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    January 18, 2011  


Armageddon for millions of sports fans may be around the corner. On Friday, we stopped by Dewey & LeBoeuf to discuss looming NBA and NFL lockouts with the lead attorney for both leagues’ players associations, sports litigation maven Jeff Kessler.

Dewey & LeBoeuf sports litigation maven Jeff Kessler

Jeff tells us he just finished a five day trial on Thursday before a special master in the firm’s moot court room to stop the NFL from gaining access to $4B in TV revenues. On behalf of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), Jeff argued that the NFL's guaranteed television revenues during a lockout would violate the antitrust settlement agreement that the league entered into with the players because it would trade broadcast revenues to be shared with the players for lockout protection for the owners. The verdict will be in on February 1st and may decide the fate of the most profitable sports league in the world. Jeff says a win for the players would raise the stakes for the NFL and make a lockout less likely. Jeff’s had success as a peacemaker in the past. In '89, with Weil Gotshal litigation head Jim Quinn and the late NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw, Jeff decertified the union and won a lawsuit that created free agency in the NFL, and led to the last 17 years of labor peace.

Dewey & LeBoeuf sports litigation maven Jeff Kessler

Sporting his NBA-gifted “Salary Cap,” Jeff tells us he repped Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and dozens of other NBA players in a bid to prevent a lockout in ’95. He picked up the Jordan figurine in California in the midst of the Space Jam shoot. Like the NFL, the NBA’s CBA expires shortly (March 3rd and June 30th, respectively). Jeff tells us he expects difficult negotiations with the NBA. To no one’s surprise, money is the crux—Jeff says players don’t want more, but the owners are seeking a massive and unprecedented giveback. (Commish Stern has said the league lost $370M last year.) Jeff says a major negotiating session will take place at the All-Star game this year. Last year, superstars including King James, KG, and D-Wade showed their solidarity to non-stars by attending the meeting, and Jeff expects a similar showing at this year’s game in the City of Angels.

Oscar Pistorius, disabled runner training for the Olympics

Jeff successfully repped South African runner, Oscar Pistorius, born without fibulas in his legs in what he calls one of the most important cases ever for disabled athletes. After the International Association of Athletics Federations outlawed the blade device Oscar uses to compete, Jeff traveled to Switzerland on a pro bono basis and argued that Oscar makes Oscar fast, not the device, and that everyone should have a fair chance to compete. The arbitration panel unanimously agreed, clearing the legal hurdles for Oscar to compete in the ’12 London Olympics. The legendary litigator tells us he never considered being a sports agent, like his son, 30, who reps NFL players including Mark Sanchez and Jamaal Charles. Jeff, who made his theatrical debut chasing after Daisy Mae’s unreciprocated love as the villainous Earthquake McGoon in a high school Li’l Abner play, says his first love is trying cases because of the performance art involved.



Orrick real estate powerhouse Marc Shapiro
In a deal emblematic of the return to business in ’11, Xanadu Meadowlands, the largest shopping center in North America, is getting a makeover that would make Pamela Anderson seem unaltered. Orrick real estate powerhouse Marc Shapiro is repping designated developer Triple Five Worldwide in the multibillion dollar 4.5M sq ft redevelopment. He reps developers, institutional lenders, and private investors in real estate (many from Europe and the Middle East). He tells us the need for investors to find a home for their capital has finally overcome the reticence in the market. Attractive pricing, affordable debt, reasonable returns, and a perception that the bottom has arrived, has created an optimal time to commence projects anticipated to close in three months to a year. Marc says they have received a noticeably larger number of inquiries about US opportunities from foreign capital sources, and he expects his phone to keep ringing.
Orrick real estate powerhouse Marc Shapiro at Burning Man

When Marc’s not working as a real estate lawyer, he likes to explore life at the other side of the spectrum. In August ’07 and ’10, he attended Burning Man with his 19 and 23-year old sons, Eric and Benjamin, in a rented RV. For those who don’t know (or can’t remember), the extreme event is a clothing optional, performance art festival in the Nevadan Black Rock Desert that draws in excess of 50k to witness the torching of the giant Man and live communally for a week in a gift-only economy (cash will buy only strange looks). Marc tells us it takes him about three months to recover from the all-night party scene at the 21st century Woodstock.

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