Darien resident Rick Dudley saunters into the lobby, dressed in jeans and what Abercrombie & Fitch calls a mountain shirt, as he offers a hand in greeting. There’s another odd thing about Octagon, not Dudley’s office-casual look, but the fact that the company’s CEO has appeared personally rather than sending an assistant.
Octagon is a new company, formed just six years ago as an all-encompassing venture for sports marketing and athlete representation. Dudley, fifty-two, was named its boss in 2003. He looks a decade younger, with a full head of slicked-back dark hair à la Pat Riley and a wrinkle-free face that radiates calm. His job might be like that of Jerry Maguire, or, more accurately, Jerry’s boss, yet he’s hardly the type for trampolining on Oprah’s couch. His manner is unprepossessing, quiet, almost humble.
“When I’m at a cocktail party, the two things that are said are: ‘Dudley doesn’t have a real job, he works in sports’ and ‘What are Anna Kournikova and Davis Love really like?’” He quickly adds: “I don’t admit I never met Anna Kournikova. And I’ve only briefly shaken Davis Love’s hand.”
Yet both the sexy tennis star and the stolid golf legend are on Octagon’s roster of clients and hence Dudley’s concern, along with dozens of other top athletes, and corporate accounts like MasterCard, BMW and Home Depot. Octagon’s global business has been galloping at the rate of 30 percent for the past two years, and the company has been positioning itself to take advantage of new technology like mobile-phone TV.
Keeping the books balanced and the shareholders happy may be Dudley’s focus, but he has a wild and crazy side, too.
“Sometimes our business calls for the buttoned-up, classy, northeastern preppy look you expect in a CEO,” notes Michael Robichaud, vice president for sports marketing at Sprint NEXTEL, an Octagon client. “Other times, because it’s about sports, you want someone a little more active, a maverick. Rick can play both roles.”
When Dudley moved Octagon out of Stamford in 2004 and relocated at the old Priceline.com building just off I-95, he took the opportunity to put his personal stamp on their new digs, says Woody Thompson, an executive vice president in charge of marketing. “Rick got us in there, he picked all the colors, designed the conference rooms, put the scoreboard up front and decided the front desk should look like the SportsCenter anchor desk.” Of the resulting look, Thompson claims, “that’s Rick.”