For large firms looking abroad in search of opportunities for corporate work, they should perhaps cast an eye closer to home and look toward Cleveland's much-maligned professional sports teams.
Two of the city's oft-mocked franchises‚ the National Football League's Cleveland Browns and Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians, have been busy in recent weeks inking deals that have yielded roles for national and regional firms.
This week the Browns announced a long-term partnership with Akron-based electric utility FirstEnergy to change the name of the team's 72,300-seat home to FirstEnergy Stadium. The deal requires the approval of Cleveland's city council, which owns the stadium that was built in 1999 to replace the Browns's former home, a since-demolished relic known affectionately as "The Mistake by the Lake."
While terms of the stadium sponsorship deal were not disclosed, local news reports state that it's worth $102 million over 17 years, putting about $6 million per year into the Browns' coffers.
Stuart Levi, cohead of the intellectual property and technology practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in New York, represented FirstEnergy on the deal along with associate Gregory Palumbo. Levi, who did not respond to a request for comment, previously advised insurance giant MetLife in connection with its 2011 purchase of the naming rights to a new stadium for the NFL's New York Giants and New York Jets. (Skadden also advised Allegheny Energy on its $4.7 billion sale to FirstEnergy in 2010.)
As for the Browns, the team is currently revamping its executive ranks following the closure in October of its $1 billion sale to truck-stop chain king Jimmy Haslam III. That deal saw Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz advise the team's former owners on their sale to Haslam, who was represented on the deal by Proskauer Rose, according to our previous reports.
Squire Sanders regional managing partner Frederick Nance‚ general counsel to the Browns since 2009, took the lead advising the team on the ownership change and is currently helping to steer the approval process of the stadium sponsorship deal through the city council.
Nance, a Cleveland native, has been a longtime adviser to the franchise, and was a contender to become commissioner of the NFL several years ago as a result of his successful efforts in orchestrating a $535 million deal bringing the Browns back to the city after a predecessor team left town for Baltimore in 1995.
On Wednesday, Nance's old role with the team came to an end as the Browns announced the hire of former Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr associate Sashi Brown as their new general counsel. Nance will continue to work with the team in the role of senior adviser and special counsel.
A source familiar with the FirstEnergy deal told The Am Law Daily that Edward Ristaino, chair of the sports practice at Akerman Senterfitt in Fort Lauderdale, took the lead for the Browns on the sponsorship agreement. Ristaino is no stranger to NFL deals, having advised Wayne Huizenga on his $1 billion sale of the NFL's Miami Dolphins in 2009, according to our previous reports.