions about himself.  When, out of the blue, the five-year-old said: “I didn’t know you were real!” This innocent remark from a child really made me think. I knew Michael Jordan as just “Michael” the person who played professional basketball. However, to a five-year-old kid, who had only seen Michael on television, both in cartoons that featured MJ as well as during televised NBA games, his image of Michael was unreal and godlike. Many professional athletes never consciously think about how many lives they touch, either intentionally or unintentionally. Therefore, if these athletes were to make a serious and conscientious effort to leverage their public figure status in a positive way for the public good, they can have a tremendous impact in changing lives throughout their careers.   

Your proudest moment?

Witnessing and helping my clients transition successfully from the public limelight of professional sports to a life after their sports careers have ended.

Your saddest?

Seeing clients/friends pass away before their time, such as Arthur Ashe, Tim Gullikson, Payne Stewart, Ken Meyerson (a friend and agent for many top professional tennis players) and others.

Awards, Honors? What would be the equivalent of an Olympic Medal in your field?

Awards are not very important to me. I do not do what I do in order to get any awards. However, if recognition in my field were to help bring attention to, or benefit various worthwhile causes, then, it would accepted with pleasure.

Not everyone has the visibility of your clients, so for the rest of us… one can change the world by…?

Everyone has the ability to give back and change lives. By giving your time, your dollars and your support of causes important to you, everyone can make a difference. 

Outside the Ring: David Berlin
Outside the Ring: Sam Hadfield
Outside the Ring: Steve Farhood
Outside the Ring: Kathy Duva
Outside the Ring: Comanche Boy
Outside the Ring: Margaret Goodman
Outside the Ring: Allen Furst
Outside the Ring: Lonnie and Muhammad Ali
Outside the Ring: Bruce Silverglade

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  1. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:06am, 08/22/2014

    Jill Diamond-Thanks! You just blew my sox off…..your offering regarding transitioning/morphing in life is universal and not just for boxers/athletes….which reminds me…..the work you contribute to Boxing.com is top drawer.

  2. jill diamond 09:39am, 08/22/2014

    Frankie: Many successful boxers, like Ali, Mosley and Ray Leonard have foundations. If they get a shelter for it, at least it’s one needy people can hide in. I’m not disagreeing with you, but this is about reshaping a life that doesn’t have to end because your career has, and one path some have taken. There are others, like Sam Hadfield, whom I wrote about, who does it on a smaller, but equally effective manner. The point is, be ready to morph when it’s time, stay purposeful, get support and try and share your skills, which are more valuable and varied than you might think.  Been there, done it, and acknowledge the difficulties—but worth the trip.

  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:07am, 08/22/2014

    Jill Diamond-When we’re talking about foundations charitable or otherwise we’re talking about money and tax sheltered money at that….of course boxers “give back” as you say…..God knows that they care and have heart and give willingly of their time….as you say the kids from the neighborhood more readily see themselves in the boxers just as the boxers see themselves and their childhood buddies from the block in those kids faces in those hospital beds.

  4. jill diamond 08:43am, 08/22/2014

    Firstly, thank you for taking the time to read the interview and comment. I take all opinions to heart and appreciate the feedback. This is a process of learning. 
    All athletes have to eventually find second careers and it’s true that not all have the ability or connections to have the guidance of a man like Mr. Furst. Also, most athletes in other sports,  who dream of big, league contracts, don’t achieve their goals, and face the same challenges. In fact, they probably have less professional experience than many boxers. Boxing being a more accessible sport. Giving back is not specifically about finance or starting large foundations. When I visit hospitals, schools and youth centers, it is rare that any athlete I ask to come along, says no. And the children’s response to the boxers, whether or not they’re champions, is enthusiastic. I would say they respond more to the boxers than many of the millionaire athletes who join. They know the boxers as people from the neighborhood who have achieved something, and identify with them and their struggle. It is a mutually gratifying experience that centers around time, heart and caring; not money. So the issue here is not whether Mr Furst gives back, which he does, but what you’ve learned that you can share, and what plans have you made for your future. And to me, somehow they go together.

  5. Pro Bono 07:24am, 08/22/2014

    Wonder how “philanthropic” and “authenic” Mr. Furst is?

  6. Clarence George 06:28am, 08/22/2014

    I was completely taken aback at furst (good one, Clarence), it never having occurred to me that Alan Furst (the spy novelist) had damn all to do with boxing.  My mistake.

  7. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 05:52am, 08/22/2014

    Very few in the boxing world have the wherewithal to “give back”.....fighters don’t sign contracts where they can cool their heels on the bench and still make zillions.

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