Friday, September 25, 2009

Orlando Cepeda Jr. when something is “meant” to be it will happen. Deal making became his life.

Negotiating is hard work, and is even harder when you are a person who follows emotions and dreams. It is difficult to put aside one’s emotions in order to successfully do business, and this interview truly opened my eyes to this, and to the fact that one needs to learn how “real life” is; how important it is to be a team player and have a good lineup of professionals by one’s side. One needs to realize that in order to be a good negotiator one must take advantage of situations and see how they benefit your deal. Negotiating and deal making is a challenge which not everyone is competent enough to be successful at; with my Leadership Portfolio I got the opportunity to interview a person that I feel deep admiration for, who is quite successful at this great matter: Orlando Cepeda Jr. One of the few Latino sports agents in the United States, Cepeda Jr. is a great negotiator who truly has learned to take advantage of all the situations in life. According to him, getting a YES is an art form and a way of negotiating without giving in.
Orlando Cepeda, Jr. was born in Phoenix, Arizona. His father, Hall of Famer Orlando M. Cepeda, raised him in Puerto Rico until his late teens, when he took him to California to further intensify his love for baseball. After years of dreaming of becoming a professional baseball player, Cepeda Jr. found himself injured at the age of 24. The necessity of finding a new source of income and success became quite conspicuous then, and he took his passion and knowledge for sports and made them his business.
A few years later, Orlando got the opportunity to work with a company owned by Adidas, called Ben Greck, which wanted their brand on the Latino players. Orlando knew several baseball players who, he knew, would help him out on this guerrilla marketing. He proceeded to use all these contacts and proved his abilities as beginner negotiator. In the early 90’s Adidas was in the process of expansion in the USA, and it was then when Cepeda Jr. became in charge of Adidas Baseball, where he stayed for 10 years. In this process he got to meet a lot of agents that encouraged him to work directly in the business, but he did not like nor felt he was mature enough to negotiate players; he remained working with Adidas. Cepeda Sr., his father, was quite proud to introduce his son to one of the greatest sports agents, Jeff Moorad. At the moment, Orlando seemed too young and too “green” for Moorad’s business, which proves, once again, that luck is when opportunity and preparation meet. Cepeda Jr. was not prepared, and Moorad’s good business judgments could see that.
A few years later, when Orlando was working in Adidas, Dusty Baker a Major League baseball player from the San Francisco Giants invited him to have dinner at his home, where once again Jeff Moorad was to meet his way. At this dinner Jeff asked Orlando to “talk business”. At this point, Jeff had seen the development and maturation of Cepeda Jr., and he was ready to offer him a job that was “perfect” for him. Because of the Latin craze in baseball, Jeff needed a key person to connect him with the Latin players; Orlando Cepeda, Jr. needed to be the link between the players and Mr. Moorad and he did it. Jeff became Orlando’s mentor and taught him the greatest pillars on how to be an agent and, over all, a good dealmaker.
Today, Orlando Jr. still works in the same company, LS Legacy Sports Group located in Newport Beach, CA. This boutique agency represents baseball players only, and gives them the proper attention they deserve as successful sportsmen. Currently, LS Legacy Sports Group is one of the eight most powerful agencies in Baseball, even after Jeff Moorad left the agency to become a part owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Orlando is a key component of this great company whose “trick” is to always have a great team of dealmakers.
As the successful team that they are they use two techniques that are key for their negotiations: market value and bluffing. The market value technique is where every agent awaits for the first player to sign a contract after they have asked for money, depending on the player and stats. This sets the standards and the price that other players can expect. The second main technique is to bluff to the team about another team. Contrasting two teams is a good means to get a good negotiation, and no one can know whether it is true or not. A lot of times there are more than two teams that want to sign a contract with a player, and the agent must be ready to take the most intelligent step, which, at times, means letting go of a deal with a team. For Cepeda Jr. one of the most gratifying negotiations was when Nike signed a marketing campaign for eight years with Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez who has been one of the most influential Latino baseball players in the Major Leagues, and Orlando understands the difficulty that it is to negotiate a contract with such a sponsor, which can truly pick out anyone they wish to.
In this picture with Orlando Cepeda Jr. and my mom.

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