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Leading lawyers

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Who Represents Who

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The ‘exceptional’ team at Proskauer Rose LLPunderstands sports businesses and the sports market broadly’. The sports practice is jointly headed by three New York-based attorneys: firm chairman and corporate attorney Joseph Leccese (‘one of the best known and well respected in the business’), litigator Bradley Ruskin and labor and employment specialist Howard Ganz. The group has longstanding relationships with all of the ‘big four’ leagues, with Leccese and the ‘talented, creative, dedicated and focusedJon Oram notably advising the National Hockey League (NHL) on the NHL’s expansion to include a 31st team: the Vegas Golden Knights in Las Vegas, Nevada. Oram also assisted Los Angeles 2028 with the successful bid to host the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games, with the firm set to continue as legal counsel and strategic adviser to the organizing committee as it continues preparations. On the contentious side, Elise Bloom and Adam Lupion defended Major League Baseball (MLB) against claims brought by former minor league players alleging violations of federal and state minimum wage and overtime laws.

Trusted Advisor - with Finnegan

IP specialist Finnegan detail how their collaborative approach makes for a unique culture which is designed to allow them to work with clients in a way which is cognizant of the challenges facing all companies today.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is noted for its handling of strategic litigation for major leagues and governing bodies. Practice area co-head Jeffrey Mishkin and Anthony Dreyer continue to act for the ‘big four’ leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the case of Christie v NCAA et al; the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in December 2017 and a decision is expected in the first half of 2018. The firm also assists leagues with their antitrust concerns, with practice co-head Shepard Goldfein and fellow antitrust and competition specialist Matthew Martino advising the NHL on governance, licensing, sponsorship and merchandising issues among others. On the corporate transactional side, Jeffrey Brill assisted Bruce Sherman, who was part of an investment group alongside Derek Jeter and Michael Jordan, with the $1.2bn acquisition of the Miami Marlins, with Sherman taking on the role of chairman of the Marlins. The practice also handles international sports matters, with Lawrence Spiegel and Greg Litt successfully defeating charges brought by the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee against Saoud Al-Mohannadi, vice-president of the Qatar Football Association and Asian Football Confederation.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP’s team, which handles contentious, transactional and advisory sports matters, is jointly headed by Andrew Tulumello, Maurice Suh and Richard Birns. The firm has a longstanding relationship with the National Football League (NFL) and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) which continued with Tulumello representing the NFLPA regarding Ezekiel Elliott’s preliminary injunction to halt a six-game suspension based on alleged domestic violence. Birns and Suh assisted the Toyota Group with entering into sponsorship arrangements for the International and US Olympic and Paralympic Committees for the 2016 - 2024 sponsorship period. Birns also advised Bruin Sports Capital on a partnership and licensing arrangement with the NFL to host and deliver content to subscribers located in Europe. Theodore Olson and Matthew McGill, who are based in Washington DC, represented the State of New Jersey and its Governor, Chris Christie, in a constitutional challenge to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, prohibiting states from legalizing sports gambling.

Latham & Watkins LLP’s work includes strategically significant sport transactions and complex sport litigation items within the scope of its entertainment, sports and media group, which is headed by leading sport lawyer Joseph Calabrese. The team acts for a number of high-profile technological corporations including Univision Communications, Facebook, Tencent and NextVR that seek to exploit the growing synchronization between sport, media and technology. Highlights included Russell Sauer acting for the US Soccer Federation, most notably in litigation and negotiations with the US women’s national soccer team, and George Mihlsten and Maria Hoye advising the Chargers NFL team on the potential development of a new stadium in downtown San Diego and on options for a stadium in the Los Angeles area. Adam Sullins, who is a trusted adviser to professional teams, owners and investors, leagues and and organizations, was promoted to the partnership in 2017.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP has been engaged on some of the highest-profile disputes and investigations in sport, with the concussion multidistrict litigation for the NFL particularly standing out. Head of the sport practice Brad Karp, together with Bruce Birenboim and Theodore Wells, is defending the NFL and various franchises against claims brought by 100 former players who chose to opt out of the global class action settlement. Christopher Boehning successfully defended Swiss marketing company Infront Sports & Media against a putatitive class action case brought against Infront and five other defendants, including FIFA, relating to the sale and distribution of tickets and hospitality packages for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Key highlights on the transactional side include Angelo Bonvino and Monica Thurmond advising KPS Capital Partners on its $425m acquisition of TaylorMade Golf Company from Adidas and Neil Goldman and Charles Googe assisting MLB Advanced Media with service and licensing arrangements concerning the rollout of HBO Now as a SaaS platform. Justin Hamill advised Endeavor on the merger of its subsidiary company, IMG College, with integrated marketing solutions provider Learfield.

