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Avalanche, Lightning Lawyers Make Moves as Teams Vie for Cup (1)

June 22, 2022, 9:30 AMUpdated: June 22, 2022, 3:11 PM

As the Colorado Avalanche prepare Wednesday to defend their 2-1 series lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals, the teams’ legal operations have been making moves.

Margaret “Maggie” Walters Foltz, assistant general counsel for Kroenke Sports & Entertainment LLC, a holding company for the Avalanche and other professional sports teams controlled by billionaire E. Stanley Kroenke, left this month to become general counsel for the Kansas City Current women’s soccer team.

The Lightning, meanwhile, hired former FedEx Corp. senior counsel Christopher Brandon to be a senior associate counsel for the team and its owner, Jeffrey Vinik, through the former money manager’s Vinik Sports Group.

The Lightning are trying to win the Cup for the fourth time and become the first National Hockey League team since the 1980-to-1983 New York Islanders to claim the prize three times in a row. The Avalanche are trying to win the Cup for the third time overall and for the first time since 2001.

Walters Foltz acknowledged via email that leaving the Avalanche meant it is “more and more likely that I may have foregone my chance” at being part of winning the Stanley Cup. “I can’t help but cheer on the Avs—that front office is filled with terrific people and they all deserve a ring,” she said.

Keirstin Beck, hired last year as general counsel for Kroenke Sports, which also own Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids, the National Lacrosse League’s Colorado Mammoth, and the National Basketball Association’s Denver Nuggets, didn’t respond to a request for comment about whether Walters Foltz will be replaced.

At Tampa Bay, Brandon said in an email his new job is slotted between Jay Feaster, the Lightning’s top legal affairs executive and its executive director of community hockey development, and the team’s former corporate counsel, Laura Frawley.

Frawley, who spent more than three years with the Lightning, said in a statement posted to LinkedIn last week that she’s taken a counsel role at the Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN Inc. The Lightning have an opening for a staff attorney that will assist Brandon and Feaster, according to an online job listing.

NWSL’s NHL Ties

Walters Foltz said she joined the Current two weeks ago. The team, which plays in the National Women’s Soccer League, represents a homecoming for her.

Prior to joining Kroenke Sports in 2018, she spent nearly five years working in-house for MLS team Sporting Kansas City after graduating from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

The Current is owned by Angie and Chris Long—the husband-and-wife team behind asset management firm Palmer Square Capital Management LLC. The ownership group also includes the wife of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

The owners are backing a $135 million project that will create a new training facility and an 11,500-seat stadium—the first in North America specifically built to host a women’s professional soccer club.

Walters Foltz said she’s working with the Current’s ownership on various aspects of the stadium project, which she said was a primary motivator in her pursuing the team’s general counsel position. She also noted that Kansas City, Mo., was selected last week to be a host city for the 2026 World Cup.

David Frantze, a former outside general counsel to Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals and a real estate partner at Stinson in Kansas City, is leading a team from the firm advising the Current’s owners on leasing and construction plans.

The project is expected to be completed in time for the Current’s 2024 season.

In March, the NWSL announced its appointment of a new commissioner in Jessica Berman, a former deputy general counsel and executive at the NHL who most recently served as a deputy commissioner of the NLL.

Berman took over from the NWSL’s interim CEO, Marla Messing, a former Latham & Watkins associate who was a chief organizer for the 1999 Women’s World Cup, a US-hosted women’s soccer tournament that was a key event for the sport’s growth.

The NWSL tapped Messing to take charge of its day-to-day operations last year following the resignation of its former commissioner, Lisa Baird, and the league’s ex-general counsel, Lisa Levine.

Both women stepped down in October following a series of reports detailing sexual coercion allegations involving NWSL players and coaches. The league subsequently retained Covington & Burling to conduct an internal investigation of its culture.

(Adds comments from Walters Foltz in fifth, ninth, and 13th paragraphs.)

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com