Stade Velodrome in Marseille, home of soccer club Olympique Marseille. (Photo: Hombrey via Wikimedia Commons)
Three weeks after Sullivan & Cromwell made news for representing Major League Baseball in a $1 billion streaming deal with The Walt Disney Co., the Wall Street firm is at the helm of another big sports buy.
On Monday, real estate developer Frank McCourt Jr. announced that he had agreed to acquire historic French soccer team Olympique de Marseille from billionaire businesswoman Margarita Louis-Dreyfus. While financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, Reuters reported that the purchase price was $44.68 million, citing a figure by French sports site RMC Sport.
Sullivan & Cromwell is advising McCourt on the deal through a team led by the firm’s chairman, Joseph Shenker. Other lawyers from the firm working on the matter include sports and entertainment partner Ivan Deutsch, M&A partner Olivier de Vilmorin and tax partners Nicolas de Boynes and Andrew Mason, as well as associates Vincent Bourrelly, Marie Bombardieri and Isaac Wheeler.
Back in 2011, The Am Law Daily reported that McCourt called upon Sullivan & Cromwell and Shenker to represent the interests of the Dodgers franchise in a high-profile divorce case between him and his now ex-wife, one that reportedly resulted in one of the largest legal malpractice settlements in history. Shenker stayed on call to advise McCourt in the eventual $2.15 billion sale of the Dodgers to an investor group the following year, earning an Am Law Daily Dealmaker of the Week nod for his role in selling the MLB team out of bankruptcy.
The Dodgers sale, which set a record at the time for a pro sports team, was surpassed by the $2 billion sale in 2014 of the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Clippers. (The Dodgers purchase price included $412 million in debt and a $150 million parking lot joint venture involving McCourt and the team’s new owners.) The American Lawyer reported last year on Am Law 100 deal lawyers flocking to advise clients interested in buying into pro sports, and Sullivan & Cromwell picked up the work advising private equity titan Antony Ressler on his $850 million acquisition of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.
As for Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, she turned to a Clifford Chance team led by M&A partner Thierry Schoen and of counsel Sue Palmer to handle the sale of Marseille to McCourt. Yves Wehrli, managing partner of Clifford Chance’s Paris office and regional managing partner of the Magic Circle firm’s operations for continental Europe, is also working on the deal, along with M&A partner Laurent Schoenstein, counsel Emmanuel Mimin and attorney Arnaud Constans.
Bohemia, New York-based solo practitioner Igor Levin, a former partner at Dewey & LeBoeuf predecessor Dewey Ballantine, is also representing the Russian-born Louis-Dreyfus on her sale of Marseille. Levin has been a longtime legal adviser to Louis-Dreyfus, who was married to French billionaire Robert Louis-Dreyfus until his death in 2009. (Louis-Dreyfus is also a cousin by marriage to American actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus of “Seinfeld” and “Veep” fame.) In April, Louis-Dreyfus announced a quest to find a buyer for Marseille. The French media has chronicled the team’s recent troubles.
“All these years, in good and bad times, our love for OM was the sole driving force for my family to support the club as much as we could. I know that our efforts may not always have been enough to assure success and I am sorry for that. Now, a new era begins,” said Louis-Dreyfus in a statement. “To maintain an emotional connection between OM and my family, I would stay with the club and continue to support it as a small minority shareholder.”
The deal is expected to close before the end of the year.