One of the few Major League Baseball teams to be without an in-house legal chief has called up a former Big Law partner to become its new top lawyer.
The Kansas City Royals brought on Husch Blackwell senior counsel Adam Sachs earlier this month as chief legal counsel and senior vice president of external relations. Sachs told Bloomberg Law in an interview Thursday he’s been a friend and confidant of Royals owner John Sherman.
“We have a personal friendship and level of trust that I’d like to think is unique and which positioned me well for this incredible opportunity,” said Sachs, adding that he and Sherman have long worked together within the civic community of Kansas City. Sachs said he started May 10 with the Royals.
Most MLB teams have their own in-house lawyers, but the Royals historically have not. David Frantze, head of the local real estate practice at Stinson in Kansas City, Mo., had previously served as outside general counsel to the team. In an email, Frantze said he hoped to continue advising the franchise.
“Stinson has enjoyed a long and proud history of representing the Royals, and we look forward to continuing in our role as counsel for the Royals, working alongside Adam, in the years to come,” wrote Frantze, who took over as the team’s top outside lawyer from former Stinson partner Daniel Crabtree, now a federal district judge.
The move to bring some of the Royals’ legal work in-house was made by its new ownership.
“This is a philosophical change between the prior ownership and John Sherman,” said Sachs, noting that in his new role with the Royals he expects to continue working with Stinson. “The decision was made that we ought to have somebody minding things inside the club.”
Sherman, a founder of Kansas City, Mo.-based propane supplier Inergy LP, led a group that bought the Royals from former Walmart Inc. CEO David Glass for roughly $1 billion in 2019. Patrick Mahomes II, star quarterback of the National Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs and the son of a former MLB pitcher of the same name, joined Sherman’s Royals ownership group last summer.
The Royals turned to O’Melveny & Myers sports law practice co-chair Irwin Raij last year to represent the team on a multiyear broadcast rights deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. The deal reportedly doubled the amount of television revenue the team receives each year to an estimated $50 million.
While Husch Blackwell didn’t have an advisory role on the sale of the Royals—Covington & Burling counseled Sherman’s group and Katten Muchin Rosenman took the lead for the family of Glass, who died last year—Sachs said his ties to Sherman made him the right fit for the team’s new legal role.
Husch Blackwell, Sachs’ now former law firm, where he spent nearly the past two decades, has done legal work for Crestwood Equity Partners LP, a Houston-based master limited partnership specializing in energy industry investments that counts Sherman as a director. Sachs himself has handled government affairs matters for Crestwood at the federal and state level, he said.
It was in that capacity that Sachs found himself on Capitol Hill in Washington this past January when the Capitol building was stormed by supporters of former President Donald Trump. Sachs and his son, who at the time was interning for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), endured the siege by barricading themselves behind some leather chairs and a conference room table in Clyburn’s office.
“Frankly, after that experience, I am quite happy to be listening to A.M. sports radio instead of NPR and being worried about every little political development that happens in the world,” Sachs said.
Sachs, a government relations specialist at Husch Blackwell, was most recently senior counsel at the firm in Kansas City and Washington after shedding his partner title due to his duties as a principal at Husch Blackwell Strategies, a lobbying arm it formed in 2018.
In a statement, HBS wished Sachs well in a legal and government affairs role that will see him report directly to Sherman and work out of the Royals’ home ballpark, 38,000-seat Kauffman Stadium. The franchise, winners of the 2015 World Series after losing in the seventh and final game of the 2014 World Series, currently sit in third place in the American League’s Central Division.
Sachs, a lifelong baseball fan, said that the next best thing to being a “starting third basemen or catcher” for his hometown club would be given the opportunity to serve as a close adviser to Royals ownership. Sachs said the team doesn’t have any immediate plans to hire other lawyers aside from him.
“It’s a natural progression of my career and it marries my experience in the community, the law, and politics,” Sachs said. “I’m going to do my best to prove myself to the team.”