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Volume 21 No. 1
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Sports Lawyers: Chuck Baker

With his 50th birthday looming a couple of years ago, Chuck Baker took stock of a law career that had been lucrative but not always invigorating. As a transactional lawyer at the firm Paul Hastings, he worked on large merger and acquisition deals, such as the acquisition of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. by Mars Inc. and Berkshire Hathaway, and News Corp.’s acquisition of Dow Jones.

None of them sparked his interest as much as the deal that had occupied much of his time for the previous two years: Stephen Ross’s purchase of the Miami Dolphins for $1.1 billion. With that ride behind him, Baker knew most of the work that awaited him would come from outside of sports.

Photo by: ETM Photo
“I thought about it, and I realized I was having more fun doing the sports deals,” said Baker, a single father of two sons who then were in high school. “I tell my boys all the time that if you don’t go into work loving what you do every day, life can be a challenge. I decided to take my own advice.”

In March 2010, Baker left Paul Hastings to join the sports group at Nixon Peabody. Two months later, he and three other members of that group joined in a mass jump of Nixon Peabody partners to DLA Piper, which was building out its sports practice with an eye on properties around the world.

In only two years at the firm, Baker has represented the Atlanta Spirit group in its sale of the Atlanta Thrashers and then the proposed sale of the Atlanta Hawks; leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris in his group’s purchase of the Philadelphia 76ers; and the Checketts Partners Investment Fund in its stake in Legends Hospitality.

“With a solid foundation in M&A, once you get to learn your way around the league rules and establish relationships with people, [sports law] is something you can pick up,” Baker said. “You can develop a practice.”

— Bill King