With an experienced and diverse sports law practice, Arent Fox LLP’s ‘knowledge and experience in sports and sports media is outstanding’, providing clients with ‘the best available tools for strategic decision making as well as contract negotiating, drafting, and conclusion’. The group assists with a wide range of transactional sports work including team acquisitions and sales, financing, media and technology agreements and IP matters. Clients include the Los Angeles Rams, Oklahoma City Thunder and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment. San Francisco-based practice head Richard Brand has a strong track record in naming rights transactions and in May 2017 successfully realized a long-term homeground stadium naming-rights deal for the Seattle Seahawks with CenturyLink. Los Angeles-based counsel Maidie Oliveau, who has ‘deep sports law experience’ and ‘instils confidence in decision making’, acted for Sugar Bowl on the drafting and negotiation of a multi-year ticket partnership and sponsorship agreement relating to the College Football Playoff, the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 Conference.

Loeb & Loeb LLP’s sports team is ‘excellent, with quick response times, an efficient and focused approach to legal issues, and knowledgeable attorneys that provide sage advice’. The practice, which is jointly headed by Los Angeles-based Arash Khalili and New York-based Brian Socolow, includes Chicago office managing partner Douglas Masters, who ‘provides pragmatic strategies to clients that can be implemented to accomplish goals within budget parameters’. The practice seeks to position itself as a leader in the growing interplay between sports and technology, with Masters advising Comcast on brand creation and marketing strategies following its acquisition of a Philadelphia-based eSports team and Khalili advising Reggie Bush on the establishment of an eSports technology platform launching in early 2018. Masters also acted for athletic footwear company Asics in the successful resolution of a lawsuit brought against it by digital sports and content provider FloSports.

O'Melveny & Myers LLP’s sport offering was considerably strengthened by the recent arrivals of Chuck Baker, Jared Bartie and Irwin Raij from DLA Piper LLP (US), Herrick, Feinstein LLP and Foley & Lardner LLP respectively. Bartie’s arrival in particular has bolstered the firm’s capability for eSports work, with notable engagements in this area including advice to Envy Gaming on its entry into the Overwatch League and assistance to FlyQuest with negotiations to join the League of Legends World Championship. In the area of more traditional sports work, Raij is providing strategic counsel to Hillsborough County on negotiations for the Tamp Bay Rays’ new ballpark and is assisting the Kansas City Royals with negotiating a media rights deal with Fox. Baker represented STACK Media (STACK), the leading content and media company serving athletes, coaches and sports parents with inspirational and educational content in the sale of substantially all its assets to Blue Star Sports, the largest and fastest growing global provider of sports technology, backed by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP is known for acting for major league athletes, managers, staff, owners and broadcasters in all manner of sports litigation and negotiations. Practice co-heads Yehudah Buchweitz and Eric Hochstadt defended Showtime Networks against a suite of putative class actions arising out of the August 2017 Mayweather and McGregor fight. Hochstadt is currently also assisting the direct help non-profit organization We Stand With Oakland with a potential challenge to the NFL’s relocation of the Raiders from Oakland to Las Vegas with the aim of maintaining a professional sports team in Oakland. Employment litigation practice head Jeffrey Klein has advised a range of current and former athletes, coaches and other high profile sporting individuals on their employment law concerns. On the transactional side, Boston-based Kevin Sullivan assisted Providence Equity Partners with the sale of its interest in Soccer United Marketing and handled Providence Strategic Growth Partners’ disposal of a majority stake in its portfolio company Blue Star Sports, a developer of youth sports software solutions, to Genstar Capital.

Winston & Strawn LLP has acted in some of the leading sports disputes affecting the industry over the past decade, including antitrust suits regulating the free agency and salary cap systems in the NFL and the National Basketball Association (NBA), NCAA player litigation and NFL arbitrations and litigations involving player discipline. Highlights included David Feher and Jeffrey Kessler representing the North American Soccer League in an antitrust suit in federal court alleging that the US Soccer Federation, FIFA’s regional arm in the country, had violated federal antitrust law by conspiring to exclude competitor leagues from Division I status. The firm is also able to utilise its advertising, marketing and entertainment law expertise, notably negotiating a multi-year sideline sponsorship agreement for Bose with the NFL. Sport and antitrust specialist David Greenspan is another name of name in the New York-based practice.

