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Volume 21 No. 39

Labor and Agents

Veteran sports labor lawyer James Quinn has left Weil, where he worked for more than 40 years, to join another law firm as well as open his own legal services practice.

Quinn has joined national trial law boutique Berg & Androphy as “of counsel.” He also has opened J.W. Quinn ADR, a mediation, arbitration and trial consulting practice.
“It was time,” Quinn said. “I wanted to try something different.”

Quinn has long served as outside counsel to several players associations, including the National Basketball Players Association, NFL Players Association and NHL Players’ Association, and expects to continue to work with those unions as well as the MMA Athletes Association, a fledgling group working to improve and protect the rights of mixed martial arts fighters.

Quinn, who started his career at Weil right out of Fordham School of Law, was assigned to work with antitrust attorney Ira Millstein on the case Oscar Robertson filed against the NBA in 1970. That case resulted in NBA players achieving free agency.

Later, Quinn hired a young lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler, and they brought a case, Freeman McNeil v. the NFL, which resulted in free agency for NFL players. Kessler became a major sports lawyer in his own right and is now a partner at Winston & Strawn.

The mandatory retirement age at Weil is 68, but Quinn, who is 71, said the firm waived it for him. He is leaving, he said, partly so he can focus on trial work with Berg & Androphy founder David Berg, a close friend for 25 years.
“He is a great trial lawyer,” Quinn said. “Some people say I am not so bad.”

With his new firm, Quinn expects to do mediations in complex business situations, as well as arbitrate matters for businesses as well as for unions and leagues, if they would hire him.

“The unions would most certainly love to have me,” Quinn said. “The leagues would not. But you never know.”

> REP 1 SIGNS NFL DRAFT CLASS: Rep 1 Sports, the agency that represented quarterbacks who were taken No. 1 and No. 2 overall in last year’s NFL draft, has signed a large draft class, headed up by North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Many draft analysts see Trubisky as the top quarterback in this year’s draft. Rep 1’s Chase Callahan and Bruce Tollner are the lead agents representing Trubisky, who was No. 2 overall and the highest-slotted quarterback on the CBS Sports mock draft last week.

Last year Rep 1 represented No. 1 pick Jared Goff, who was taken by the Los Angeles Rams, and No. 2. pick Carson Wentz, taken by the Philadelphia Eagles.

The other two quarterbacks viewed by analysts as potential first-round picks this year are Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, both of whom are represented by Athletes First.

Rep 1 partner Ryan Tollner, who also co-reps Trubisky (at Rep 1, all three agents represent all the players), said he stands out because of his many skills and potential to be a franchise quarterback.

“He is a pocket passer, but he’s not limited to being an immobile pocket passer,” Tollner said. “He’s an athletic kind of passer who beats you in the pocket, out of the pocket. He can run the ball. He’s in the mold of an Aaron Rodgers or a Russell Wilson.”

Tollner represents several starting quarterbacks in the NFL, including Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rep 1 also signed Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles, Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, Cal wide receiver Chad Hansen, Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp, Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard, North Carolina wide receiver Mack Hollins, Washington State wide receiver River Cracraft, USC running back Justin Davis, Michigan State linebacker Riley Bullough, and Pittsburgh running back James Conner.

“James is far and away the most inspirational story of the whole draft,” said Tollner, who is Conner’s lead agent. The running back was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in October 2015 but underwent chemotherapy and was found to be cancer-free in May 2016. He scored 20 touchdowns this past season.

Conner will undergo a scan in February, just before the NFL combine, to give to teams to lessen their worries about the cancer coming back.

“Teams will miss out on an exceptional talent and a really special person if they are scared of the chance it comes back,” Tollner said.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.

Independent Sports & Entertainment has hired Richard Rosenstein, a financial executive with more than 25 years of experience in the communications, media and entertainment businesses, as its first chief financial officer.

The hire is the latest for the agency formerly known as Relativity Sports, which was relaunched after billionaire investor and Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle made a capital infusion and hired former Madison Square Garden head Hank Ratner as president and CEO.

ROSENSTEIN
It is another signal that ISE intends to make good on its intentions to build a larger sports, media and entertainment business, using ISE’s sports talent management business as a starting point. Ratner said that Rosenstein would “absolutely” be involved in helping ISE make acquisitions and that ISE was in discussions with some companies, but said he could not provide details at this time.

Rosenstein worked most recently as executive vice president, chief financial officer and chief administrative officer for Bob Sillerman’s second iteration of SFX Entertainment, which was renamed LiveStyle after emerging from

bankruptcy protection late last year. Before that, Rosenstein spent nearly a decade at Goldman Sachs, where he was a managing director, covering media companies. He has also held executive positions at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia Research, money management firm Baron Capital Management and hedge fund Keel Capital Management.

“He has the complete package of experience across the sports entertainment and media space,” said Ratner, who noted the “added value” that Rosenstein brings from “his experience in the live entertainment space, the transactional space, the strategic space and the industry analysis space.”

Ratner and Rosenstein have a relationship from when Baron Capital Management made an investment in Madison Square Garden while Ratner was running it.

“Hank is a big part of the reason that I am here,” Rosenstein said. “It was a very successful investment, and part of it was we had a lot of confidence in management and in their ability to deliver. And they did.”

Burkle’s involvement in ISE and the plan to grow the company was attractive, Rosenstein said.

ISE recently announced it was hiring Michael Ehrlich, who was most recently Adidas’ director of public relations, as its vice president of communications. ISE hired Chris Grancio, who formerly headed global basketball for Adidas, as chief marketing officer last year.

For now, ISE’s main business is representing MLB, NBA and NFL players.

The agency signed several prospects for this year’s NFL draft, including UCLA defensive end/outside linebacker Takkarist McKinley, Washington cornerback Sidney Jones IV and defensive tackle Elijah Qualls, and Cal quarterback Davis Webb.