Baker to chair sports group at O’Melveny
Top sports lawyer Charles “Chuck” Baker has become a partner at O’Melveny & Myers and will chair its sports industry group, joining the firm after 6 1/2 years at DLA Piper.
O’Melveny is known for its entertainment and Hollywood-focused practice, so Baker, whose clients have included Stephen Ross, the Miami Dolphins’ owner, and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, hopes to expand his client base in those areas.
“This wasn’t about leaving DLA but joining O’Melveny,” he said.
Sports and Hollywood have long intersected, so Baker said he expects to take advantage of the synergy.
|Baker has spent 6 1/2 years at DLA Piper, a leader in sports M&A and team advisory.
“There is a lot of crossover between the leaders of Hollywood’s top studios, networks and production companies, and those of the leading U.S. sports teams,” he said, citing as an example movie producer Peter Guber owning parts of the Golden State Warriors and MLS team LAFC. “O’Melveny connections in Hollywood run deep, and when high-net-worth individuals consider entering the sports arena, we’re well-positioned to help.”
Baker, 56, also cited his new firm’s China business as an opportunity, given the increased flow of sports deals emanating from the Middle Kingdom.
Baker was recruited by Matthew Erramouspe, co-chair of entertainment, sports and media at the firm, and Brad Butwin, its chairman. He will be based in New York.
At DLA, Baker worked hard to establish the firm among the elite of sports law practices. While not at the level of a Covington or Proskauer, which control the elite league relationships, DLA became a top player in sports M&A, team advisory and other areas.
DLA’s sports corporate finance practice is not following Baker, but he pledged to build that specialty at O’Melveny.
Peter White, a DLA partner, said the firm’s sports practice was well-positioned to continue progressing despite Baker’s exit.
“We feel we are in a strong position to service this marketplace,” said White, who had to interrupt the conversation several times because of calls from an NFL owner client.
White works closely with fellow partner Mark Whitaker and in an email, he wrote, “Rich Rubano has been our go to sports M&A partner for a while now and we are stronger than ever.” Rubano was a 2016 SportsBusiness Journal/Daily Forty Under 40 honoree.
O’Melveny is not foreign to sports. It long had a practice to supplement its entertainment legal work, until 2014, when the two partners in charge of the area — Chris Brearton and Joe Calabrese — left for Latham & Watkins. Their clients included the International Olympic Committee and San Francisco Giants.
Since their departure, the firm has had a smattering of sports deals. It advised on the formation of the Professional eSports Association, which comprises seven of the premier North American esports teams, and advised Alibaba on its deal with the Pac-12 Conference to bring the first regular-season game — professional or college — to China, and negotiated a two-year extension of the partnership agreement for 2017 and 2018.