SBJ/April 30-May 6, 2012/In-Depth

Sports Lawyers: Jack Bair











Jack Bair planned to take a few weeks off to travel before starting a new gig at the San Francisco city attorney’s office in September 1992. After three years at a boutique firm, he looked forward to the first-chair experience that would come in the public sector. But he wanted to take a break first.

Then, on the first week of August, the Giants announced they intended to relocate to St. Petersburg, Fla. Bair’s boss phoned to ask whether he would forgo his vacation to challenge the move in court. Bair already was engaged in the matter as an appointee on the city’s ballpark advisory committee. He gladly skipped his trip.

Photo by: San Francisco Giants / Kuno
The city sued the Giants for violating their lease and the buyers for interfering with the lease. That bought time for local investors, led by Peter Magowan, to rally to buy the team and keep it in town.

Six months later, the Giants’ new owners, impressed by Bair’s work, hired him as general counsel, putting him in charge of the political campaign to win approval for a new ballpark.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” Bair said. “It’s difficult to graduate from law school and say I’m going to be a sports lawyer. There are firms that have sports clients. But typically you have to learn to be a lawyer and earn your stripes and when the opportunities arise, you go for them.”

As the chief legal officer at a club that also employs a deputy general counsel, Elizabeth Murphy, Bair is able to spend more time on single projects, such as a proposed $1.6 billion mixed-use development that would replace parking lots adjacent to AT&T Park.

“A lot of what I’m doing is similar to what we did to get the ballpark built,” Bair said. “But this is even larger, more complex and will take longer to build out. It’s exciting and it draws on all the same skills. You’re making the case to the public that this is a project that will be good for a lot of people.”

— Bill King
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