Mary K. Braza

Retired Partner

Overview

Mary K. Braza, co-chair of the Sports Industry Team at Foley & Lardner LLP, has established herself as a recognized leader on national sports legal issues and as an effective advocate for her clients. With more than 30 years of experience, she has a broad range of experience in both litigation and deal-making in sports. She acted for many years as a strategic adviser and counselor to Major League Baseball under former Commissioner Allan H. (“Bud”) Selig. She championed the cause of the University of Maryland in a fight over conference realignment. She serves on the boards of three national organizations examining the role of sports law and is the recipient of many awards and honors.

As a leader in sports law, Mary is one of the founding members of Foley & Lardner’s Sports Industry Team, Mary K. has helped build the firm into a national sports law leader that has played a direct role in some of the sports industry’s highest-profile acquisitions, litigations, and media deals over the past decade.

Mary is a partner and litigation lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP and a former member of the firm’s management committee. As co-chair of the Sports Industry Team, she both litigates cases involving sports issues and advises stakeholders in significant sports franchise acquisitions and valuations; stadium/arena financings, redevelopments and ancillary developments; and issues surrounding league and team operations such as broadcast television and radio deals, regional sports networks, new media, social media, mobile rights, sponsorship agreements, naming rights, concession and merchandising agreements, and revenue sharing.

She is a trial lawyer by training, but since the mid-1990s has been involved in a number of transactions involving the sports industry.

The following are among the varied sports cases and matters she has worked on:

Sports Litigation

  • Defended DraftKings in a class action brought on behalf of NCAA athletes asserting the right of publicity claims
  • Represented the University of Maryland in its move from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten Conference, and related antitrust litigation
  • Represented MLB Advanced Media in a lawsuit involving rights of publicity and First Amendment challenges to a licensing program for use of player information on fantasy sports websites
  • Obtained an early dismissal of a RICO litigation brought against Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig and MLB President Bob DuPuy by former owners of the Montreal Expos Baseball Club
  • Successfully argued in favor of the baseball antitrust exemption on behalf of Major League Baseball, shutting down an antitrust investigation by the Office of the Florida Attorney General
  • Represented Major League Baseball in a ticketholder class action litigation over the All-Star Game
  • Represented MLB Clubs in an insurance coverage litigation

Purchase and Sale of Teams

  • Represented the successful bidders for the Texas Rangers Baseball Club in 2010, leading a team of lawyers in a $590 million transaction that was ultimately concluded in an auction for the team in a bankruptcy court
  • Represented the Ricketts Family in the successful acquisition of the Chicago Cubs for a then record-setting price of $845 million
  • Represented an estate in the sale of a 30 percent interest in a National Football League franchise in 2011
  • Represented bidders for the San Diego Padres, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, and Atlanta Braves

Media Negotiations

  • Represented the Texas Rangers ownership in negotiations for a 25-year extension of a broadcasting agreement and partnership with Fox in a Texas regional sports network, reported in the press as worth $1.6 billion
  • Represented the San Diego Padres ownership in negotiations for a 25-year extension of a broadcasting agreement and partnership with Fox in a San Diego-based regional sports network
  • Represented the Chicago Cubs in 2009 in negotiations for an extension of a broadcasting agreement with WGN
  • Negotiated on behalf of MLB and the Washington Nationals to establish a regional sports network co-owned by the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals and in related antitrust litigation, investigations and Congressional hearings
  • Helped establish MLB Advanced Media, baseball’s internet company and operator of MLB.com and 30 team websites

Advice on Strategic Initiatives In Sports

  • Represented the Texas Rangers in negotiations with the City of Arlington over a Master Agreement for financing and construction of a new ballpark in Arlington, Texas
  • Advised MLB owners on the formation of the sports industry’s first league-owned investment vehicle
  • Counseled on the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C., and negotiated the successful settlement of a dispute concerning public funding for the Washington Nationals Ballpark
  • Negotiated the settlement of claims by Peter Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles, concerning the relocation of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club
  • Advised MLB in the 2007 investigation into the use of steroids and other performance enhancing substances by MLB players
  • Advised on the possible formation of a team-based professional bowling league
  • Advised on the formation of an international electronic gaming league

In addition to her sports practice, Mary has extensive experience in litigating commercial disputes in federal and state courts, involving such areas as environmental law, bankruptcy, distribution, insurance coverage, reinsurance and health care.

Recognition

Mary has been Peer Review Rated as AV® PreeminentTM, the highest performance rating in Martindale-Hubbell's peer review rating system and is the 2012 recipient of the Joseph A. O’Neill Award, which recognizes an individual with a significant contribution to the sports industry while exemplifying the highest ethical standards. She is also recognized nationally as one of America’s Leading Lawyers in the area of sports law by Chambers USA, 2006-2017, and Super Lawyers, 2006, and 2011-2012. In 2010, and 2014 - 2016, The Legal 500 recognized her for her work in sports law. Mary is included in The Best Lawyers in America© 2017 list, in the area of sports law and commercial litigation, as well as listed in Who’s Who Legal for her practice in entertainment and sports law.

