In a major move, Athletes First, the largest talent agency in pro football, has been bought by venture capital firms Mastry Ventures and General Catalyst, with the aim of bringing a VC mindset to the agency business.
The founders of Athletes First started the company to put the needs of players over those of agents and teams, and now with the injection of capital, the new owners plan to help players set up off-field ventures in addition to representing them in negotiations with teams. This includes buying stakes in companies, investing in startups, and building their own companies. Furthermore, this deal has made Athletes First a Black-owned enterprise, with Mastry co-founder Rudy Cline-Thomas taking the role of chairman, providing players with a new role model and mentor who can teach them valuable lessons beyond the football field.
Rudy Cline-Thomas is the Founder and Managing Partner of MASTRY, a multi-asset class investment platform that counts world-class institutions, CEOs, and athletes as limited partners.
He founded MASTRY to leverage a network of relationships and an opportunity set built over his two decades in sports, media, and investing. Like the eponymous painting by renowned artist Kerry James Marshall, MASTRY’s mission is to redefine and reassert the role of Black culture, through equity ownership and investment returns. MASTRY today includes two primary investing businesses, MASTRY Ventures and MASTRY Properties, and pursues strategic projects in sports and media.
Cline-Thomas has made a significant impact in the sports industry, leveraging his deep relationships to create opportunities for athletes beyond the field of play.
In 2017, he founded The Players Technology Summit in partnership with Bloomberg, which brings together leaders in the technology, venture capital, and sports communities to discuss tech investing trends, partnerships, and future sports/tech initiatives. He also served as a strategic advisor to Gucci and sits on the Salesforce Global Advisory Board (NYSE: CRM), as well as the board of the Fifteen Percent Pledge, the advisory board of Global Communities, and the board of trustees for Providence College, where he earned his college degree.
Cline-Thomas began his career in the sports agency practice of The Washington Law Firm, Williams & Connolly, and later founded The BluePRINT Advisors, an athlete-focused wealth advisory business, which he ultimately sold to Royal Bank of Canada.
Leveraging his deep relationships in the worlds of sports and entertainment, Cline-Thomas was the mastermind and Executive Producer of the 2021 Sports Emmy-nominated “The Scheme,” HBO’s riveting look at the underbelly of college basketball and the federal government’s three-year investigation into college basketball corruption. Cline-Thomas is also the Creator and Executive Producer of “Point Forward,” a podcast hosted by Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors) and Evan Turner (former NBA player).
In February 2023, Cline-Thomas made headlines when venture capital firms Mastry Ventures and General Catalyst acquired a majority stake in Athletes First, the largest talent agency in pro football that represents over 300 players including Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, and Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
The new owners plan to bring a VC mindset to the agent business, helping players set up off-field ventures in addition to representing them in negotiations with teams. As the chairman of Athletes First, Cline-Thomas will be making history as the leader of a Black-owned enterprise in America’s most popular sport.
Cline-Thomas’ success in the sports industry is a testament to his dedication to creating opportunities for athletes beyond the field of play.
He has a proven track record of leveraging his network of relationships to bring together leaders from different industries to discuss new opportunities and partnerships. As he continues to make a significant impact in the sports industry, his work serves as an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs and professionals looking to create meaningful change in their fields.
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