Kate Sheets was working late on a Thursday. That wasn’t unusual for the second-year associate, but an email that popped into her inbox was. A senior partner sent her a note: some VIPs were coming into the office to close a deal and Sheets was to make herself available. The young lawyer rushed into her firm’s conference room, cleared the massive table, and prepped a makeshift war room.
An entourage arrived shrouded in secrecy, and Sheets soon recognized them as the team behind Guggenheim Baseball Management. They were there to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Assisting on the high-profile deal was a dream come true for Sheets, a Chicago native and avid Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox fan who grew up playing sports and watching Michael Jordan–era championship celebrations in Grant Park. Sheets went to the UCLA School of Law, and although she considered combining her legal skills and interest in athletics, she didn’t quite know how—until the biggest deal in the history of sports was happening right in front of her.
Entrepreneur Frank McCourt had previously purchased the Dodgers franchise for $420 million. After a divorce and other personal and professional events impacted the front office and introduced uncertainty, Major League Baseball assumed control of the Dodgers’ operations and installed a trustee as the team entered bankruptcy. Ownership disputes spawned court proceedings and, finally, McCourt agreed to sell. The Guggenheim group, led by Magic Johnson, emerged as the front-runners. The stage was set for a tense and complex negotiation.
Sheets and her colleagues worked around the clock for five days, pausing only for short naps on lobby couches. Faced with a tight deadline, she tracked hundreds of files, prepped documents for signatories, and looked after every minute detail. When all was said and done, Guggenheim Baseball Management bought the Dodgers for $2.3 billion in 2012, eclipsing the $845 million the Ricketts family had paid for the Chicago Cubs three years earlier.
The deal did more than shatter records: it opened Sheets’s eyes to new possibilities. “Sports was my life growing up, and I realized I could marry my passion with my profession,” she says.
She continued developing her skills with an eye on her favorite industry and, in 2016, she seized the opportunity to join AEG, the global leader in sports and live entertainment, as legal counsel.
A massive international company, AEG owns top franchises like the Los Angeles Kings and LA Galaxy, produces major events like the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, and operates preeminent venues like Crypto.com Arena and The O2 in London. Sheets works primarily with AEG Global Partnerships, a group that negotiates sponsored partnerships and naming rights deals for the company’s portfolio of brands and venues.
Deals within AEG Global Partnerships frequently touch multiple properties across several genres. “Sports, music, and entertainment bring people together like nothing else, and the combination of these worlds on our platforms creates unique opportunities for our clients,” Sheets explains.
American Express is one such client. The brand has a multiyear deal with AEG, making it the “official card” of numerous teams, stadiums, festivals, and events around the world. AmEx cardholders enjoy presale opportunities as well as other perks and amenities.
Another AEG partner, UCLA Health, became the “official partner” of several marquee AEG-owned and -operated venues and events across the Los Angeles area as well as a founding partner and the first “official medical partner” of Crypto.com Arena.
Perhaps Sheets’s biggest deal at AEG was a recent one, which turned the former STAPLES Center into the new Crypto.com Arena. In late 2019, AEG reacquired the naming rights for the iconic Southern California sports venue, assuming they would have a long list of suitors vying to place their logo in the LA skyline. Months later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, sports leagues were shut down, and live events were canceled.
Sheets and the team at AEG Global Partnerships worked behind the scenes to engineer a creative solution and target the right partner. “When I became a transactional lawyer, I learned that the best deals solve a unique need for both sides,” she says. “We were looking for a bold, brave, and innovative brand to take a meaningful venue into a new chapter, and we found that in Crypto.com.”
Sheets and AEG pitched their platform as a way for Crypto.com, a fast-growing cryptocurrency platform, to enhance the fan experience, impact the greater community, and leverage emerging technologies. The agreement includes signage and activation spaces at the 18,000-seat arena, which is home to NBA and NHL games, concerts, and world-class events like the Grammy Awards.
It also includes rights at LA LIVE, Microsoft Theater, and the Novo, which Sheets says puts Crypto.com “in the center of live entertainment” for the next two decades. The deal closed on Christmas Day last year.
As we find new ways to live with COVID-19, AEG is pivoting to keep fans engaged during a time of great uncertainty. Sheets and her colleagues have renegotiated contracts and enabled remote experiences while focusing on maintaining critical, long-term relationships with AEG’s key partners.
As venues reopen, they’re investing in mobile ticketing and contactless payments. Pent-up demand promises to drive a major uptick in live entertainment.
Sheets says the boom could last a decade or more—and AEG is positioned as the market leader, ready to welcome fans back with a full slate of games, concerts, events, and festivals.