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June 21, 2010 10:15 AM

More Turns in Rangers Bankruptcy

Posted by Brian Baxter

CORRECTION: June 22, 10:10 a.m. A previous version of this post stated that Steve Moore's career ended as a result of a broken nose. It should have said he suffered a broken neck. We regret the error.

As contentious as the sale of the bankrupt Texas Rangers baseball team has been, there is one lawyer involved in the matter who's got few complaints.

"At this point, we've achieved everything that we've requested," says K&L Gates partner Jeffrey Fine, the lead attorney for an official committee of unsecured creditors holding $204 million in total claims against the debtor. "Unsecured creditors will be paid 100 cents on the dollar plus interest, and other changes we wanted to the bankruptcy plan and disclosure statement have all been accepted by the debtor and the court."

Unsecured creditors now are waiting to see whether U.S. bankruptcy court judge D. Michael Lynn will reopen bidding for the team, Fine says. The judge is expected to deliver his ruling sometime early in the week. Fine admits he's a bit worried about how the decision might affect the position he's carved out for the unsecured creditors.

Pushing Lynn to reopen the bidding process are the secured creditors--the ad hoc group of lenders represented by lawyers from Latham & Watkins, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, and Gardere Wynne Sewell. These banks and hedge funds hold large chunks of Hicks debt and believe they'll get a better deal if other parties are allowed to bid for the Rangers. The group's lawyers have cited e-mails by lawyers from Weil, Gotshal & Manges that purportedly refer to a sweeter deal from at least one other bidder. The e-mails were leaked earlier last week in bankruptcy court proceedings.

Weil also is facing objections over its role in the bankruptcy case from the U.S. trustee. According to Bloomberg, Lynn stated in court on Thursday that he would review the hiring of certain law firms and banks by the debtor. (The Rangers have hired Fort Worth bankruptcy boutique Forshey Prostok as conflicts counsel.)

Weil restructuring partner Martin Sosland did not respond to a request for comment. (The Am Law Daily reported earlier this year on the various sports-related sales that Weil is handling for Hicks.)

Of course, the Chapter 11 case could be over by the time Lynn issues a ruling on outside advisers. It seems everyone wants a quick outcome in the case, Fine says, whether it's the team that wants to get back to focusing on a pennant race or secured and unsecured creditors getting paid.

In other sports-related legal news...

Albert Haynesworth

Despite accepting a $21 million bonus in February, Washington Redskins star defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth is staying away from the team and demanding a trade. That has Redskins executives upset, and the team reportedly is trying to recoup the bonus payment. We reached out to Redskins spokesman Zack Bolno, who declined to comment on whether the team had hired outside counsel on the matter.

Is a court battle over the matter unavoidable? And, if so, which firm might the team--no stranger to litigation battles--tap to work on the case? Stay tuned.

More PED Legal News

On the performance-enhancing drug front, there have been developments in the legal situations faced by former baseball stars Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. Bonds got a win on June 11 when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a district court ruling that evidence linking the former San Francisco Giant to steroid use was hearsay and couldn't be used at his upcoming perjury trial.

Barbara Valliere, appellate chief in the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco, represented the government in the matter. Bonds was represented by Dennis Riordan, a noted San Francisco criminal defense attorney (he was once part of Phil Spector's legal team), who told the media he hoped the ruling would end the federal case against his client.

Clemens was less fortunate. The Associated Press reported on Friday that former major leaguer David Segui testified before a federal grand jury investigating the player once known as The Rocket for perjury. The revelation came almost a week after reports that Clemens's former trainer, Brian McNamee, told federal investigators he gave Clemens performance-enhancing drugs while being paid by a nonprofit foundation set up in the player's name. The allegations mean that Clemens could face additional criminal and civil charges, although Clemens's lawyer, helmet-haired Houston litigator Rusty Hardin, once again questioned McNamee's motives.

Todd Bertuzzi

Hockey pro Todd Bertuzzi--the instigator in one of the more brutal on-ice hockey events in recent memory, in which he broke the neck of former Colorado Avalanche center Steve Moore--recently signed a contract for nearly $4 million with the Detroit Red Wings. He might be needing every bit of that money, given a recent decision by an Ontario court that Bertuzzi is personally liable for damages to Moore.

The Ontario court ruled that Bertuzzi isn't covered by an insurance policy held by his former team, the Vancouver Canucks, but that the team's former coach, Marc Crawford, is covered for up to $11 million, including payment of damages and attorneys' fees. Moore is seeking $38 million from Bertuzzi over the 2004 incident; Bertuzzi is suing Crawford as a third party, claiming that he fought Moore on the instruction of his coach.

Moore's lawyer, Tim Danson of Toronto's Danson Schwarz Recht, told the Toronto Globe & Mail that the court's decision should get the attention of every hockey player. "All of the money Bertuzzi earns in his career is exposed, and he has to pay his own lawyer," Danson said. "This sends a strong message to all players."

Bertuzzi has retained Geoffrey Adair of Toronto litigation boutique Adair Morse for Moore's suit, while Crawford has turned to Goodmans litigation partner Jessica Kimmel (also involved in Carl Icahn's battle for control of filmmaker Lions Gate) for the suit filed by Bertuzzi.

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The article suggests that Moore suffered only a broken nose. In fact, news reports indicated that his injuries from the hit included three fractured vertebrae in his neck, a grade three concussion, vertebral ligament damage, stretching of the brachial plexus nerves, and facial cuts. See, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Todd_Bertuzzi.

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