The Golden State Warriors, six-time champions in the National Basketball Association, have been using their offseason to add talent both on the court and in their legal department, where they’ve picked up four new lawyers in the past month.
The Warriors signed several free agent players and grabbed two more lottery picks in the draft after the NBA season ended in July, while also resigning superstar Stephen Curry to a four-year, $215 million contract.
Off the court, the Warriors have brought on assistant general counsel Chauntell Bobo and three associate general counsel in Nikhil Gupta, Lisa Meyer, and Zade Shakir. David Kelly, longtime chief legal officer for the Warriors, confirmed the quartet of hires in an email to Bloomberg Law.
None of the legal additions responded to requests for comment about their new roles. Kelly said they were hired to replace others that recently left the Warriors, who now play their home games at San Francisco’s Chase Center, which opened in 2019.
Paul Fenstermaker, a former associate at Katten Muchin Rosenman in Chicago, where Kelly was a partner prior to joining the Warriors as general counsel in 2012, left the team in July. Fenstermaker is now a vice president and deputy general counsel for Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment LLC.
The company, controlled by private equity titans Joshua Harris and David Blitzer, owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils, and other assets in the sports and entertainment space.
Fenstermaker, who spent the past five years with the Warriors, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Nor did Michael Savage, a former Katten associate who spent a little more than two years as counsel for the Warriors before leaving the team in May. He’s now an associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in San Francisco.
Neil Kraetsch, a former general counsel for Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics and Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes, also left the Warriors earlier this year after spending roughly two years as an assistant general counsel for the team. Kraetsch couldn’t be reached for this story.
The Warriors, and most of professional sports, were hit hard financially by the coronavirus pandemic. The Warriors reportedly laid off nearly 10% of their business operations staff and furloughed others in January, having let go of 1,700 part-time event staff last year after Covid-19 temporarily halted the NBA season.
Mali Friedman, a former assistant general counsel for the Warriors who left the team in late 2019 to become general counsel for the XFL, saw that job quickly disappear due to the pandemic. Vince McMahon’s startup football league folded and was sold out of bankruptcy last year. Friedman, who found herself out of work while on maternity leave, subsequently scored a new sports legal job as deputy general counsel for the National Football League’s Washington Football Team.
Kelly, who prior to embarking on a legal career was a rapper in Chicago performing under the name “Capital D,” has previously told Bloomberg Law that his Katten connections helped him break into the sports business. The firm, known for its prominent sports practice, is also the former home of one new Warriors lawyer.
Shakir, one of the franchise’s trio of new associate general counsel, spent the past two years as a Katten associate in Chicago. Shakir was a legal intern in 2017 for the Warriors, where Kelly and Fenstermaker helped set him up with a job at Katten, according to an interview Shakir gave last year to a publication affiliated with Arizona State University’s law school, of which he’s a graduate.
Gupta, a former Latham & Watkins associate, joined the Warriors after spending two years as an associate counsel for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.
Meyer spent the past year as director of legal and business affairs for Legends Hospitality Management LLC, a New York-based stadium services provider that recently hired former Miami Marlins associate general counsel Stephanie Galvin in the same role for its hospitality and global merchandise group.
Bobo, the new assistant general counsel for the Warriors, joins the team after spending the past two-and-a-half years as director of legal and business affairs at FanDuel Inc. Bloomberg Law reported earlier this year that FanDuel and fellow sports gaming company DraftKings Inc. are on a legal hiring spree of their own.