Madison Square Garden Sports Names Lifelong Knicks Fan Law Chief

Madison Square Garden Sports Corp. said Friday its general counsel Lawrence Burian is stepping down after spending two decades at MSG-related entities.

Jamaal Lesane, an associate general counsel for the company, will take over as top lawyer March 21, MSG Sports said in a securities filing. The former Covington & Burling associate has worked for MSG Sports and its predecessors since 2008.

The new legal chief advises on matters related to the NBA’s New York Knicks, NHL’s New York Rangers, and esports outfit Counter Logic Gaming, all of which are owned by MSG Sports. Lesane, a life-long Knicks fan, was born, raised, and resides in Brooklyn, N.Y., and he previously spent almost two years as an associate counsel for the television network HBO.

Burian’s departure comes roughly four months after a related company, Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp., announced its hire of general counsel Jamal Haughton. He succeeded Scott Packman, who spent a little over a year in the role.

MSG Sports and MSG Entertainment formed in 2020 after the split of what was once called the Madison Square Garden Co., a company controlled by billionaire James Dolan. MSG Sports is comprised of Dolan’s professional sports team assets, while MSG Entertainment operates its namesake venue, the Madison Square Garden arena, and New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

Debevoise & Plimpton advised MSG Entertainment last year on its acquisition of MSG Networks Inc., a company that owned the cable television network that broadcasts the games of the Knicks, Rangers, and other teams. MSG Entertainment has benefited from a relaxation of pandemic-related restrictions on live events.

Burian, in addition to stepping down as MSG Sports legal chief, will leave a post he has held since 2015 as general counsel for MSG Networks. He’ll also step down as executive vice president for corporate development for MSG Sports and as a corporate development executive at MSG Entertainment.

He declined to discuss his future plans.

A former associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell, Burian went in-house in 2000 when he joined Cablevision Systems Corp., a former cable company owned by Dolan and his family until it was sold for $17.7 billion in 2016 to billionaire Patrick Drahi’s Altice NV.

Burian left Cablevision in early 2010 to become general counsel for what was then MSG Co. after it was spun off by the cable company.

He owns more than $1.8 million in MSG Sports stock, according to Bloomberg data. The company paid Burian nearly $3.7 million in total compensation last year, according to its most recent proxy filed in October.

Burian’s pay was composed of more than $2.2 million in cash—an $840,000 base salary and almost $1.4 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation—and $1.4 million in stock awards. He was not a named executive officer at MSG Entertainment.

Securities filings show that Burian sold off $905,000 in MSG Sports stock last year.