A riddle wrapped in an enigma: Who exactly is Khoder Nasser?

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Despite managing the affairs of an exclusive group of some of the highest profile sporting identities, Khoder Nasser remains a mystery to most Australian fans. So, who is this operator? And why is he so polarising? An abrasive modus operandi that alienates the public, yet paradoxically attracts blue chip sportsmen.

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Amplifying the aura is the endorsements he gets from the big end of town. Elite executives such as Sydney Roosters Chairman Nick Politis, David Gyngell and even actor Russell Crowe all publicly declare their respect for both his ideology and his character.

He leads a simple lifestyle with no office, preferring to operate in a café, with a long black and his tool of trade cell phone constantly buzzing with the next request. Not from his clients, but rather the endless calls from community members seeking his guidance and support for matters well beyond sport. His organisation of a morale boosting video from Sonny Bill Williams to the heavily pregnant victim of the well-publicised assault in Parramatta recently is an example of his community focused mindset.

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Despite Australian mainstream media outlets as well as CNN requesting an interview with the victim, she has never spoken. Yet when this scribe contacted her about Nasser’s effort, she buoyantly explains; “At such a difficult time, I felt overwhelmed to get that video of support. I love Rugby League and the generous love and care offered by Williams and Nasser was so helpful and appreciated”.

In keeping with his modest lifestyle, Nasser maintains simple attire. Black. Always. Just like his cars, with his previous vehicle being a beat-up hatchback Corolla. But just when you have judged Khoder, he will make you reassess. Like splashing out on a luxury 4WD Mercedes. What colour? Let’s just say Henry Ford chose it.

Khoder Nasser delivered Sonny Bill Williams to the Roosters in 2013.Source:News Corp Australia

He has been known to display peculiar behaviours. Like sleeping on a park bench to ensure he stays grounded and values his blessings. He won’t confirm this, as he never gives an explicit response. He instead prefers to give a wry smile and enough information for clever folks to deduce an answer.

Nasser is always generous. Whether it be his hospitability at his old café in Hurstville, to sharing his carry bag of green peas upon a random encounter at the grocer, to insisting on paying for breakfast.

Upon offering this scribe a 5:30am pickup for breakfast across town with mutual friend and Fox Sports’ very own Ben Ikin, I quiz Nasser on his new ride. He exhibits no joy, but rather justifies it being the only item he has ever splurged on, before bemoaning the stiffness of the back seat. So why would the back-seat comfort concern him? Unless of course using it as a mattress for ‘grounding’. Cue the wry smile.

Khoder Nasser is a deep thinker.Source:News Limited

The recurring breakfast triangle juxtaposes Nasser to my left, and Ikin to my right. Both deep thinkers, with similar ideologies, just conveyed with contrasting styles. Years of experience alongside the frank Paul Kent, Ikin is ever the diplomat. Nasser on the other hand speaks audaciously with no internal monologue. I chuckle at almost every point discussed, with both eventually realising they are debating the same opinion. Nasser sees black, Ikin sees white, I see grey.

The St George-Illawarra Dragons fan explains his theories on how Rugby League should be governed. His outlook is bullish and driven by commerce. He suggests that Rugby League is in the business of entertainment, and all measures should be taken to build the theatre of it. Build the hate, build the passion, build the drama.

Khoder Nasser and AFL star Dustin MartinSource:Supplied

Within minutes of arriving at the café, he strangely starts calculating cups, patrons, seats, staff numbers and annual revenue. Eventually determining the viability of the establishment as a worthwhile investment. It is this commercial mindset which drew his highest profile client, in Sonny Bill Williams.

The story behind the SBW–Nasser affiliation is an interesting one. Williams was looking for Nasser’s business acumen to lead him out of the mess he felt he was in.

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At the time, Williams felt duped, having signed a long-term ‘safe’ deal following what he perceived as dubious team medical advice about his troublesome knee.

Initially Nasser refused, instead advising him for months on end in an informal capacity. Nasser’s reasoning? He felt that his own negative perception would impact heavily on SBW’s brand. Eventually the clandestine relationship matured to a public one, pioneering the profession of ‘freelance footballer’.

Khoder Nasser represents Sonny Bill Williams and Quade Cooper.Source:News Limited

The strategically managed exit from the Canterbury Bulldogs was controversial and expensive. Yet, when asked whether paying the team from Belmore a $750,000 contract settlement was worth it, the defiant manager simply laughs. But keep in mind, his latest deal in Toronto was not for the widely reported number, but rather, 3/4 of that eight-figure sum.

The canniest agents are playing an increasing role in managing their clients. From daily debriefs, to organising investments, to directing a player to ignore phone calls from their coach, or even a supercoach. All to ensure their strategy to extract every potential dollar ensues. This defiant attitude may be offensive, but time has proven its efficacy.

Khoder Nasser got Quade Cooper into the boxing world.Source:News Limited

When Williams spoke of his conversion to Islam, the resulting outcry was that he was being brainwashed by his maverick manager. Privately though, Williams battled with Nasser, who had advised him to keep his faith confidential. Ignoring Nasser’s advice, Williams stood tall to reveal his new belief. Nasser respected his decision, but felt it was not the right time. Numerous other high-profile footballers have also converted to Islam but conceal their creed.

Another of Nasser’s high-profile clients is former Wallabies fly-half Quade Cooper. The star playmaker’s brand has developed to a point where he recently drew more than 876,000 sets of eyeballs to a video on his Twitter page.

So, what of those rumours of a discussion with Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire about Cooper signing with the team from Leichhardt? Not true, according to Nasser, thrice stating that talks were not about the Wallabies representative. To that I swiftly retort; “The only other league player you have is SBW”. Cue the wry smile. Checkmate.

Khoder Nasser with Sonny Bill Williams.Source:News Limited

It’s all about loyalty for the Hurstville father, with tennis the sport of choice for his active kids of half Lebanese and half Fijian descent. Trust so important to him, he refuses to pen a contract with his clients, preferring to instead work off a verbal agreement. No spin.

His private persona contrasts with his abrasive management style. Negotiating with Nasser is brutal. He never begins talks without a plan B, leaving him options up his sleeve. This gives him the power to walk out at any moment.

His abrupt method should not surprise, considering he left his original profession of teaching within days of starting at Kingsgrove North High School. Why did he leave the education industry? His perception of teaching’s limited fiscal potential.

Is his bullish approach effective? Consider that Russian UFC star Khabib Nurmagomedov turned to Nasser to promote his Australian speaking tour. From Boxing promoters to top media executives, Nasser’s lunch partners span every industry.

Khoder Nasser and Anthony Mundine.Source:News Limited

It is important to note that Mediterranean culture perceives business dealings very differently to the traditional Anglo expectation of how to act and behave during negotiations, often using silence as a tactic to unsettle their contractual adversary. In contrast, English culture promotes an impeccable etiquette to promote cordial dialogue for an ongoing relationship, oblivious to the fact that for player managers with a mafia mindset, the greater the offence caused, the greater the victory.

As such, Nasser should not be assessed on his unique methods, but rather on his client’s commercial success. And under that criteria, yet again, he’s in the black.

The NRL economist is an award-winning freelance writer across 15 years. He also teaches Media Studies as well as having majored in Economics.

Follow on Twitter @theNRLeconomist

Originally published asA riddle wrapped in an enigma: Who exactly is Khoder Nasser?

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