The Browns' new in-house legal chief, Sashi Brown, joins the team from the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was promoted to general counsel in January 2012 after the $760 million sale of that team to auto parts magnate Shahid Khan. (As with most major M&A deals, the new owner or acquirer often brings in their own lawyers, and that same month the Jaguars dumped former general counsel Paul Vance, of counsel with Foley & Lardner in Jacksonville.)
Brown, who did not take an active role on the FirstEnergy deal as he wraps up his duties with the Jags, will handle contract negotiations for the Browns. He'll have large shoes to fill in Nance, as well as other former top team lawyers like James Bailey, the man responsible for perhaps the greatest response letter ever written to one-time Roetzel & Andress attorney Dale Cox, a Browns fan who complained about stadium safety. (Bailey spoke with sibling publication Corporate Counsel two years ago about his famous missive.)
In December, the Browns also hired former Wilmer counsel Alec Scheiner, a favorite among the statistically minded sports set, as their new president. Before joining the Dallas Cowboys as their top in-house attorney in 2004, Scheiner worked on the sales of several major pro sports franchises at Wilmer under the tutelage of former partner Richard "Dick" Cass, who now serves as president of the Baltimore Ravens, which relocated to the city from Cleveland in 1995.
While the Browns seek to rebuild their franchise in their new home FirstEnergy Stadium, which some observers have already nicknamed the "FirstEnergy Factory of Sadness," the Indians are keeping their lawyers busy with moves of their own a half-hour down the road at their 43,400-seat home, Progressive Field.
The Indians' current owners, who purchased the franchise for $320 million in 1999‚ announced the $230 million sale of their regional sports network to News Corporation-owned Fox Sports Media Group shortly before the new year.
The deal also includes the $400 million sale to Fox Sports of broadcast rights to Indians games for the next 10 years. The owner of the team, cable industry multimillionaire and attorney Larry Dolan, turned to local firm Thrasher, Dinsmore & Dolan (where he once served as president and managing partner) for counsel on the agreement.
Indians general counsel Joseph Znidarsic, a partner at the firm, worked on the broadcast rights negotiations with Fox Sports along with corporate partner Kelly Slattery, sports and entertainment partner J. Jaredd Flynn, and labor and employment partner Todd Hicks.
Thrasher, Dinsmore & Dolan serves as both outside counsel to the Indians and the longtime counsel to Larry Dolan, whose son, Paul Dolan, was approved last week by MLB as the controlling owner of the franchise. (Paul Dolan, the president and chairman of the Indians, is also an attorney who was once a partner at the firm.)
Fox Sports, which is planning to launch its own national sports network later this year to challenge The Walt Disney Companyowned ESPN, was advised on the deal with the Dolans by a team of in-house lawyers.
Handling M&A aspects of the transaction were senior vice president of corporate transactions and distribution Adam Reiss and director of business and legal affairs Kevin Tanji. The broadcast rights part of the agreement was handled by executive vice president for business and legal affairs Karen Brodkin and senior vice president for business and legal affairs Leanna Einbinder.