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April 8, 2011 5:56 PM

The Score: Shearman Helps Liverpool FC Seal Deal with King James

Posted by Brian Baxter

Boston Celtics fans might find themselves sick at the thought of hated rival LeBron James partnering up with representatives of the local baseball team, but that's just what happened this week thanks to a cross-border marketing deal signed by the Miami Heat star.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Fenway Sports Group (FSG), an investment company that serves as the parent for both the Boston Red Sox and English Premier League franchise Liverpool FC, has signed a long-term agreement with James's sports marketing firm LRMR to exclusively handle all marketing and sponsorship opportunities.

Hedge fund titan John Henry and television producer Tom Werner are principals in FSG, which adopted its current name last month after shedding the New England Sports Ventures (NESV) moniker. NESV became a global operation last October after buying Liverpool FC for a sum that The WSJ puts at $488 million. That deal was completed after a battle between rival ownership groups in courts in the U.S. and U.K.

Shearman & Sterling corporate partner Creighton Condon in London took the lead advising the Henry-Werner group on the Liverpool acquisition. As previously reported by The Am Law Daily, Condon has served as Henry's longtime outside counsel. Among the deals on which Condon has advised the businessman: the landmark $700 million acquisition of the Red Sox in 2002, according to this feature story from The American Lawyer.

It was Condon and a Shearman team comprised of M&A partner David Connolly, tax cohead Michael Shulman, employee benefits leader John Cannon III, and associates Assaad Nasr and Nathan Tasso that took the lead advising FSG on its deal with James and LRMR. (FSG's general counsel is Ed Weiss.)

James and LRMR turned to partners Lawrence Shire, Eric Sacks, and Robert Strent of New York entertainment and media firm Grubman, Indursky & Shire. The firm, whose cofounding partner is industry veteran Allen Grubman, has a long list of celebrity clients. Grubman Shire's Sacks advised music management executive Irving Azoff on his agreement with Ticketmaster in 2008.

LRMR is a marketing firm founded by James's childhood friend Maverick Carter. As part of the deal with FSG, which covers marketing, endorsement, and philanthropic endeavors by LRMR worldwide, James will also receive a limited stake in the legendary Liverpool soccer team. The notion of an American basketball star owning a piece of the Shankly Gates has some Liverpool fans less than enthused.

Bankrupt at the Track

The past month has been a bad one at the track for a trio of racing establishments. On Thursday, casino and racetrack operator Indianapolis Downs sought Chapter 11 protection in Delaware, citing a $540 million debt load and an inability to reach an out-of-court restructuring agreement with lenders.

Greenberg Traurig restructuring partners Scott Cousins and Victoria Counihan are advising Shelbyville, Ind.-based Indianapolis Downs, along with Christopher Ward, managing partner of Polsinelli Shughart's office in Wilmington. Indianapolis Downs, a "racino" that opened in 2002, hopes to use Chapter 11 to reorganize itself, according to Dow Jones Newswires. The company has secured $103 million in debtor-in-possession financing.

On March 18, Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. filed for bankruptcy in East Islip, N.Y., seeking to reorganize under municipal Chapter 9 protection. The case, which was subsequently transferred to bankruptcy court in Brooklyn, will see Suffolk OTB close four locales while in bankruptcy proceedings, according to Thoroughbred Times.

McKenna Long & Aldridge bankruptcy partners Christopher Graham in New York and J. Michael Levengood in Atlanta are advising Suffolk OTB in its Chapter 9 case. Court documents show that the debtor owes the firm $46,458. Other firms owed unidentified sums include Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, Powers & Santola in Albany, and Bleakey Platt & Schmidt in White Plains.

Earlier this year New York City's OTB concluded its own Chapter 9 proceedings by closing all of its betting parlors after state legislators failed to adopt a financing plan that would have allowed it to stay in business. (As previously reported by The Am Law Daily, NYC's OTB cut off payments to counsel at Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Kaye Scholer after a rescue plan stalled last year.)

On March 7, the New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) filed for bankruptcy in Camden, N.J., less than three years after the racetrack opened. Located in Millville, N.J., NJMP has two road tracks, a go-kart track, and adjacent country club. The Press of Atlantic City reports that NJMP's problems are due in part to the economic downturn, which hampered residential and retail developments in the region that the track was counting on for its financial success.

Bankruptcy partner Steven Usdin of mid-Atlantic regional firm Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman and Louis Lipsky, managing partner of Philadelphia and Voorhees, N.J.-based Lipsky and Brandt, are advising NJMP in its Chapter 11 case. According to a list of NJMP's 20 largest unsecured creditors, the company owes $67,578 to Sidley Austin and $107,968 to Philadelphia firm Deeb Petrakis Blum & Murphy.

Around the Horn

-- As of late Friday afternoon, a federal jury in San Francisco was deliberating the fate of former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, accused by prosecutors of perjury and obstruction of justice in a government steroids probe. The Am Law Daily's own Claire Zillman took in part of the proceedings this week after Bonds's defense lawyers at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Arguedas, Cassman & Headley rested their case without calling a single witness. Observers seem to be split on that strategy. Over at HardballTalk.com, Craig Calcaterra, himself a former Am Law 100 lawyer, is skeptical about Bonds's ability to beat the charges. But SI.com legal commentator Michael McCann believes that the odds are stacked against the prosecution.

-- Another ex-ballplayer on the legal hot seat is former flamethrower Roger Clemens. This week "The Rocket"--as he was once known--had his lawyers accuse DLA Piper of unfairly holding on to documents that Clemens feels is necessary to clear his name on obstruction of justice and perjury charges, according to sibling publication The National Law Journal. The documents pertain to a report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball put together by DLA and former firm chairman George Mitchell, which The American Lawyer covered in this March 2008 feature story.

-- The legal saga surrounding Frank McCourt continued this week as MLB executives met with the embattled Los Angeles Dodgers owner, who is seeking the league's permission for a $200 million loan that might allow him to keep control of the team after a bitter divorce battle last year. In February, McCourt retained the services of Sullivan & Cromwell after parting ways with his previous counsel at Bingham McCutchen, whose adventures during McCourt's divorce case were well chronicled here.

-- U.S. district court judge Susan Nelson heard a motion for a preliminary injunction brought by NFL players this week in Brady v. NFL seeking an end to the league's lockout that began early last month. The New York Times published profiles of the lead lawyers for both sides--Boies, Schiller & Flexner's David Boies for the NFL and Dewey & LeBoeuf litigation heavyweight Jeffrey Kessler for the players--in advance of Wednesday's hearing. At that hearing, Nelson, a former Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi partner, said she would need a few weeks to reach a decision. In the interim, Nelson has encouraged both sides to return to the negotiating table, even offering to mediate the dispute herself. But players and owners still seem torn on a suitable venue to resume such talks, and one NFL fan has filed suit to stop the lockout, according to The NLJ.

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