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

Sports Lawyers: Stoke Caldwell

Twenty years ago, Stoke Caldwell didn’t even know what the letters in NASCAR stood for. Today, he counts drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick as clients while devoting almost all of his professional time to stock car matters.

Blending carburetors and counsel happened by accident. In 1992, a client named Ken Barbee wanted to buy a racing souvenir company from team owner Rick Hendrick. Caldwell worked on the purchase and, later, helped Barbee land new contracts for licensing rights so the company could keep making T-shirts and hats featuring drivers. The business evolved into the merchandising company Motorsports Authentics.

Photo by: NASCAR Media Group / Scott Hunter
That led to a chance encounter with a NASCAR newbie named Jeff Gordon, who remains a client. The NASCAR workload grew at a steady clip, eventually convincing Charlotte-based Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson to have Caldwell focus on racing clients while building a sports and entertainment practice. Caldwell, who joined the firm in 1986, juggled motorsports clients with mergers and acquisition and finance work for years before switching to sports exclusively in 2005.

In addition to drivers, Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson works for owners and broadcasters (Richard Petty, Ray Evernham, Krista Voda), teams (Wood Brothers, JR Motorsports) and sponsors (Bank of America, Wurth). The firm also has extensive relationships with the NCAA and Southeastern Conference.

“I think that the NASCAR practice as far as things like sponsorship agreements and licensing is probably the most complicated sports angle of it,” Caldwell said. “When you look at the stick-and-ball sports, they all have licensing entities where all the assets are combined. That’s not the way it works in NASCAR. You have to aggregate them at the team level, you have to get one from NASCAR. It has provided some crossover opportunities — they’re very transferable skills.”

— Erik Spanberg
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