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'America's Team' GC Has a Job the Size of Texas
The National Law Journal
Name and title: Alec Scheiner, senior vice president and general counsel.
"America's team": Since its winless opening season (with a single tie) in 1960, the Dallas Cowboys Football Club Ltd. has become the most valuable sports franchise in the United States, and one of the most successful. The Cowboys, winners of five Super Bowls, hold the National Football League record for the most post-season appearances. The franchise has amassed the longest streak of consecutive sold-out home and away games, and has accumulated more Monday Night Football victories than any other team. Beginning next season, the Cowboys' home will be in Arlington, Texas, where they will do battle in the Metroplex, a new, state-of-the-art stadium.
The franchise's approximately 300 employees include the football team but also specialists in managing the arena, real estate operations and merchandising. Scheiner declined to disclose the privately held company's revenues.
Legal team and outside counsel: Scheiner, aided by his assistant Diana Lambert, is the quarterback of the Cowboys' legal department. They handle 90 percent of the agenda in-house. A pair of Dallas firms get the bulk of the outside legal work. McCathern Mooty Buffington focuses on litigation matters, typically of the slip-and-fall variety. Winstead recently helped with the negotiations involving the team's new stadium. Expertise, rather than cost, is Scheiner's key consideration when seeking external counsel. Scheiner reports to the family of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Daily duties: Scheiner, a self-described generalist, works on issues pertaining to the cities of Irving, site of Texas Stadium, where the Cowboys have played since 1971, and Arlington, its future home. He pays close attention to league regulations and policies. "Any contract crosses my desk," he said, including those related to sponsorship, local television and radio rights and preseason broadcasts. The NFL oversees the national deals for the regular season. Contracts for vendors and coaches, as well as suite agreements and seat options for fans and corporations, are among Scheiner's other responsibilities. He gets involved if a player files a grievance or if union approval is required for matters such as the new stadium. Scheiner doesn't get involved with arranging players' contracts, which are fairly uniform from a language standpoint, although he might step in if there are unique terms or circumstances that need to be resolved. The athletes manage their own endorsements, memorabilia and collectibles. The legal department's duties remain the same in-season or off, but Scheiner said that there is a pervasive, heightened tension in Cowboy World once the games begin.
Team discipline: Drug testing and off-the-field incidents, should they occur, are dealt with at the league level. Discipline in general comes under the umbrella of the collective-bargaining agreement between the players' union and the NFL. Regulation is primarily a league concern.
Scheiner described himself as being cognizant of antitrust and Securities and Exchange Commission rules. He is involved in some aspects of insurance, but that mostly is the responsibility of the team's chief financial officer.
Practicing his trade with the Cowboys "keeps a lawyer very interested," Scheiner said. He feels fortunate to be working for Jones, an owner "with a history of thinking outside the box."
Job has evolved: The professional football business has grown more complicated than ever, and Scheiner's changing role mirrors this development. He half-jokingly explained that, 30 years ago, running a professional team simply involved putting the players on the field, selling tickets and purveying some hot dogs. Now there are dozens of new modes of sports distribution, ranging from radio and television to cellphones, satellites and computers. There are "tons" of different team-related inventories: concessions, sponsors, club seats, normal seating and a variety of events. The modern general counsel needs to keep abreast of an endless list of details that customers and fans have come to expect from a team in the modern NFL, Scheiner said.
Singular stadium: Planning and constructing the Cowboys' new $1.2 billion stadium was a "once-in-a-50-year process," according to Scheiner, who also described the venue as the "biggest and most amazing ever." The Metroplex is a retractable-roofed structure with a potential capacity of 100,000. It will be inaugurated in June with a George Strait and Reba McIntyre concert.
Scheiner put together the stadium's creative financing package. He participated in the bidding and ultimate agreements for its use for non-Cowboy events, including the 2011 Super Bowl, the annual college football Cotton Bowl game, a National Basketball Association All-Star game and college basketball's Final Four tournament. Scheiner helped forge a deal involving his team, the New York Yankees, the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Dallas private equity firm CIC Partners L.P. to create Legends Hospitality Management LLC, a concessions and hospitality company.
Route to present position: Scheiner's career arc was influenced heavily by a seven-year stint practicing at what is now Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. Initially concentrating in private equity, Scheiner soon segued into sports transactions. He helped engineer high-profile deals involving professional teams, including the Charlotte Hornets, Baltimore Ravens, Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs. Scheiner has been with the Cowboys since 2004, when he joined as general counsel, and he considers this to be the apex of his career. Scheiner's involvement with the Dallas team stems from having worked with former Wilmer partner Dick Cass, who had done transactional work for the Cowboys before becoming president of the Ravens.
Personal: The transplanted Texan hails from West Point, N.Y. He and his wife, Nadya, are the parents of Norah, age 2. Scheiner enjoys sports and spending time with his daughter. He graduated in 1992 from Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. He was awarded his law degree in 1997 from Georgetown University Law Center.
last book and movie: "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness," by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein; "The Reader."