He is an American sports attorney, writer, commentator, and former tennis player. Dell was the first sports agent in professional tennis, and represented Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, Jimmy Connors, and Ivan Lendl during the golden age of pro tennis (1975 to 1985). He was also the founder of Professional Services (ProServ), one of the nation's first sports marketing firms established in 1970.
Dell played his collegiate tennis at Yale University where he was a three-time All-American (in 1958, '59 and '60). He reached the NCAA singles finals in 1959 (falling to Whitney Reed of San Jose State University), and was a semifinalist in 1960.
Dell received his undergraduate degree from Yale in 1960 and his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1964. He was an associate for the law firm of Hogan & Hartson from 1966 to 1967, and was Special Assistant to Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver from 1968 to 1969. He worked with the presidential campaigns of Robert Kennedy in 1968 and Sargent Shriver in 1972. He was also a founder of the ATP Players' Union with Jack Kramer and Cliff Drysdale in 1972, and was co-founder with childhood friend, John A. Harris, Head of Potomac Ventures, of the Citi Open tennis tournament in Washington, D.C. in 1969.
He played on the United States Davis Cup team in 1961 and 1963 and was the captain of the winning Cup teams of 1968 and 1969, both undefeated. In 1961, Dell was a quarterfinalist at the U.S. National championships (now known as the U.S. Open), and at the Cincinnati Masters he was a singles finalist in 1959 and a semifinalist in 1958. In 1961, he and Mike Franks were the first Americans to play tennis in the Russian National Championships.
Among the most multi-faceted leaders ever in tennis, Donald Dell has made substantial contributions to the game on innumerable levels. He played Davis Cup for the United States in the early 1960s, and was captain of the victorious American team in 1968-69. Dell became the first to represent tennis players as a lawyer in 1970, and has thrived in that field ever since. He has been an outstanding television commentator, a formidable tournament promoter, and was a founder of the Association of Tennis Professionals. Few have served tennis in as wide a range of capacities as the industrious Dell.
Dell is considered one of the fathers of sports marketing and the sports agent business along with IMG's Mark McCormack. Dell co-founded the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) in 1972 with Jack Kramer and Cliff Drysdale. Clients of ProServ dominated the leadership roles of the ATP in its formative years. ProServ expanded into basketball, and Dell signed Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan, and other top NBA players. He wrote his first book, Minding Other People’s Business in 1989 about how to recruit, manage, market, and keep client athletes, and a second book in 2009, Never Make the First Offer. Dell negotiated two of the most successful shoe deals in all of sports: Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan line with Nike and the Stan Smith shoe with Adidas.
Dell is the Vice Chairman of the International Tennis Hall of Fame and a member of the board of directors for the Arthur Ashe Institute of Urban Health. Dell was a tennis commentator for PBS and NBC television in the 1970s and '80s with Bud Collins and Barry MacKay, and makes appearances on the CBS local affiliate station, WUSA. He was the agent for Barry MacKay. who died on June 15, 2012. Dell was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009.
Dell is currently Group President for Media, Tennis & Events at Lagardère Sports and Entertainment and continues to be involved in tennis, television rights negotiations, and sports marketing consulting.
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