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Andrew Lee is general counsel for the New York Jets, the other New York professional football team. The Jets are part of the East Division of the American Football Conference in the National Football League.
What can you tell us about the Jets as a business? Particularly over the last five to 10 years, the business of sports has really evolved. Our business actually extends well beyond football Sundays. We have about 120 employees, plus anywhere from 65 to roughly 100 players, depending on the time of year. Our customers are the hundreds of thousands of fans all over the country who follow the Jets at the Meadowlands, in the press, on TV, and on the Internet, as well as the corporate sponsors we partner with for their own entertainment, advertising, and promotional needs. We have 10,000 people on our waiting list for season tickets, and all of our games are sold out every year.
Is that unusual for an NFL team? New York is one of, if not the, biggest sports and media markets, but we’re not the only NFL team with a long waiting list. We do consider ourselves fortunate to have so many loyal fans.
Where do the Jets do business? Right now, our corporate headquarters are in Manhattan, and our football operations and practice facility are on Long Island, at Hofstra University. We play our home games at the Meadowlands in New Jersey and, obviously, we play away games all over the country. We’re building a new state-of-the-art stadium at the Meadowlands, which will be the home of the New York Jets and the New York Giants. That currently is under construction and will open for the 2010 NFL season. We’re also building a new corporate headquarters and training facility in Florham Park, N.J. Like the new stadium, this will be a first-class facility — it will have four outdoor 100-yard fields (three natural grass and one artificial turf), a 100-yard indoor field, state-of-the-art strength, conditioning, and training equipment, offices for all of our staff and coaches, a locker room and classrooms for the players, and plenty of meeting space, among other things.
So your office will be in New Jersey. Yes, all of our operations will be in New Jersey, although the stadium itself is only a few miles away from midtown Manhattan. We did try, for several years, to build a stadium in New York City, but we weren’t able to get that done, through no fault of our own — it was more related to New York politics than to anything else.
What are the other parts of the Jets’ business? We have media relations — dealing with the press — and we have community relations, dealing with all our public outreach. We also have charitable programs that we sponsor, such as youth football and nutrition programs. Business operations includes in-game productions, special events, TV and radio shows, corporate sponsorships and partnerships, merchandising, in-house video, accounting, IT, the box office — and then we have the whole football side of the company. That includes the coaches, football administration, medical personnel, training, practice facility operations, groundskeeping, equipment, security, training, and player personnel/scouting. And, as I said, we have two major construction projects under way at the new stadium and the new headquarters/training facility. It’s pretty broad.
Can you describe the legal department? I’m the general counsel, and I report to the president and the owner. I have primary responsibility for the club’s legal issues and for human resources. As part of senior management, I help to formulate strategies on a number of fronts and work closely with managers of the various departments whenever they need my advice (on legal or business issues). The HR function includes planning and executing our relocation to New Jersey, which is a big part of what’s going on right now. The legal department also includes a director of legal affairs and a director of human resources, who report to me. Outside of the department, we rely on the NFL’s legal department, which handles licensing issues and serves as a valuable resource on a number of issues. Of course, I also manage our relationships with, and work done by, outside counsel.
What are the legal issues? There’s no shortage of contractual work, whether it’s sponsorship agreements, suite license agreements, naming rights, employment agreements, and other things. I also handle any internal investigations — not that we have many — part of that is HR, and part is legal. I oversee disputes and litigation; in fact, depending on the scope of the matter, I sometimes litigate personally if I can manage the time. I interface with the NFL on a variety of issues and with the New York Giants on certain stadium issues. I’m also very involved with the Jets’ relationship with the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, which owns the Meadowlands Sports Complex.
What outside law firms do you use? Our primary outside firm is Proskauer Rose, which does a lot of sports law work. In fact, that’s where I started practicing law 10 years ago. We rely on Proskauer for various business law issues, labor law disputes, and most other things (including, recently, a $650 million financing for the new stadium), although we’ve also used Boies, Schiller & Flexner and Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman for certain litigation. I use Drinker Biddle & Reath for their New Jersey real estate and land use expertise. And we use Greenberg Traurig for New York compliance issues, and Porzio, Bromberg & Newman for New Jersey compliance issues. We handle as much as we can internally, but we’re a lean department, so it’s good to have these firms to support us.
Is there a typical day? There really is not a typical day, especially with so many different balls in the air. Maybe after we relocate, things will get typical then. But the way this organization is, I doubt it. It’s a very progressive place. We’re always looking to innovate and keep things fresh.
What’s your favorite part of the job? Going to football games? Hey, I love football, and I am a big football fan. But being part of a management team of a business like this is a big change from practicing law at a firm, so I’m really enjoying that. And I’m constantly encountering new and challenging legal issues, so I get the best of both worlds. The people here are fantastic — it’s really a great group, particularly in management. These are some of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with.
What would you say are the toughest parts of the job? I guess I’m not sure this qualifies, but I would say time management — getting it all done. I have so many things going on, it’s a challenge to manage it all at the same time.
So what happened with the Jets last season? Last season is dead and buried. I can only answer that question by saying that nobody at the Jets is thinking about last year — everyone is focused on next year. These are professional athletes and professional coaches, and they really are incredibly good at what they do. The level of time and sophistication in creating that product on the field is really remarkable. In my opinion, we played some really exciting and competitive football games this year. In the end, our coaches and players — really, every person in the organization — want to win more than anything else.
What’s your background? I went to Fordham Law, graduated in 1997, and clerked on the 5th Circuit. Then I went to Proskauer from there. I was primarily in the litigation department, until 2005, when I came over to the Jets. I’ve been here almost three years. When the Jets were working on building a stadium on the west side of Manhattan, it became clear that there was going to be a lot of litigation, and there was no general counsel. I had been representing the Jets as a Proskauer lawyer for several years, so they knew me. They brought me in-house to manage the various stadium litigations. Once that wound down, they wanted me to stay on and offered me the job of general counsel. I was very happy at Proskauer and wasn’t looking to leave, but this was and continues to be a great opportunity.
Where would we find you when you’re not in the office? I usually spend a lot of time with my wife and kids — we have two girls, 8 and 4. We live in New York City, so there are an endless variety of things you might find us doing (other than on Sundays during the season!). I’ve played the guitar since I was a kid, so that’s an important hobby for me, and I play whenever I get a chance.
Do you have a band? I haven’t been in a band in a while, but I love to play — if any of your readers are New York City lawyers looking for a guitarist for a rock or blues band, tell them to give me a call.
Do your children play guitar? They both have their own guitars, and they’re both pretty musically inclined. The strings hurt their fingers after a while, but we’re working on it. I would love for them to be musicians if that’s what they’re into when they get older.
What’s one book you’ve read recently? One of the best books I read over the summer was David McCullough’s 1776.

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