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Business Observer Friday, Sep. 3, 2004 17 years ago

Insider Perspective

Jay Feaster, general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, told Hillsborough Countyis young lawyers how he escaped the confines of the traditional law practice.

Insider Perspective

Jay Feaster, general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, told Hillsborough Countyis young lawyers how he escaped the confines of the traditional law practice.

By David R. Corder

Associate Editor

Jay Feaster knows how young lawyers think. After all, he was one once. Thatis when he took the first step out of the structured confines of a law firm practice on his way to becoming a corporate executive. Itis a decision that eventually elevated him to the role of general manager of the world champion Tampa Bay Lightning professional hockey team.

While itis probably not something their bosses wanted to hear, members of the Hillsborough County Bar Associationis Young Lawyers Division listened intently to Feasteris message. Itis a lesson Feaster learned from a law firm managing partner who advised the then-young Pennsylvanian attorney to look closely at what he wanted out of life.

The mentor encouraged Feaster to view a law career as a passenger on a cruise ship. The farther the ship travels to sea, the farther away land becomes. In a sense, Feaster recalls, thatis what happens in a legal career.

Relying on that advice, Feaster left McNees Wallace & Nurick for a corporate job with one of its clients, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Co. He quickly assumed new experiences such as disposing of Hersheyis hotel properties and managing the 7,256-seat HersheyPark Arena and the 16,000-seat Hershey Park Stadium. He also gained sports management experience as general manager of the Hershey Bears minor league hockey franchise.

Itis a decision he never regretted, even during those early days as the Lightningis assistant general manager. In those days, he recalls, the Lighting paid nearly $35 million in payroll costs but produced only about $14 million in ticket sales.

iPeople who have never been to law school, or never practiced law, always ask: eDo you miss the practice, do you miss it?i Attorneys never ask that,i he says. iAttorneys always ask: eHow do you get out? How did you get to what youire doing?i i

That statement elicited laughs from the 120 young attorneys who attended the groupis Aug. 26 quarterly luncheon at Tampais University Club.

iItis a trend,i Feaster says. iI think youire starting to see more (attorneys) in the National Hockey League. There are quite a few of us who are attorneys or have that legal background.i

Feaster attributes his legal background as an important element in his ability to understand complex business issues such as the hockey leagueis collective bargaining agreement. This is an issue that also could undermine the 2004-05 hockey season, he says. Then Feaster gave the audience an insideris perspective on the current negotiations.

iThe question is, is the CBA situation as bad as weire hearing,i he told the audience. iUnfortunately, I think that it is.i

A gap separates the playersi union with team owners who want to tie player compensation, salaries and benefits, to a fixed percentage of league-wide revenue, Feaster says.

iThe union takes the position that is a salary cap,i he says. i(The union says:) eWeill never agree to a cap.i i

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