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David ‘Doc’ O’Connor Poised to Exit CAA to Become CEO of Madison Square Garden (Exclusive)

The longtime partner helped to build the agency’s lucrative sports division

Longtime CAA partner David “Doc” O’Connor, who helped build CAA’s lucrative sports division, is poised to leave the agency to become CEO of the Madison Square Garden Company, two individuals with knowledge of the negotiations told the Wrap.

The move would be the first exit of one of CAA’s senior partners since private equity firm TPG bought a majority stake in the talent agency in October 2014. At the time, CAA’s partners were said to have signed long-term contracts. O’Connor’s exit raises the question whether other senior partners might also seek to leave in the wake of the TPG payday.

Cablevision spun off MSG as an independent publicly traded company in 2010 with holdings that include sports teams (the New York Knicks, New York Rangers and WNBA’s New York Liberty), MSG cable TV networks and live entertainment/sports venues such as Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and The Forum in Inglewood, California. MSG’s current market cap is $6.4 billion.

O’Connor replaces Tad Smith, who held the CEO job for only a year before departing in March to become CEO of the auction house Sotheby’s. James L. Dolan, who also serves as CEO of Cablevision, has been filling in as interim chief executive at MSG.

CAA had no immediate comment; representatives for MSG could not be reached for comment.

O’Connor began working with Madison Square Garden nearly a decade ago after the 2006 launch of CAA Sports, which represents the world’s top athletes, coaches, broadcasters and brands.

O’Connor has also represented mega-producers such as Jerry Bruckheimer and Red Wagon’s Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher, as well as top writers and directors including Gary Ross, John Lee Hancock, David Koepp, Eric Roth and Ed Solomon. He has also worked with Bruce Willis for years.

O’Connor joined the mailroom at CAA in 1983, though he was promoted to agent in the motion picture department soon thereafter. In 1995, he took over day-to-day management and ownership of the agency along with his partners.

In 1996, O’Connor helped create the CAA Foundation, a first-of-its-kind in the entertainment industry. The Foundation involves the entertainment community and CAA clients in philanthropy and engages organizations to lend their support to a variety of philanthropic programs. It also develops public and private partnerships at both the local and national levels.

In 2008, O’Connor and his partners created and launched Evolution Media Capital, a co-venture between CAA and the former entertainment banking and structured finance group at Merrill Lynch. EMC provides investment banking and advisory, asset management, industry research, and capital-raising services to the media and sports industries.