Former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is returning to the sporting life after leaving elected office last year.
Johnson is joining the Ron Burkle-backed Independent Sports & Entertainment, a management agency whose clients include DeMarcus Cousins.
Johnson and Burkle are longtime friends and were spotted together at the opening of the Golden 1 Center a few months before Johnson left politics. Johnson recruited Burkle to buy the Kings in 2011 when the Maloof family was attempting to move the team to Anaheim, but Burkle was angrily rebuffed by the Maloofs.
Two years later when the team was trying to move to Seattle, Burkle was one of the lead investors in a consortium that was going to purchase the team and keep it in Sacramento. Burkle had to withdraw from the deal when the NBA determined his agency ties were a conflict of interest.
Ultimately, the buyers’ group was taken over by Vivek Ranadive.
Johnson also played a pivotal role in representing NBA players when former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was ousted after being caught on tape making racist comments. Johnson also helped the players association find a new executive director, and was rumored to be in the running for the job.
Johnson will take the title of vice chairman at ISE according to a press release, handling “corporate vision and strategy.”
Johnson will not be a sports agent and will not be full time with the company, said ISE spokeswoman Stacey Escudero. Escudero said Johnson would continue to work on other endeavors but help ISE look for ways to expand beyond representation into other businesses and media ventures. Johnson may also be tapped as a mentor for athletes because of his “unique perspective” having played in the NBA, she said. He will remain based in Sacramento.
“I have never been more enthusiastic about the future of ISE as we continue to strategically grow the business to establish a unique, diversified company,” Burkle said in the statement.
Johnson did not return a request for comment.
ISE represents more than 300 athletes in the the NBA, NFL and MLB and has offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Indianapolis and San Francisco along with its New York headquarters. In addition to Cousins, the company represents former Kings player Omri Casspi and current forward Skal Labissiere as well as major league baseball players Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera and National Football League players Larry Fitzgerald and Marcus Peters.
ISE was formerly known as Relativity Sports. In 2016, it was ranked third on a list of most-valuable sports agencies by Forbes magazine, which reported it had $3.2 billion in active contracts and brought in $114 million in commissions. The company suffered setbacks including the loss of key management before it went through a rebranding last year after Burkle and others invested $30 million in the firm and gave it a new name.