Jeffrey L. Kessler

Jeffrey L. Kessler is a partner in the firm’s New York office who serves as the head of the global antitrust/competition practice and co-chairs the sports law practice group. Additionally, Mr. Kessler serves on the firm's Executive Committee. He focuses his practice on all aspects of antitrust/competition, sports law, intellectual property (IP), complex litigation, and government criminal and civil investigations. He has been lead counsel in some of the most complex antitrust, sports law and intellectual property law cases in the country, including major jury trials, and has represented a number of U.S. and international companies in criminal and civil investigations in the antitrust, trade, and FCPA areas. He successfully defended Matsushita and JVC against claims of a worldwide conspiracy in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Zenith v. Matsushita and is regarded as a leading commentator on international antitrust law. He has also been the lead counsel in numerous IP cases involving frontier issues of IP law and lead counsel in numerous government criminal and civil investigations.

Mr. Kessler is also one of the most prominent lawyers in the country regularly engaged in high-profile sports litigation. He has litigated some of the most famous sports-antitrust cases in history, including McNeil v. the NFL, the landmark antitrust jury trial which led to the establishment of free agency in the National Football League (NFL), and Brady v. NFL, which led to the end of the 2011 NFL lockout.  Some of Mr. Kessler’s clients in the sports law area have included the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), the National Basketball Players Association, the Arena Football League (AFL) Players Association, the National Hockey League Players Association, the Major League Baseball Players Association, the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), CAA Sports, Wasserman Media Group, SCP Worldwide, the NFL Coaches Association, Players, Inc., the Women's Tennis Benefit Association, Excel Sports, and Adidas. Mr. Kessler has also represented various classes of NBA, NFL, AFL, and MLS players, the North American Soccer League, the United States Football League, and the Cities of San Diego and Oakland, as well as Alameda County, in various sports law disputes. Mr. Kessler negotiated the current free agency/salary cap systems in the NFL and NBA, and successfully represented Latrell Sprewell in his controversial suspension arbitration. He also represented pro bono Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee athlete, in his successful arbitration to obtain the right to compete against able-bodied athletes around the world.

