Shep Goldberg was more like a camp counselor than an agent.
”There was nothing phony or manipulative about him,” Jo-Ann Barnas, Olympics reporter for the Detroit Free Press from 1996-2012 said of Goldberg, who died Tuesday at age 65. ”As one of the leading sports agents in the Olympic world, he was a powerful man but a gentle soul. He was golden.”
The man who guided the careers of Mary Lou Retton and Michelle Kwan, died of pancreatic cancer, his family confirmed.
Article continues below ...
Goldberg also worked with 2010 Olympic figure skating champion Evan Lysacek and currently was representing 2014 Olympian Jason Brown.
”Shep lived his life and conducted business with loyalty, compassion, dignity, and ethics … things that are becoming less common in today’s world,” Lysacek said. ”He was a rare man, and a rare friend. I miss him already.”
A native of Philadelphia, Goldberg was a public relations director for the Oakland Athletics and Seals when both were owned by Charlie Finley – hardly an easy job. He held the same position for the Lakers and the Los Angeles Forum in the 1970s.
In 1984, Retton became the first U.S. woman to win the gymnastics all-around gold medal in an Olympics. Goldberg helped her parlay that and her other four medals at the Los Angeles Games into a career as an American sports icon.
In 1993, just before she burst onto the senior figure skating scene, Kwan met Goldberg. When the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan saga put Kwan in the media spotlight, too – she would have replaced Harding at the 1994 Olympics had Harding been banned from skating – Goldberg was hired by Kwan’s family.
Throughout Kwan’s unequaled career, including nine U.S. championships, five world titles and two Olympic medals, Goldberg was a guiding force.
”Shep was a large man with a large personality, but he never plunked himself in the middle of any story,” Barnas said. ”That’s part of what made the buildup to the 1998 Nagano Olympics – Michelle vs. Tara (Lipinski) – so great. The athletes were center stage, not the agents.”
Goldberg also worked briefly with 2000 Olympic wrestling champion Rulon Gardner.
No matter the client, Goldberg made his reputation as someone who could – and would – get things done.
”Reporters and agents have reason to be natural adversaries,” said Bonnie D. Ford, a senior writer with ESPN.com. ”We want access and candor; their job is to protect, serve and often, spin. Shep’s gift was that he was able to observe those boundaries and still maintain a warm personal rapport with those who covered his clients. He understood our jobs, treated us as working professionals and built trusting relationships across the divide.
”I will miss his steady, cheery presence in Olympic sports press rooms,” she added.
Goldberg lived in Northville, Michigan, since 1996. He is survived by his wife, Janet, daughters Haley and Carly.
The funeral will be Monday at Dorfman Chapel in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Internment will follow at Rural Hill Cemetery in Northville.