Examining the Complex Legal Battle Between Florida State and the ACC: Insight from Mark T. Wilhelm

Philadelphia, PA – A dispute between Florida State University (FSU) and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) over the Seminoles’ future in the conference has sparked dueling lawsuits. The heart of the legal battle revolves around a grant of rights, a secretive document worth half a billion dollars. Mark T. Wilhelm, a mergers and acquisitions partner at Troutman Pepper, thoroughly examined the enforceability of this document in the Harvard Law School Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law. In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Wilhelm shared some insights and personal thoughts on the case.

The issue at hand is how FSU can escape the contracts it signed. One possible option is claiming that the deal is unfair, as it would result in the loss of $572 million for the university. However, FSU previously agreed to these figures, which weakens its argument. Another argument raised by FSU is that the ACC breached the terms of the agreement by failing to uphold its financial and competitive promises. However, if these promises were made outside of the specific financial contract, their applicability may be called into question. A third option is to argue that what appears to be a contract is not actually a contract at all.

A key factor in the dispute is the concept of “consideration” in a valid contract. According to Wilhelm, for a consideration to be valid, it must be new. FSU argues in its complaint that it received no new consideration by signing the grant of rights. If a court accepts this argument, the absence of a valid contract could potentially save FSU hundreds of millions of dollars.

Another crucial point of contention is the characterization of the $572 million at stake. FSU claims that this amount comprises a $130 million withdrawal fee and $429 million in TV money withheld until 2036. The university could argue that the magnitude of this sum is unreasonable compared to the harm its exit would cause the ACC. However, if the court treats the withdrawal fee and TV money separately, FSU may be held liable for both amounts.

The purpose of the grant of rights is also under scrutiny. If the goal was solely to maximize revenue, the ACC could be viewed as having failed compared to its competitors, such as the Southeastern Conference and the Big Ten. However, Wilhelm suggests that this interpretation may be skewed if we consider that the contracts were drafted in 2016 in the aftermath of a conference realignment wave that prioritized stability. The ACC’s emphasis on stability in its complaint could indicate that this objective was successfully achieved.

The legal homecourt advantage is another factor that will come into play. Currently, there are two separate cases filed by the ACC and FSU in different courts. The venue of the litigation will matter, as Florida and North Carolina have different laws. Additionally, the biases of judges in each jurisdiction may influence the outcome.

The outcome of this high-stakes legal battle remains uncertain. Attorneys for both FSU and the ACC believe they have identified beneficial aspects to support their respective cases. Only time will tell how these arguments play out in court.

[End the article with a conclusion that summarizes the main points and offers a final thought or perspective in AP News Style]