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Wachtell Helps A-Rod, Investor Marc Lore Reach T-Wolves Deal (1)

May 14, 2021, 8:25 PMUpdated: May 14, 2021, 11:04 PM

Alex Rodriguez has tapped Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz for his $1.5 billion purchase of the National Basketball Association’s Minnesota Timberwolves, the second time in the past year the former baseball star has aimed to acquire a professional sports team with the help of the Wall Street law firm.

Wachtell, which represented Rodriguez on his unsuccessful attempt to buy Major League Baseball’s New York Mets last year, took the lead for Rodriguez and entrepreneur Marc Lore on the completion of their purchase of the Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx of the Women’s National Basketball Association.

A source briefed on the negotiations told Bloomberg Law that Ballard Spahr partner Michael Kuhn is advising Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor on his sale of the team to Rodriguez and Lore. The two buyers reached an agreement in April to acquire the Timberwolves and Lynx for an estimated $1.5 billion. The NBA is being advised by Proskauer Rose partner Wayne Katz. The league’s owners still must approve the deal.

According to a statement from Wachtell, Edward Herlihy, co-chairman of the firm’s executive committee, is helming a team of lawyers from the firm advising Rodriguez and Lore. Herlihy took the lead last year for Rodriguez and ex-fiancée, actor and entertainer Jennifer Lopez, on their failed effort to acquire the Mets, a franchise eventually sold to hedge fund mogul Steven Cohen in a reported $2.4 billion deal.

Cohen had initially turned to Wachtell, a New York-based firm known for its transactional expertise, to handle his preliminary negotiations to buy the baseball team. But Cohen bowed out early in the bidding, only to return months later with new lawyers at his side from Debevoise & Plimpton.

As for Rodriguez, despite seeing his two-year engagement to Lopez end earlier this year, he remained in the hunt for the Timberwolves, whose owner Glen Taylor put the team up for sale in 2020. Taylor, founder of Taylor Corp., a privately held printing company, bought the NBA franchise for roughly $90 million in 1994.

Taylor came close last summer to selling the Timberwolves to Daniel Straus, a minority owner of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies who is also a former lawyer at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Straus, who went on to make his fortune in the health care sector, was unable to finalize a deal for the team.

The Timberwolves’ sale was handled by Kuhn, a former partner at Lindquist & Vennum, a Minneapolis-based firm that merged with Ballard Spahr in 2018. Taylor Corp.’s chief legal officer, Gregory Jackson, was co-lead counsel on Taylor’s purchase of the Timberwolves and has been the team’s longtime general counsel.

Proskauer’s ties to the NBA go back decades. The league’s former commissioner, the late David Stern, was once a partner at the firm. Proskauer also has a connection to the Timberwolves through David Kahn, a former associate at the firm who once served as the team’s general manager.

Lore is a founder of Jet.com, which he sold for $3.3 billion in 2016 to retail giant Walmart Inc. Bloomberg News reported this week on Lore and Rodriguez forming a venture capital firm to pursue investments outside of professional sports.

Wachtell’s Herlihy-led team for Rodriguez and Lore on the Timberwolves deal includes corporate partner David Shapiro, executive compensation and benefits partner Jeannemarie O’Brien, tax partner Jodi Schwartz, finance partner Gregory Pessin, and counsel Alicia McCarthy.

Rodriguez and Wachtell, as noted last year by Bloomberg Law, were introduced to one another by Jeffrey Lee, a former senior associate at the firm. Lee went on to hold several in-house roles for the personal businesses of both Rodriguez and Lopez.

Earlier this year, Slam Corp., a special-purpose acquisition vehicle backed by Rodriguez, began trading on the Nasdaq. Securities filings related to that $500 million listing show that it generated $250,000 in legal fees and expenses for Slam’s securities lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis and Cayman Islands-based Maples and Calder.

White & Case represented underwriters on the offering led by BTIG LLC and The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Lore is a special adviser to Slam, whose CEO is Rodriguez.

(Adds information on legal advisers in paragraphs seven through nine.)

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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