A Major League Soccer expansion team in Austin, Texas, partially owned by actor Matthew McConaughey has recruited a new legal chief from the ranks of Big Law.
Eric Hagen confirmed to Bloomberg Law that he had recently become senior vice president and general counsel for Austin FC, which will become part of MLS as the league’s 27th team in 2021.
Hagen joined DLA Piper’s intellectual property and technology practice as a partner in July 2018, after more than a decade as a partner at McDermott Will & Emery in Los Angeles, where he once led that law firm’s trade secrets practice. Hagen had previously been a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, which he joined as an associate in 1999, after starting his legal career as an associate at Baker McKenzie.
“It’s a great gig,” Hagen said in an email.
Austin FC is majority owned by Anthony Precourt, a principal at San Francisco-based Precourt Capital Management, a family office investment advisory and private equity firm. Bloomberg News reported in August that McConaughey is among those who have joined Two Oak Ventures LLC, the Precourt-led ownership group for Austin FC.
Precourt had previously owned another MLS team, Columbus Crew SC, which he sold for a reported $150 million in late 2018 to truck stop mogul Jimmy Haslam III and his wife, Dee, owners of the National Football League’s Cleveland Browns. That sale helped resolve litigation keeping the Crew in Ohio and smoothed the way for MLS to award a new franchise to Precourt in Austin.
“I was advising Austin FC when I was a partner in DLA Piper’s sports sector practice, working out of the firm’s Austin and Los Angeles offices,” Hagen said. “It’s a rare opportunity to be able to join a major league sports front office at this stage.”
Hagen added that the “club’s legal needs have grown exponentially” as it prepares to take the pitch in two years. Hagen said the to-do-list includes designing and constructing a 20,000-seat stadium on publicly owned land and a privately-funded $45 million training facility, establishing founding partnerships, engaging with the Austin community, and building a brand and coaching staff for the franchise.
Austin FC will take part in an MLS player expansion draft, although Precourt didn’t have to pay a pricey expansion fee for the team since he had already owned the Crew.
Bloomberg News reported earlier this month on hedge fund billionaire David Tepper closing in on a $325 million deal for another MLS expansion team in Charlotte. That transaction by Tepper, who also owns the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, was finalized last week and represented a record-setting MLS expansion fee.
Panthers general counsel Stephen Argeris has taken out several trademarks—including All Carolina FC, Charlotte Crown FC, Charlotte Monarchs FC, and Charlotte Town FC—for the new Charlotte MLS franchise on behalf of DT Soccer LLC. In a post on LinkedIn, Argeris said he spent the past 13 months talking Panthers colleagues “into taking on a second job to help bring MLS to Charlotte.”
Argeris didn’t respond to a request for comment about whether Tepper’s new soccer team, which was advised on the MLS expansion deal by O’Melveny & Myers, will hire a separate general counsel as it looks to build out its operations. Charlotte will have the 30th team in MLS, which is one of North America’s fastest-growing sports leagues.
In late April, the New York-based league hired Anastasia Danias Schmidt, a deputy general counsel for litigation and legal affairs at the NFL, to be its new general counsel. Schmidt replaced longtime in-house legal chief William Ordower, who became executive vice president of MLS Business Ventures, a newly-created role that lets him oversee commercial opportunities for the league and its marketing arm.
In August, Nashville SC, another new MLS team set to play next year, brought on Daniel Werly as its general counsel. Werly was previously a co-founding partner of local sports law boutique Sievert Werly, now called Sievert Legal and based in Miami Beach, Florida.