Mr. Walters closed the club soon after.
He switched to booking musical acts into nightclubs, lounges and hotels, which proved lucrative. Over the next two decades, the client list of Norby Walters Associates (later called General Talent International) included Gloria Gaynor, Dionne Warwick, Patti LaBelle, Parliament-Funkadelic, the Commodores, Luther Vandross, the Four Tops, Run-DMC, Kool & the Gang, Grandmaster Flash and Public Enemy.
In the early 1980s, Mr. Walters glimpsed a new opportunity in the top tier of college athletes. With a partner, Lloyd Bloom, he established World Sports & Entertainment. From 1984 to 1987, the two men signed dozens of athletes to secret contracts that included inducements like cash, loans and cars in exchange for giving the agency exclusive rights to handle their future negotiations with professional teams, most of them in the National Football League, according to a 1988 federal indictment against Mr. Walters, Mr. Bloom, a third agent and a football player.”
Most of the inducements violated National Collegiate Athletic Association regulations and would have rendered the athletes ineligible to compete had their schools known about them. But Mr. Walters and Mr. Bloom said their lawyers had assured them that the contracts were legal even if the players were still with their college teams.
The indictment charged Mr. Walters and Mr. Bloom with conspiring with the athletes to conceal the payments by having them agree to postdated contracts that appeared to have been signed after their last collegiate games.
“The crime alleged that he conspired with students to steal their educations, which was preposterous, since the schools had little concern about whether they got an education,” Gary Walters said in a phone interview. He added, “Norby wasn’t doing anything different in the sports business than he did in the music business: giving fair compensation to players who had been denied it.”