Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Deal Watch: Gwinnett firm scores another sports deal

The emergence of Gwinnett County as a home for professional sports teams—the latest being the Atlanta Braves' top minor-league affiliate—has been a boon for the Lawrenceville law firm Mahaffey Pickens Tucker.

Co-founding partner R. Lee Tucker Jr. and associate Christopher T. Wilson were lead counsel to the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau on its negotiations with the Braves on moving the team's AAA International League franchise to Gwinnett from Richmond, Va.

Tucker and Wilson said they've been in talks with the Braves on behalf of their client since October and there is much more legal work left to be completed, such as finalizing a long-term agreement between the Braves and Gwinnett and hammering out the details of a lease agreement on a new stadium. The Gwinnett Braves are slated to play their first game in Georgia in 2009.

It's the latest sports deal that Mahaffey Pickens Tucker has handled for the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau. The 10-attorney firm, which Tucker founded with two partners in May 2006, also worked on two relocations of the Georgia Force franchise of the Arena Football League—the first from Nashville, Tenn., to Gwinnett and the second from Philips Arena to the Arena at Gwinnett Center— and the deal that brought the Gwinnett Gladiators minor-league hockey team to Gwinnett from Mobile, Ala.

“It's exciting that we've been in a position to work on these kinds of deals,” Tucker said. “We think it's somewhat unique that a firm of our size has done this many sports deals.”

Now that the Braves have signed a letter of intent with Gwinnett, Tucker and Wilson said they will turn their attention to working on the financing of the Braves' new stadium that will be located on state Highway 20, a few miles south of the Mall of Georgia near Buford. The $45 million stadium will be financed through a $12 million commitment from Gwinnett's recreation fund and $33 million in bonds that will be backed by Braves ticket sales, parking revenue, and naming rights for the stadium, Tucker said.

As is the case with the Arena at Gwinnett Center, the county will own the Braves' new stadium and the land where the stadium will be located, Tucker said. The Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau will operate the stadium on behalf of the county. Initial plans for the stadium call for a hotel and retail to be located at the stadium.

The Braves were represented in the talks by in-house counsel Gregory J. Heller, Tucker said. Liberty Media, the Braves' parent company, did not have legal counsel on the Richmond Braves' move, he said. Gwinnett County Attorney Karen G. Thomas represented the county's interests.


Arnall Golden Gregory partner Scott A. Fisher was counsel to Pollack Partners on the formation of a $56 million real estate investment fund with affiliates of Goldman, Sachs & Co.

Fisher said the venture, a limited partnership called Pollack Real Estate Fund I, will focus on funding condominium and apartment buildings, including some of Pollack Partners' ongoing projects in Atlanta and Florida. The fund will combine its assets with other investors to pool about $1 billion available for investments in real estate.

Arnall Golden partner Cleburne E. Gregory III and associate Heather L. Preston advised Pollack Partners on tax matters related to the venture. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson advised Goldman Sachs.


Rogers & Hardin partner Alan C. Leet was an adviser to Rock-Tenn Co. on its $993 million acquisition of Southern Container Corp., according to a regulatory filing.

Rock-Tenn General Counsel Robert B. McIntosh worked with Leet on the transaction. Latham & Watkins partner Howard A. Sobel in New York advised Southern Container.

Rock-Tenn, of Norcross, manufactures paper cartons and other types of packaging. Southern Container, of Hauppauge, N.Y., makes corrugated boxes.


Morris, Manning & Martin partner Heath D. Linsky advised Beecher Carlson on its purchase of Alliance Insurance Group, the company said.

Morris Manning associates Mark Zisholtz, Christopher E. Maxwell and Lisa L. Scheid also worked on the deal, as did Beecher Carlson general counsel Adam S. Meyerowitz and corporate paralegal Christine Alligood, the law firm said.

Both Beecher Carlson and Alliance are commercial insurance brokers. Atlanta-based Beecher Carlson said the purchase of Phoenix-based Alliance will allow it to expand in the Southwest.


Miller & Martin partner Carlos C. Smith in Chattanooga advised the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association on the creation of a new company to finance power plants with the Tennessee Valley Authority, the association said.

The new venture, called Seven States Power Corp., will partner with TVA to provide financing for natural gas-fired plants. The Tennessee Valley Public Power Association is comprised of electricity distributors who purchase power from TVA, including North Georgia Electric Membership Corp. in Dalton.