Arnold & Porter’s sports practice is jointly headed by Washington DC-based copyright and telecoms lawyer Robert Garrett and New York-based antitrust expert Scott Lent. Garrett is acting for a consortium consisting of the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, WNBA and NCAA in respect of copyright royalty litigation; in January 2017 the consortium reached a settlement with the principal trade associations for the cable television industry concerning a claim for a copyright royalty surcharge, which remains subject to approval by the Copyright Royalty Board. On the franchise side, Lent defended the Golden State Warriors in antitrust litigation brought by StubHub against the franchise and Ticketmaster concerning allegations of monopolizing the ticket resale market.

Baker & Hostetler LLP handles a range of transactional and contentious sport matters for leagues, franchises, owners and sanctioning bodies. Orlando-based Gregory Lee heads the group and notably advised Orlando Magic on its $250m mixed-use development project in downtown Orlando and acted for the US Tennis Association on its $60m capital investment in a large tennis facility. Atlanta-based Derek Bauer defended the owners of Atlanta’s WNBA team in a high-profile breach of contract case brought by a former coach, while Columbus-based auto racing expert Jack Bjerke assisted with the preparation and negotiation of commercial contracts for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, as well as for Scott Pruett and associated company SDP Motorsports.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP has strength in sports-related intellectual property matters. Head of the intellectual property litigation group David Bernstein recently represented the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs in their dispute with Snoop Dogg regarding his application for the ‘Leafs by Snoop’ trademark. John Kiernan and David O’Neil were engaged by FanDuel on litigation over the legality of daily fantasy sports contests in New York and Illinois and before numerous other state attorneys general. A settlement was reached with the New York Attorney General pertaining to allegations of false advertising in October 2016, with other matters ongoing.

Foley & Lardner LLP handles venue development work, as well as naming rights, sports M&A and broadcast deals. Practice co-chair Kevin Schulz acted for a significant investor on the purchase of the Miami Marlins and advised Hi-Rez Studios on a video streaming deal with Microsoft’s Mixer for Paladins Console Series. Practice vice-chair Jonathan Israel handles various matters for the New York Jets and is also advising Major League Rugby - a new US professional rugby league - on league formation, governance, and operational matters. Disputes specialist and co-chair Mary Braza is also a key figure.

Herrick, Feinstein LLP services a diverse portfolio of sports industry clients, including MLB franchises New York Yankees and New York Mets, international boxing promoter Top Rank and sports memorabilia retailer Lelands. Irwin Kishner advised Ultimate Fighting Championship on the Mayweather v McGregor mega bout in Las Vegas and assisted Yankee Stadium with the renegotiation of its obligations under callable tax-exempt bonds issued in order to finance the lease and construction of the new Yankee Stadium. Practice co-chair Daniel Etna advised D.C. United on construction financing and naming rights transactions for the club’s new stadium and acted for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in negotiating a joint-use agreement with the Las Vegas Raiders concerning the development of the Las Vegas Stadium.

At Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, Chicago-based Adam Klein has ‘incredible industry knowledge and great legal and business acumen’. Klein is known for assisting franchises with stadium redevelopment projects, and is currently advising the Golden State Warriors and the Milwaukee Bucks on their stadium redevelopments and related concerns including sponsorship and concession agreements. Klein also assisted Debra Cafaro, CEO of Ventas, with her acquisition of a minority interest in the Pittsburgh Penguins.

At McGuireWoods LLP, key areas of specialism are major league financing deals, sports marketing deals, endorsement and player deals, and sports industry M&A. The team is ‘well respected by banks involved in sports industry debt finance’. Richard Grant, who heads the firm’s Century City office, advised Kia Motors on sponsorship deals with the NBA, WNBA and NBA Development League. Charlotte-based practice head Kevin McGinnis notably advised US Bank National Association as administrative agent on a $125m credit facility to the Utah Jazz, to be used to renovate the Vivint Smart Home Arena. Terrence Bagley and Dennis Belcher, both based in Richmond, advise high-profile athletes on wealth management.

The main figures for sport work at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP are intellectual property lawyer Robert Raskopf and investigations, government enforcement and white-collar criminal defense attorney William Burck. The pair are representing MLB players Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Howard in their ongoing defamation lawsuit against Al Jazeera. Burck also acted for the Confederación Sudamericana de Futbol in connection with US criminal investigations and prosecutions into allegations of bribery and corruption.

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