NBA Legal Fees, MLB TV Deals, and NFL Stadium Projects

The Score

, The Am Law Daily


A recent U.S. Department of Labor filing reveals that the National Basketball Players Association spent more than $3.5 million on outside lawyers and consultants during last year's collective bargaining battle with league management.

The NBA, which locked out its players to strengthen its bargaining position amid the fractious labor negotiations, eventually ended the stalemate by striking a deal with the union in November 2011. Now, the players' legal costs are a matter of public record, thanks to the Labor Department filing, which was first reported on by USA Today last weekend

The Am Law Daily reported last year on how much the NBPA paid its outside lawyers and consultants during the five years of relative labor peace between the last collective bargaining deal in 2005 and the lockout. Dewey & LeBoeuf, whose abrupt collapse earlier this year continues to make legal headlines, reaped the lion's share of the fees dispersed by the union during that period.

Labor Department records show that Dewey and its former global litigation chair Jeffrey Kessler—who led a 60-lawyer team to Winston & Strawn in May—again placed among the union's top legal billers by collecting more than $1.3 million during its most recent fiscal year that ended June 30. 

The only firm to bill the union more than Dewey was Steptoe & Johnson, which received nearly $1.4 million. Leading the Steptoe team were Howrey refugees James Hibey and Alexis Hunter, the latter a special counsel at the firm whose father is NBPA executive director G. William Hunter, according to our previous reports.

Hunter himself received more than $3.1 million in compensation, 25 percent more than he earned during the previous fiscal year, according to USA Today. Another daughter, Robyn Hunter, serves as the union's director of player benefits and services, while daughter-in-law and attorney Megan Natsuko Inaba is employed as director of special events and partnerships. NBPA records show that Robyn Hunter received $97,298 last year; Inaba was paid $174,500.

Inaba is married to Hunter's son, Todd Hunter, who Yahoo Sports reported earlier this year is a vice president at a financial advisory firm called Prim Capital that has a consulting contract with the union. NBPA records show Prim was paid $594,900 for its services last year.

Those relationships are being scrutinized as part of a broader investigation by the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan into Hunter's NBPA stewardship that became public with the issuance of a subpoena on April 25. As we've previously reported here, the union hired Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison litigation cochair Theodore "Ted" Wells Jr. and partner David Brown to conduct an internal review of its business practices.

The NBPA's latest Labor Department filing indicates that its executive committee retained Paul Weiss and that a subcommittee has been appointed to oversee the firm's investigation and monitor the probe being conducted by the U.S. attorney's office.

Another firm paid by the NBPA during the last fiscal year include Boies, Schiller & Flexner, which received $221,167 after being brought in to handle a pair of antitrust suits filed against the league last November, shortly before the sides settled their differences. Berens & Miller, a five-lawyer Minneapolis firm that served as local counsel to the NBPA in one of those cases, was paid $27,556.

NBPA records show the union also paid Weil, Gotshal & Manges, whose litigation cochair James Quinn and partner Bruce Meyer were brought in at the end of the lockout to successfully mediate the labor talks, approximately $73,795 for its services.

Other firms and consultants receiving payments from the union include: Navigant Consulting ($351,029), Blitman & King ($80,340), consultant and ex-Dewey associate Angela Smedley ($30,000), Sidley Austin ($20,787), Altshuler Berzon ($19,321), the Groom Law Group ($16,694), and consultant Kevin McGuinness ($12,189).

The Labor Department filing also lists the following compensation for the NBPA's in-house legal staff: associate general counsel Ronald Klempner ($244,831), associate counsel Yared Alula ($170,042), counsel Sean Brandveen ($128,420), counsel David Kiefer ($107,892), and $18,942 to the estate of late general counsel Gary Hall, a former Blitman & King partner and close friend of Hunter's.

In August The Am Law Daily reported on the death of Simon Gourdine, a well-regarded lawyer who headed the union before Hunter and was once the league's first-ever deputy commissioner. The NBA's 2012-13 season begins on October 30.

In-House Lawyers Handle $6.8 Billion TV Deal

Nearly 25 years ago, CBS shocked rival NBC by inking a $1 billion deal with Major League Baseball to broadcast games over a four-year period. How times change.

MLB announced this week that it had signed an eight-year broadcast rights deal with Fox Sports Media Group and Turner Broadcasting System, which will yield a combined $6.8 billion for the league over the life of a contract that runs through 2021. The deal comes on the heels of another eight-year, $5.6 billion contract MLB signed in August with ESPN, meaning that the league will have at least $12.4 billion flowing into its coffers from its broadcast partners over the next eight years.

While Covington & Burling took the lead for MLB on the ESPN deal, according to our previous reports, it was MLB's in-house lawyers and their counterparts at Fox and TBS who hammered out the agreement announced this week.

TBS senior vice president and associate general counsel John Cooper and assistant general counsel Tina Shah led the negotiations for the Atlanta-based network, which will continue to air about a dozen regular season games and a slate of playoff games after agreeing to a $2.4 billion extension of its portion of the contract. Louise Sams serves as general counsel for TBS.

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