Sports

Willkie has a rich and deep-rooted history in the area of sports law dating back to 1933 when we began our long association as regular counsel for the National League. The firm’s distinguished representation of Major League Baseball in a host of matters and transactions spans decades and continues to the present day. We have handled some of the most important matters on behalf of Baseball, including our successful arguing of the Flood v. Kuhn Supreme Court case, which reaffirmed  Baseball's antitrust exemption. Other sports clients have included the United States Golf Association, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the New Jersey Nets (now known as the Brooklyn Nets). In addition, the firm has been involved in matters relating to NFL, NBA and NHL teams and various minor league sports franchises.

Willkie has a rich and deep-rooted history in the area of sports law dating back to 1933 when we began our long association as regular counsel for the National League. The firm’s distinguished representation of Major League Baseball in a host of matters and transactions spans decades and continues to the present day. We have handled some of the most important matters on behalf of Baseball, including our successful arguing of the Flood v. Kuhn Supreme Court case, which reaffirmed  Baseball's antitrust exemption. Other sports clients have included the United States Golf Association, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the New Jersey Nets (now known as the Brooklyn Nets). In addition, the firm has been involved in matters relating to National Football League teams, the National Hockey League clubs, and various minor league sports franchises.

Corporate Matters

    • IK Investment Partners in the sale of Sport Group, a worldwide market leader in outdoor sport and recreational surface systems
    • Bidders in other sale processes of NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL teams
    • Insight Venture Partners in its equity financing arrangement with Fanatics Inc. in connection with Fanatics’ acquisition of Dreams Inc.
    • Major League Baseball in:
      • the sale of the Chicago Cubs franchise
      • the sale of franchises to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Arizona Diamondbacks
      • connection with the Colorado Rockies expansion
      • connection with the Florida Marlins expansion
      • its satellite radio agreement with XM Satellite Radio Inc.
    • Major League Baseball Charity, Inc. and Baseball Assistance Team in various corporate, tax, regulatory and compliance matters
    • MLB Network in various matters
    • Minority investors in the purchase of equity interests in the Houston Astros
    • Minority investors in the purchase of equity interests in the New York Mets
    • Atlantic Coast Conference in the negotiation of its basketball television contract with ESPN and Jefferson Pilot
    • Cablevision Systems Corporation (special committee of the Board of Directors) in the spin-off of the Madison Square Garden business to Cablevision stockholders
    • Turner Broadcasting System in its acquisition of Bleacher Report, a sports media website
    • United States Golf Association in matters involving the International Golf Federation
    • Zurich Financial Services in its sponsorship agreement with the PGA Tour
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Litigation

  • Among the sports-related litigations that we have participated in are the following:

    • ABC Sports, Inc., et al. v. Atlanta National League Baseball Club, Inc.
    • Baltimore Orioles, Inc. et al. v. Major League Baseball Players Association
    • BMO Nesbitt Burns, Inc., et al. v. Jeffrey H. Loria, Allen "Bud" Selig, et al.
    • Chargers Football Company, LLC, v. City of San Diego
    • Curtis C. Flood v. Bowie K. Kuhn, et al.
    • Daniel Silverman, Regional Director of the NLRB v. Major League Baseball Players Relations Committee
    • ESPN, Inc. v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball
    • GSP Finance LLC v. KPMG LLC
    • Madelyn Davis v. George Steinbrenner, et al.
    • John Mccoy v. Major League Baseball, et al.
    • Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. and the Los Angeles Dodgers v. Sed Non Olet Denarius, Ltd., et al.
    • Minnesota Twins Partnership v. State of Minnesota
    • New York Yankees Partnership and Adidas America, Inc. v. Major League Baseball Enterprises, Inc., et al.
    • New York Yankees Partnership and George Steinbrenner v. Bowie K. Kuhn as Commissioner
    • Pete Rose v. Major League Baseball, et al.
    • Pete Rose v. Angelo Giamatti
    • Vincent M. Piazza v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, et al.
    • Robert A. Butterworth, Attorney General of Florida  v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, et ano.
    • Silverman v. Major League Baseball Player Relations Committee
    • State of Wisconsin v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, et al.
    • Trustmark Insurance Company v. New Jersey Nets Basketball Club
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Other Significant Matters

  • Bank of Nova Scotia/Sport Supply Group: Represented the Bank of Nova Scotia in an $27.5 million incremental financing of Sport Supply Group.

    In re Bernard L. Madoff/New York Mets: Mediated the $1 billion dispute between the trustee representing defrauded former clients of Bernard Madoff and the owners of the New York Mets. The $1 billion figure reflected $300 million in alleged phony profits and $700 million in principal that the owners had withdrawn since 2002. The year-long mediation ended in March 2012 when the two sides announced that  Mets’ owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz settled the lawsuit for $162 million, and Picard, in turn, dropped all claims.

    The French Soccer Football League: Advised the French Soccer Football League in Orange Sports football broadcasting appeal against internet service providers SFR and Free. The Court affirmed Orange’s right to broadcast exclusive content on its sports channel Orange Sports, which is made available solely to Orange’s internet service subscribers. The Court recognized that "it gives the consumer complete freedom on the choice of the internet service provider." The French soccer football league, represented by Willkie, supported Orange throughout the litigation, and in its introduction of significant market competition with respect to the acquisition of exclusive content, in particular football rights.

    The French Football League, the Association of Professional Sports League:  Advised The French Football League and the Association of Professional Sports League in its intervention in a matter involving France Télécom's Orange Sport interactive TV channel, which, through an open and non-discriminatory public tender procedure was organized by the French Football League and acquired broadcasting rights for football "Ligue 1." The Court overruled a judgment of the Paris Commercial Court finding that this distribution system constituted tied sales (as alleged by the two complainants -- Free and SFR) in violation of the French Consumer Code because consumers had to subscribe first to Orange’s DSL offer before subscribing to Orange Sports.

    Olympic Nice Stadium: Advised banks Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Europe Limited, Société Générale, Crédit Agricole CIB and BBVA-Succursale de Paris on the financing and public law aspects of the €245 million Public Private Partnership between the city of Nice and the consortium Nice Eco Stadium.

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