Jeffrey Moorad. Courtesy photo

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius is stepping up its game in sports law with a splashy California hire and the creation of its newest industry group.

Investor and former San Diego Padres owner Jeffrey Moorad is joining the firm’s Orange County office in Costa Mesa, California, to help lead a global sports industry initiative with partner Jack Concannon. The new group includes 50 lawyers representing clients across many professional sports leagues and in other sports-related businesses.

“Morgan Lewis has never been branded as a firm that has a big sports practice,” Concannon said. But “we’ve really had a very broad practice that has never been brought together under a broad umbrella.”

Those lawyers have already delved into the industry, with existing clients that include team owners and sports industry investors, and work involving the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Professional Bull Riders. They’ve worked with professional teams including the Oakland Raiders and Boston Red Sox, gaming operators including DraftKings Inc. and FanDuel Inc., sports retailer Fanatics Inc. and broadcasters Comcast and NBCUniversal.

“Our interest now is in branding that platform in a more meaningful way, adding a layer of recognition and incremental expertise for our existing clients, and then of course being better positioned to take on incremental work when business[es] are interested in becoming involved in the industry,” Moorad said.

Moorad, the chairman and CEO of investment management company Moorad Sports Partners, has also been an agent to athletes, and is a past owner and CEO of the Padres and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Concannon came to Morgan Lewis as part of its absorption of the bulk of Bingham McCutchen in 2014. He has represented sports franchises, advised clients on buying and selling sports franchises in professional football, baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer leagues.

Moorad was law school classmates with Morgan Lewis chair Jami McKeon at Villanova Law School, where Moorad later started the school’s sports law center. He was also longtime friends with Morgan Lewis partner Christopher Cox and senior counsel Franklin Brockway Gowdy. After he sold the Padres, he said, he found he was more able to take on a new effort.

Earlier this summer he met with McKeon, he said, and they began to discuss the idea of bringing his work to a law firm.

“Jeff has a unique combination of skills – as a lawyer, former agent, team owner and CEO, and investor – that will complement and build on the firm’s existing capabilities and experience advancing the interests of clients in this ever-evolving global industry,” McKeon said.

Morgan Lewis has already been approached by multiple practitioners in the sports industry, Moorad said, who are interested in joining the new initiative.

The industry group will not only include litigation, transactional work and financing, but nonlegal services as well, Moorad and Concannon said. Moorad said he is also becoming a principal in Morgan Lewis Consulting, and a few clients have already asked his group to serve as their business consultants.

Moorad will also continue his involvement in Moorad Sports Partners and PrimeSport, a sports, travel and entertainment concierge business, of which he is chairman. And both companies will likely look to Morgan Lewis for legal services, he said.