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SBJ/20090323/Forty Under 40
Published March 23, 2009
As a kid growing up on Long Island, sports was simply a diversion and not a passion for Jeffrey Gewirtz. He loved to play tennis, but never dreamed of playing center field for the Yankees, or starring for any other New York sports team.
“I wasn’t a huge sports fan,” Gewirtz said. “I’ve grown to really like basketball, but I wasn’t a statistics guru or the kind of kid who knew the Yankees’ starting lineup.”
Instead, it was the art of the deal that drew Gewirtz into sports.
“The first law firm I worked for was the outside counsel for the [U.S. Tennis Association], and one of the first agreements I worked on was the site agreement for the Davis Cup,” he said. “I found I had a passion for the sports business.”
Negotiating tennis deals was a natural fit for Gewirtz, who captained the varsity tennis team at Tufts University. After law school, Gewirtz quickly rose up the ranks as a sports lawyer, moving from private practice to working as an in-house counsel for the WTA. Other prestigious professional stints followed at the International Olympic Committee, Coca-Cola and the U.S. Olympic Committee, where he got a call in 2007 from Nets Sports & Entertainment President Brett Yormark, wondering if Gewirtz was interested in joining the company.
Gewirtz had been exposed to doing big deals; he was lead counsel in Coke’s blockbuster $500 million NCAA Corporate Champions deal with CBS Sports. But the notion of working on the ambitious yet daunting Barclays Center project was reason enough for Gewirtz to join the Nets.
Gewirtz also advises Yormark about the Nets’ legal and business affairs and is known as a lawyer who does far more than simply paper the deals. So far Gewirtz has negotiated all eight founding deals for the Barclays Center, worth more than $100 million.
“When we negotiate deals, I like to have my head legal counsel at my side, and Jeff is truly involved in the thick of the negotiations,” Yormark said. “He does so much more than draft the documents. He brings knowledge to all facets of the business.”