As the agent for some of the world’s most famous athletes, David Falk is on call virtually 24/7. Whether a client phones him for advice on a trade, a deal or a girlfriend, this trusted mentor picks up.
Since launching his career in 1974 at DC-based ProServ, Falk has broken new ground negotiating record-setting, multi-million-dollar contracts and endorsements for the likes of Michael Jordan, Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing—and the list goes on. In 1992, Falk launched his own firm, Falk Associates Management Enterprises (FAME), later acquired by SFX. As chairman of SFX Sports Group, Falk grew its client base from 40 to 1,100. “David is as competitive in business as any athlete I’ve played against on the basketball court,” wrote Michael Jordan in the introduction of Falk’s 2009 memoir, The Bald Truth: Secrets of Success from the Locker Room to the Boardroom.
In 2007, Falk left SFX to relaunch FAME as a boutique firm, where he now represents only a handful of athletes at a time. “I wanted a chance to smell the roses,” says the self-described “Type A+” personality. He wanted more time to play golf, travel and enjoy the vacation home on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, that he shares with his wife, Rhonda.
The Rockville, Maryland-based couple decided to build the oceanfront residence when the eldest of their two daughters was about to leave for college. “We wanted a place for the girls to come home to,” says Falk, who grew up near the beach on Long Island. “My parents had very limited funds,” he recalls. “I only went on three vacations before high school. The beach had a psychically soothing significance to me. I always dreamed of having a beach home.”
The Falks purchased two adjacent oceanfront lots on Kiawah and entrusted Washington, DC, architect Jerry Harpole to design their residence. Harpole, who had designed a home for Falk’s former partner, Curtis Polk, developed a plan that would fit in with the neighboring homes, yet realize his clients’ vision. A strict architectural review board scrutinized his every move.
“A lot of the houses in Kiawah are in the Northeast Coast Shingle style,” Harpole says. “I’m from the South and that didn’t make sense to me. I thought it should be much more Southern in character. I tried to achieve more of that Low Country, almost Victorian, style with big wide overhangs and brackets.”
While the Falks initially hoped for something more contemporary, they embraced Harpole’s nod to the Charleston vernacular. A traditional double wedding staircase leads to the front entry tower. Three tower volumes on the back of the home are designed so that virtually every room enjoys breathtaking ocean views.
The transitional exterior gives way to open, modern interiors. The heart of the home is a double-story ellipse banded, like a luxury vessel, in stainless steel. The vaulted space houses a large common living area flanked on one side by the kitchen and dining room volume. A curved wall screens off the two-story master bedroom suite housed in the other tower. In the central octagonal tower, a cozy sitting area occupies the ground level while above it, David Falk’s glass-enclosed office juts into the landscape with 180-degree views of the shore. “It’s all about the view,” says Harpole, who also helped his clients decorate the interiors.
From custom “wave” stair rails to aquamarine mosaics, bubble-glass tabletops, hand-cast shell accents and a green and turquoise color scheme, sophisticated allusions to the sea abound. “Jerry did a great job interpreting something I could never have drawn,” says Falk, “though I had a notion of what we wanted it to look like.”
Rhonda Falk agrees, “Our builder said he’d never seen an architect who had such an eye for finishes and quality as Jerry.”
The second story of the home contains three guest suites, while the top floor is devoted to apartments for the couple’s grown daughters, Daina and Jocelyn. Below, a stunning lap pool spills into a sculptural waterfall clad in blue Waterworks tile. A spa and an outdoor fireplace occupy pavilions at either end of the pool.
Throughout the design phase, both Falks worked closely with Harpole. “We met many, many times,” says the designer. “David is a very passionate person about whatever he’s involved in and looked at every fabric and material. He was like a kid with a new toy.”
Now that—in theory—David Falk has more free time, he is “spreading his wings” and trying new pursuits—from opening restaurants to producing movies. He currently has a documentary in the works on his “hero” and one-time client John Thompson, the former Georgetown University basketball coach.
Falk credits his mother, Pearl Falk—a teacher and interpreter—with his perfectionism and passion for learning. He studied economics at Syracuse University, where he met Rhonda. Two years later, she followed him to DC, where he earned a law degree at George Washington University. They were married in 1974.
Rhonda recently threw David a 60th-birthday golf tournament and roast at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland, and all of his former clients—from Dikembe Mutombo to Jeff Green—attended. “It was like a Hall of Fame,” David Falk muses.
Last year, the Falks committed $15 million to Syracuse, establishing the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics. “It’s a gift to be in a position to do this kind of thing,” says David Falk, who hopes the program will bring about an intersection between academia and experiential learning. “If all you’re going to do is the same thing that everyone else is doing, why will someone hire you?” he asks intensely. “Really successful people have an affinity for seeing the road ahead.”
Richard Leo Johnson is a photographer based in Savannah, Georgia.
ARCHITECTURE & INTERIOR DESIGN: JERRY HARPOLE, AIA, Harpole Architects, P.C., Washington, DC. BUILDER: RUSS COOPER, Russ Cooper Associates, Inc., Charleston, South Carolina.