Taking Advantage of a New Name

One of the biggest names in the athlete management business, one that put Washington on the map in the world of sports business, disappears today.

Advantage International, the venerable McLean company that helped invent the modern sports agent, officially changes its name today to Octagon Athlete Representation as it takes the brand of its huge London-based parent company, Octagon Worldwide.

Not much else will change, including the top brass at the erstwhile Advantage.

"This is a one-time branding opportunity that became possible because of our growth in the last 16 years," said Phil de Picciotto, president of Octagon Athlete Representation, formerly president of Advantage. "What Advantage always has been does not change. But the network of our relationships within Octagon adds another layer that we can best use by taking the brand."

De Picciotto and the other principals of Advantage sold the company in 1997 to New York-based international marketing company Interpublic Group for about $30 million. Interpublic put Advantage and several other sports marketing properties it had bought under its Octagon Worldwide umbrella last year, and this week gives the whole shebang one name. Frank Craighill, a co-founder of Advantage, is president of Octagon Worldwide.

Lawyers Craighill, de Picciotto, Peter Lawler and Lee Fentriss founded Advantage in 1983 with 20 people. Today, the company has 500 employees and 25 offices around the world, with gross billings (the amount of revenue it generates for its clients) approaching $1 billion. Octagon will keep its heavy representation in men's basketball, hockey and golf. The firm is especially strong in women's tennis, managing No. 1-ranked Martina Hingis and 17-year-old phenom Anna Kournikova.

-- Terence O'Hara

Oh, the Horror, the Horror

How big would the potential audience be for a screening of the recent horror flick, "Zombie! vs. Mardi Gras?"

The Sync Inc., a Laurel-based interactive programming outlet, is about to find out. The service will air a special Halloween showing of the so-bad-it-might-be-good piece of cinema. And, because it's on the Web, the Sync should know almost exactly how many viewers are being grossed out.

It's the stuff you can't see on television. That's what co-founders Thomas Edwards, 29, and Carla Cole, 25, had in mind in 1997 when they created the Sync.

With shows like "cyberLove," "/etc: geekTV," and the five-minute daily-live comedy "SnackBoy," thesync.com Web site attracts viewers craving unique -- but short -- content not subject to Federal Communications Commission restrictions.

-- Judith Mbuya

CBS to Take a Stake In Consumer Network

Women's Consumer Network of Washington, a group that helps working women save money by comparing products and services, will announce today that CBS Corp. is taking a 40 percent equity stake in the company, a source said.

The $50 million investment over five years is part cash, part advertising and promotion on CBS-owned TV and radio stations.

-- Shannon Henry


"It's a real slap in the face to the people who've been stuck in traffic for years. At some point we're going to have an eruption of anger."

-- Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), on Gov. Parris N. Glendening's decision to kill the Intercounty Connector.