Major League Rugby has hired Reed Smith associate Ramy Morad to be in-house legal chief as the upstart league expands into more North American markets.
Morad takes over a position previously held by outside general counsel Peter Moore, a former senior partner at Polsinelli in Denver. The Dallas-based league hired Morad to be its general counsel after it developed a need for an in-house counsel in the city, said Alicia Richardson, a spokeswoman for MLR.
Moore is now chairman of the business law department at Denver law firm Robinson, Waters & O’Dorisio. He told Bloomberg Law via email that his firm will continue to support MLR and Morad as outside counsel to the league.
MLR’s addition of Morad follows its hire last month of chief commercial officer Harry Hardy, a former executive with Major League Soccer’s D.C. United and Octagon, a sports marketing agency owned by the Interpublic Group of Cos. Inc.
MLR’s decision to bring its general counsel work in-house wasn’t directly related to Hardy’s hire, Richardson said, but she cited the two new C-suite executives as necessitated by the league’s expansion.
“Both hires were due to the growth of MLR going into its fifth season, which begins in February 2022,” she said.
Morad comes to MLR from Reed Smith’s energy and natural resources practice in Dallas. Prior to joining the firm in mid-2019, he spent a year as an associate at Norton Rose Fulbright in the city and two years working as an in-house lawyer at Irving, Texas-based energy giant Exxon Mobil Corp.
The Dallas Jackals, co-owned by former Exxon Mobil in-house lawyer Neil Leibman, will be MLR’s 13th team when they start play next year. Leibman, who is now CEO of Houston-based Summer Energy Holdings Inc., is also a part-owner and COO of Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers.
The Utah Warriors, another MLR team that plays in suburban Salt Lake City, are part-owned by Wade Sherman, a deputy general counsel at Adobe Inc.
MLR, founded in 2017, has other teams in cities like Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, and Toronto. MLR has turned to Jonathan Israel, a partner at Foley & Lardner in New York and co-chair of the firm’s sports industry team, to advise it on governance and operational matters.
The league also has a sanctioning agreement with USA Rugby, the Glendale, Colo.-based U.S. governing body for the sport of rugby union.
USA Rugby filed for bankruptcy in 2020 due to financial losses stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. The nonprofit, which spent about five months in Chapter 11 proceedings, disclosed in court filings that it owed more than $278,300 to McGuireWoods and almost $81,500 to Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.
McGuireWoods received about $120,500 from USA Rugby for legal services in 2019, according to federal tax filings by the organization.
Richardson said MLR is working with USA Rugby on a bid to host the Rugby World Cup for men and women’s national teams in 2027, 2029, and 2031. The U.S. was accepted as a candidate for those events last month, according to USA Rugby.
USA Rugby announced a year ago this month that Stephen Argeris, a former general counsel for the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers, had joined its board of directors. Hogan Lovells hired Argeris earlier this year as a Washington-based counsel for its corporate, finance, and sports practices.
Robert Latham, a longtime litigation partner at Jackson Walker in Dallas and Houston, is a former chairman of USA Rugby and current representative of the organization to World Rugby, the Dublin, Ireland-based global governing body for the sport. Latham was recently reelected to another four-year term on World Rugby’s executive committee. He also chairs World Rugby’s regulations committee.