Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Milwaukee's Negotiations with Yi Jianlian

Today, Peter Lattman of the Wall Street Journal wrote an article entitled "Milwaukee's Secret Weapon For Snagging a Chinese Star". Lattman provides insight on how the Bucks negotiations with Yi Jianlian went from being very far apart to a signed agreement.

After the Milwaukee Bucks made Yi Jianlian their first-round pick in the National Basketball Association draft in June, questions lingered over whether the tea would be able to persuade the Chinese basketball start to come on board. After two months of negotiations the Bucks last week signed a multiyear agreement with Mr. Yi.

The team’s secret weapon in sealing the deal: Z. Julie Lee, a partner at Foley & Lardner LLP in Milwaukee. Last week, Ms. Lee accompanied Bucks owner Sen. Herb Kohl and two team officials to Hong Kong where they came to terms with Mr. Yi.

Ron Walter, a Bucks senior executive, asked Ms. Lee to work on the assignment the day after the NBA draft. It was a natural fit: Ms. Lee, a native of China and graduate of Beijing University, speaks fluent Mandarin and specializes in representing Foley’s clients in their business dealing in China. “Her role was extremely important,” Mr. Walter said. “It was Julie who was really able to open the lines of communication, facilitate the discussions and create mutual trust” between the two sides.

Ms. Lee, 38 years old, moved to the U.S. in 1992 to pursue graduate work in environmental policy, but later switched courses, and earned a law degree from Northwestern University in 1998. She joined Foley & Lardner after law school and was elected to the partnership earlier this year, shortly after she became a U.S. citizen. During the final stages of negotiations in Hong Kong last week, she not only assisted in the contract talks, but also served as an interpreter for Mr. Kohl and the Bucks officials.

“When I was growing up in China, becoming a lawyer practicing in the United States was beyond my wildest dreams,” she said. “Representing an NBA team in negotiations with a Chinese basketball star? That wasn’t even on the radar screen.”

So is Ms. Lee a Bucks ticket holder? “Not yet, but I’m going to get some.”

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