Michael J. Egan III (Alison Church/Freelance)
Lawyers from King & Spalding and DLA Piper shepherded the $70 million acquisition of a Major League Soccer expansion team by Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank.
King & Spalding represents the Falcons and Blank in many of his ventures. King & Spalding brought in DLA Piper for joint representation because of their “specific Major League Soccer experience,” said King & Spalding partner Michael J. Egan.
DLA Piper served as counsel in creating another MLS expansion team, the New York Soccer Club, a joint venture by the New York Yankees and Great Britain’s Manchester City Football Club. The Manchester club is owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group.
DLA Piper will stay on as co-counsel to the yet-to-be-named Atlanta team, which is expected to kick off in 2017. The team will share a new stadium with the Falcons, set to replace the Georgia Dome. It is the 22nd addition to MLS, which hopes to add two teams in Florida.
The Atlanta deal took four months to hammer out, said DLA Piper partner Charles H. Baker in New York.
“That is pretty fast. Major League Soccer and Mr. Blank were eager to get this transaction completed,” Baker said. “Rarely have I seen two parties be so collegial.”
Baker and DLA Piper associate Richard Allan Rubano said mergers and acquisitions of sports teams are a slightly different beast than in unregulated industries. “We’ve worked with them so often, we know what the issues are before we get into it,” Rubano said.
Two key issues were making sure the teams “had an understanding of their rights” to the stadium and have the double occupancy “be complementary to each other,” Rubano said.
Because sports leagues are so regulated, the parameters of a deal are already sketched out to a degree, and lawyers “know where they will bend and where their breaking points are,” Rubano said.