Jim Quinn Rumors
Jim Quinn, renowned litigator and longtime adversary of NBA commissioner David Stern, had placed the phone calls. He had navigated the ill will, convinced the warring parties to lay down their rhetoric and arranged for the summit that would lead the league’s owners and players — after one more grueling, orgiastic, 15-hour negotiating session — from “nuclear winter” to a Merry Christmas. But Quinn didn’t stick around for the final dickering or the handshakes. He was down in Key West, Fla., by that time, yielding to leverage of a different sort. “I had my 45th wedding anniversary,” Quinn said in a phone interview with NBA.com the other day. “And if you want to have a 46th, you do things like that. But I had sort of set the agenda for the meeting, so I was confident it was going to get done.”
Quinn returned the kind words on Kessler, whose absence from the room at the end also has been cited as key to the deal. Kessler and Stern, in particular, long have had frictions, to the point that Kessler’s contributions via speakerphone in the final meeting almost derailed the settlement. “In the week or 10 days I was involved, I think Jeffrey was helpful in getting things done,” Quinn said. “Even though he wasn’t in the room, I didn’t have the sense he was trying to prevent something from happening. He was doing his job. I think it’s been a little unfair that people were saying, ‘He’s been replaced’ somehow. He was still involved. He was just playing a different role. Once they disclaimed, he was a lawyer for those players.” Quinn, though, was the broker, whether all the owners, players and NBA fans realize it or not. “Clearly I’m not looking for credit,” Quinn said. “And I presume that I’ll get paid at some point. So I’m not worried about it.”
The final push came with the involvement of a new figure: Jim Quinn, a former outside counsel to the players union, who was hired by Hunter last week to help restart the talks. Quinn essentially replaced Jeffrey Kessler — the current outside counsel — as the lead negotiator for the players when the parties resumed talks on Tuesday. That meeting set the stage for Friday’s critical session. N.B.A. officials regarded Kessler as a contentious negotiator who has been an impediment to a deal. Quinn, a partner at the Weil, Gotshal law firm, is highly regarded by all parties and has a strong rapport with league officials, most notably Stern. Oddly, neither Quinn nor Kessler was present for Friday’s meeting. Kessler participated by conference call. Quinn was replaced by one of his partners, Bruce Meyer.
With those dynamics in mind, the talks take the form of a legal settlement as opposed to a collective bargaining resolution — with many of the same participants still involved but some new faces, too. The players’ lead attorney in the antitrust action, David Boies, has teamed with former NBPA lead outside counsel Jim Quinn in an effort to push the deal across the finish line. Multiple people connected to the talks have told CBSSports.com that the discussions could move quickly towards a deal after the momentum gained in the past week from back-channel talks spearheaded by Quinn, who was a key figure in ending the 1998-99 lockout. But one person in frequent contact with ownership cautioned that it may take the entire weekend to find common ground, adding that there “could be some anxiety” in the room Friday.
Thankfully for those who want a basketball season, the ideally qualified person with the right relationships and experience and an impeccable reputation as a deal-maker has come forward to solve that problem. That person is Jim Quinn, who for nearly 20 years served as lead outside counsel for the National Basketball Players Association and who helped broker the deal that ended the 1998-99 lockout. Quinn’s unique perspective as a longtime, formidable and respected adversary of commissioner David Stern covers multiple collective bargaining agreements as well as the landmark antitrust lawsuit spearheaded by Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson in 1976.