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A group of Silicon Valley investors wants a piece of the Golden State Warriors, but they’ll need to pop through some legal hoops first. The four men who’ve negotiated to purchase a 20 percent stake in the star-crossed team must obtain the OK from NBA lawyers before the deal can go through. “The NBA has a very detailed approval process for any changes in ownership,” said the investors’ lawyer, Cooley Godward partner Christopher Westover. “The league is obviously very concerned about who the owners are.” Westover, who is chairman of Cooley’s business department, represents Bay Area Basketball Partners LLC in its bid to acquire the minority share from Chris Cohan, one of a dwindling number of league owners with 100 percent stakes. The four partners — Flextronics CEO Michael Marks, Silver Lake Partners managing director Jim Davidson, Symantec CEO John Thompson and Fred Harman, general partner of Oak Investment Partners — won’t manage the team, but rather act as advisers to management. Cohan was represented in the sale by Robin Edwards at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal. The parties have not stated the terms of the deal, but published reports have put the price at $50 million. “I didn’t think that was way off,” Edwards said. But Cohan can’t cash the check yet. Marks, the Flextronics CEO, said buying part of a team is very different from investing in a private company. “They want to make sure the investors in sports organizations are outstanding citizens because of the gambling aspect of the game,” he said. “They want to make sure we are who we say we are. It’s similar to a public trust.” “They look at the financial background of the buyers to make sure nothing nefarious is in their past,” added Sonnenschein’s Edwards. Westover described his clients as accomplished professionals and “first-class people” in terms of their community and family involvement. In addition to abiding by the terms of their agreement with team management, the investors must also agree to a litany of NBA rules about what they can and can’t do with their ownership interests. Most regulations focus on transferring their interest to other parties, Westover said. The group has already passed the bulk of the requirements, according to the lawyers. “We expect to get approval, but nothing is a slam dunk, so to speak,” Edwards said. This isn’t Westover’s first walk across the court. He got acquainted with the NBA while representing the Warriors’ previous owner from 1986 to 1994. “There has been enormous growth in their legal group,” noted Westover. “It’s a multiple of what it was 10 years ago.” Screening potential buyers isn’t all that’s keeping NBA attorneys busy. The league has become a big and complex business requiring a Shaq-sized legal department. The league now includes the WNBA and the NBDL, or National Basketball Development League. The NBA itself has 30 teams, endless licensing contracts and countless millionaire players who double as product pitchmen. Its games are broadcast in more than 100 countries and its logo appears on everything from basketballs to bar stools. The league, based in New York, now employs roughly 30 in-house attorneys, a spokesman estimated. It relies on New York’s Proskauer Rose for outside counsel. Westover worked on the deal with Craig Dauchy, head of Cooley’s venture capital group, partner Kirk Dizon and corporate associate Peter Werner. Partner Susan Philpot provided tax support. Edwards’ team included Sonnenschein partner William Choe and associate Meleana Leaverton in San Francisco and partner Thomas Stephens in Chicago.

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