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Hogan, Proskauer, Covington Lead Record-Setting Broncos Sale (1)

June 8, 2022, 5:36 PMUpdated: June 8, 2022, 9:59 PM

A trio of Big Law firms have landed lead roles on the nearly $5 billion sale of the NFL’s Denver Broncos announced Wednesday.

Hogan Lovells, Proskauer Rose, and Covington & Burling are advising separate clients on the transaction, while Sidley Austin represented a runner-up bidder, said two sources familiar with the matter.

The winning bidder for the Broncos, which went up for sale earlier this year, is a group led by billionaire S. Robson Walton, a lawyer and son of late Walmart Inc. founder Sam Walton. The NFL franchise is being sold by the Pat Bowlen Trust, named after a former owner of the Broncos who died in 2019.

The purchase price will likely be a record for the sale of a US professional sports team, Bloomberg News reported.

Matthew Eisler, a partner and global head of the sports group at Hogan Lovells, is working with corporate finance partner Russell Hedman in advising the Walton group. Both lawyers are based in Denver. Eisler handled the 2019 sale of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. Hogan Lovells has also done legal work for Walmart-related entities.

Walton’s ownership group issued a statement thanking Hogan Lovells for its support in clinching the deal over at least three other reported bidders.

A Proskauer team led by sports law group and corporate partners Joseph Leccese, Jason Krochak, and Jon Oram, as well as senior counsel Christine Lazatin, is representing the Broncos.

Other Proskauer lawyers advising the Broncos are corporate partner Christopher Ahn, tax partner Amanda Nussbaum and tax senior counsel Abraham Gutwein, insurance partner John Failla, employee benefits and executive compensation partner Justin Alex, intellectual property and technology transactions partner Wai Choy, partner and global privacy and cybersecurity head Ryan Blaney, environmental senior counsel Aliza Cinamon, and antitrust senior counsel John Ingrassia.

Covington corporate partner Peter Zern and of counsel Brent Little in Washington are outside counsel to the NFL, which must approve the sale of the Broncos to Walton. Covington has enjoyed a longtime client relationship with the league.

The NFL’s general counsel, Jeffrey Pash, is a former Covington partner, as is Paul Tagliabue, a former commissioner of the New York-based league who is now senior of counsel with the law firm.

Hogan Lovells’ deal team for the Walton-led group was also led by corporate partners Michael Kuh and Timothy Aragon—the latter of whom is also managing partner of the firm’s Denver office—and tax partner Mark Weinstein, senior associate Emma Dowell, and corporate counsel Stephen Argeris.

Argeris is a former general counsel of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers who Hogan Lovells hired last year to expand its sports practice.

The $2.3 billion sale of the Panthers to billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper in 2018 held the previous record for the most paid to acquire an NFL team. Proskauer counseled the Panthers and their former owner Jerry Richardson Sr. on that deal, while O’Melveny & Myers partners Charles Baker and Irwin Raij advised Tepper on his purchase of the franchise.

Baker and Raij left O’Melveny last month to join Sidley as co-chairs of that firm’s entertainment, sports, and media practice. Both lawyers represented a rival bidder group for the Broncos led by billionaire Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital Group LP co-founders Behdad Eghbali and José Feliciano.

(Adds information on outside counsel for rival bidder in second and last two paragraphs of story.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com