"I used to delegate this sort of thing, but it always got screwed up," Eisenbud
, a genial 40-year-old former college tennis player, prefers to stay behind the scenes.
agreed to be interviewed for this article only because he
wanted to draw attention to Sharapova's
new business venture, a candy company named Sugarpova.
Eisenbud serves as its chief executive.
"But I'm the only C.E.O. in America not getting paid," Eisenbud
While drawing no salary from the confectionary start-up, Eisenbud
employer, the Cleveland-based sports and entertainment giant IMG, have earned millions of dollars meticulously managing Sharapova's
Spend time with Eisenbud
, and it is apparent their relationship runs deeper than a business partnership.
agreed, saying: "I'm better in small doses.
My wife feels the same way."
But get past the shtick, and they display a genuine affection for each other.
is half family, half agent," Sharapova
I can be guarded around new people, but with Max
, because of our history, there is a special level of trust."
Around the Eisenbud home in Miami, where he
lives with his
wife, Danielle, and two young sons, Sharapova
is known as Aunt Maria.
"Everything I have I owe to her
, from the house I live in to the toys I buy my kids," Eisenbud
Growing up in Short Hills, N.J., Eisenbud
dreamed of competing at the United States Open.
A top-ranked junior, Eisenbud
won a full tennis scholarship to Purdue
, where he
played four years on a middling team.
He also spent four years as social chairman of his fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, becoming a minor campus celebrity for hosting blowout parties and promoting concerts.
After college, he
spent several years managing Push Down and Turn, an Indiana band he
thought could be the next Rolling Stones.
It was not even the next Gin Blossoms.
Approaching 30 and starting to worry about his future, Eisenbud
received a call from Justin Gimelstob, a childhood friend who was then a rising star on the men's tour.
"Law school wasn't an option for me," Eisenbud
"I could barely get through Purdue
In 1999, IMG offered Eisenbud
a job paying $27,500 a year.
They sent him to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy
in Bradenton, Fla., an IMG-owned training center for young talent.
In a newly created post, he
served as a buffer between the junior players and their agents, who were based in Cleveland and busy managing the likes of Pete Sampras and Monica Seles.
did everything, including overseeing the youngsters' racket sponsorships and coddling their overbearing parents.
first day in Florida, he
was handed a list of the players and their practice times.
roamed the courts, he
was stopped in his
tracks by a tall, lithe 12-year-old smacking ground strokes with a supernatural intensity.
"You ever see the videos of Tiger Woods hitting the golf ball when he
"It was like that."
had a hunch that the 12-year-old, Sharapova
, who had come from Russia four years earlier, would be his meal ticket.
started turning heads at 13 with strong performances on the international junior circuit, Eisenbud
resisted smaller sponsorship deals.
"Don't sell her
, just keep an eye on her
"That's when I saw the amazing machine that Mark McCormack built swing into action," said Eisenbud, referring to the pioneering sports lawyer who started IMG.
signed Li in 2009, she
was ranked in the top 25.
Sponsorship opportunities abounded, including several fast-growing Chinese apparel companies that wanted to outfit her
Sensing an opportunity, Eisenbud
struck a hard bargain with Nike
negotiated a deal that allowed Li to wear patches with other corporate logos on her
dismisses the notion that he
is some kind of commercial killer whose masterly negotiating secures more money for his
clients than they ever dreamed possible.
likes to compare himself to Phil Jackson, the coach who won N.B.A. titles with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant on his
"Phil Jackson is a good coach, and I'm a good agent, but I wouldn't be sitting here right now if my clients weren't Maria Sharapova and Li Na," Eisenbud said.