“Braza a national leader in sports law”

- 2016 Leaders in the Law,
Wisconsin Law Journal,
February 18, 2016

SPORTS PUBLICATION FEATURES

Education

Mary received her bachelor's degree (1978) and her J.D. degree (magna cum laude, Order of the Coif, 1981) from Cornell University, where she was note editor for the Cornell International Law Journal.

Admissions

A member of the Wisconsin Bar, Mary also is admitted to practice in many federal district and appellate courts.

Affiliations

Mary is an elected member of the Sports Lawyers Association board of directors and is vice chair of the National Sports Law Institute’s board of advisors. She serves on the Advisory Committee for the Sports Governance Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder. She also is a member of the American Bar Association Forum on Sports and Entertainment and the Women's Sports Foundation. Mary is a frequent speaker on sports-related legal topics.

Since 2006, Mary has served as an adjunct professor at Marquette University Law School and John Marshall Law School, where she teaches Sports Law. She is an instructor at the National Institute of Trial Advocacy and has lectured on a variety of trial-related topics.

Mary is married to a lawyer and is the proud mother of two daughters, Laura (a New York theater director) and Carolyn (Manager, Digital Analytics). She focuses her charitable efforts on issues involving mental illness, serving as the chair of the board of the Grand Avenue Club of Milwaukee, and poverty and hunger, serving as the founder and member of Foley’s “K’s for a Cause” program. Mary is a member of the firm’s LGBTA affinity group.

Representative Matters

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Foley secured a complete victory in the Federal Circuit on behalf of Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLB Advanced Media), likely ending a 12-year patent dispute. Foley partner Cynthia Rigsby argued in the Federal Circuit in support of MLB Advanced Media’s District Court victory and received summary affirmance just two days post-argument.The case dates back to 2003 and stems from a dispute over a method of condensing a recorded baseball game. Plaintiff Baseball Quick claimed patent infringement and sought a royalty on MLB Advanced Media revenues alleged to exceed $400 million as of 2011. Baseball Quick also asked for damages to be trebled and for attorneys’ fees. MLB Advanced Media denied infringement and claimed that the Baseball Quick’s patent was invalid. In December 2014, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Forrest of the Southern District of New York granted MLB Advanced Media’s summary judgment motion, confirming MLB Advanced Media’s technology did not infringe Baseball Quick’s patent either literally, or under the doctrine of equivalents.Baseball Quick appealed the decision in March 2015 and on December 10, 2015, a Federal Circuit panel including Judges Dyk, O’Malley, and Stoll affirmed the District Court’s decision. MLB Advanced Media was represented on appeal by Cynthia Rigsby, Kevin Malaney and Michelle Moran. In addition to the appellate team, the District Court case team included George Beck, Mary K. Braza, Peter Wang, Yonaton Aronoff, Justin Gray and Sara Madavo.Our other representations for MLBAM involve patent litigation, patent counseling and procurement and licensing. To date, we have applied for 29 patents and successfully obtained 15 on MLBAM’s behalf. MLB has been a pioneer in its on-line sports content distribution and fan interaction strategies. Leading amongst professional sports leagues, MLB is at the forefront of new media technologies and opportunities for expansion to markets beyond the U.S., including Canada, Europe and Japan.
Serve as national coordinating coverage counsel for Assurant Health, a premier provider of specialized insurance products and related services. Foley's role includes advising Assurant Health on litigation matters involving coverage, disputes with brokers and agents, putative class actions and general commercial disputes involving the company.
Foley secured a major victory for Goulds Pumps, Inc., a manufacturer of industrial pumps, and flagship subsidiary of ITT Corporation. Over the last decade, Goulds Pumps has become one of the leading industrial pump manufacturers for the North American oil and gas market, due in large part to its state-of-the-art API (American Petroleum Institute) pumps. In December 2013, Goulds Pumps’ biggest distributor, DXP Enterprises, Inc., announced its plan to acquire B27, LLC. However, PumpWorks 610, a division of B27, also manufactures API pumps, selling them in the same territory as that granted to DXP under the parties’ distribution agreement. Despite being warned by Goulds Pumps not to acquire B27 DXP completed the purchase in January 2014, prompting Goulds Pumps to file an arbitration demand in April 2014, seeking a declaratory judgment that it had the right to terminate DXP as a distributor. After DXP’s failed TRO attempts in both state and federal court in Texas, arbitration began in earnest in September 2014. A year later, and after a seven-day hearing with testimony from 12 witnesses and rounds of post-hearing briefings, the arbitrator held that, under the Texas Dealer Act, Goulds Pumps did indeed have good cause to terminate DXP.