Representative Matters

  • Zenith, et al. v. Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., et al. — Successfully defended Matsushita in a landmark antitrust conspiracy case in which new summary judgment standards were established by the United States Supreme Court.
  • McNeil, et al. v. NFL, et al. — Won jury verdict for NFL players striking down free agency restrictions under the antitrust laws. This victory led to the Reggie White class action, in which the free agency/salary cap system in the NFL was negotiated.
  • Thales Avionics, Inc. v. Matsushita Avionics Systems Corp. — Won summary judgment for Matsushita against monopolization charges in the avionics industry.
  • Panasonic Corporation of North America class action defense — Represented Panasonic in its defense of various nation-wide consumer class actions in New Jersey and California courts.
  • JVC Americas Corporation class action defense — Represented JVC in national consumer class action defense.
  • MDL proceedings — Represents Panasonic, Sanyo, NTN, Uralkalli, Nippon Seiki, and other major companies in complex MDL-class actions.
  • Axcess Global, et al. v. Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. — Successfully defended Matsushita in nine-week jury trial involving claims of breach of contract and fraud in which the plaintiffs sought $750 million and the jury awarded a complete defense verdict.
  • NBA Player Class Actions — Successfully represented various classes of NBA players in different antitrust actions leading to the current free agency/salary cap system in the NBA and the end of the 2011 NBA lockout.
  • DVD Copy Control Association v. Bunner, et al. — Successfully obtained preliminary injunction for DVD Copy Control Association in landmark case challenging theft and distribution of DVD trade secrets over the Internet.
  • Brady v. NFL — Successfully represented a class of NFL players in an antitrust action which led to the end of the 2011 NFL lockout.
  • Players Inc. v. Gridiron and Athletes First — Successfully prosecuted two frontier IP litigations challenging the group use of NFL player images on websites.
  • J.F. Feesers v. Serv-A-Portion, et al. — Successfully represented plaintiff in major Robinson-Patman Act litigation.
  • City of Oakland and Alameda County, et al. v. Oakland Raiders — Obtained summary judgment on behalf of City of Oakland and Alameda County requiring Raiders to honor the team’s stadium lease and remain in Oakland.
  • Minolta and Matsushita State Attorneys General Antitrust Litigation — Successfully settled separate multi-state antitrust actions alleging resale price maintenance brought against Minolta Corporation and Matsushita.
  • Samsung v. Panasonic, et al. — Successfully defended Panasonic and the SD-3C patent pool against antitrust claims challenging industry standard setting.
  • Sprewell v. NBA — Successfully represented Latrell Sprewell and the NBA Players Association in arbitration overturning controversial suspension and guaranteed contract termination.
  • Rowe, et al. v. Creative Artists Agency, et al. — Obtained summary judgment for CAA in defense of alleged conspiracy case.
  • Metropolitan Intercollegiate Basketball Association v. NCAA — Successfully represented NIT in antitrust litigation and jury trial against the NCAA.
  • Telesat Cable vision, Inc. v. The Nashville Network, et al. — Successfully defended the Nashville Network and Westinghouse Broadcasting against antitrust claims by cable company.
  • NBA and NFL arbitrations — Represented the players associations in numerous arbitrations involving player free agency rights, circumvention claims, collusion claims, and salary caps.
  • North American Soccer League, et al. v. NFL— Successfully represented North American Soccer League in antitrust case striking down NFL ownership rules.
  • Matsushita Electronics Corporation v. Loral Corporation, et al. — Successfully represented Matsushita in obtaining summary judgment to establish a license defense against patent infringement claims.
  • Guidry, et al. v. AFL, et al. — Successfully represented class of AFL players in antitrust case which established free agency in the AFL.
  • Belichick v. NFL, et al. — Represented NFL Head Coach in litigation over changing teams.
  • Matsushita v. Mediatek — Lead Counsel for Matsushita in major patent litigation.
  • Hygrade Milk and Cream Co., et al. v. DiGiorgio, et al. — Successfully defended company in Robinson-Patman Act litigation.
  • City of Oakland, et al. v. Oakland A’s — Successfully represented the City in franchise valuation arbitration with Oakland A’s baseball team.
  • Honeywell v. Victor Company of Japan Ltd. — Successfully defended JVC against claims of willful patent infringement.
  • NFLPA v. NFL — Successfully represented NFLPA in challenge to provisions of NFL TV Contracts used to fund the NFL 2011 Lockout.
  • Ovalar Makine Ticaret Ve Sanayi, A.S., et al. v. Applied Industrial Materials Corp., et al. — Successfully vacated arbitration award in landmark Second Circuit decision on the standards for determining arbitrator bias.
  • Cinram v. Matsushita — Obtained summary judgment in defense of antitrust claim against the DVD 6 C patent pool.
  • Global Cartel Defense — Representing major international companies in more than a dozen global cartel investigations, including criminal investigations in the United States and Canada, and related proceedings in the EU and worldwide.  
  • Oscar Pistorius v. IAAF — Won landmark arbitration for Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee runner, enabling him to compete against able-bodied athletes and to realize his dream of competing in the Olympics.

Mr. Kessler received a J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1977, where he was a Kent Scholar and on the board of editors for the Columbia Law Review. He received a B.A., summa cum laude, from Columbia University in 1975.

Honors & Awards

Mr. Kessler has been recognized by numerous publications, including Chambers USA – America's Leading Lawyers for BusinessBest Lawyers in America (the Top 100 Lawyers in New York), and U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers® for his antitrust and sports law practices. He has also been recognized by Guide to the World’s Leading Antitrust Lawyers, Chambers Global, and Who’s Who of Competition Lawyers and has been repeatedly included in Super Lawyers (Top 100 Lawyers in New York), The Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America and Lawdragon 500 Leading Litigators in America. Mr. Kessler has also been named as one of The 50 Most Influential People in the Sports Business by Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal and has also been named a National General Commercial Litigation Star by Benchmark Litigation.

Winston & Strawn's Sports Law group has been recognized by U.S. News & World Reports and Best Lawyers®Best Law Firms” as “Law Firm of the Year” for Sports Law for 2013.


Mr. Kessler is a Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School, where he teaches a course on complex litigation. He has written and lectured extensively on a wide variety of antitrust, sports law, and related topics. Mr. Kessler has published several editions of International Trade and U.S Antitrust Law, a treatise on antitrust and trade law issues in a global economy. He also was Co-Editor-in-Chief of State Antitrust Practice and Statutes, published by the ABA Antitrust Law Section. He was a member of the Council and was formerly Co-chairman of the Publications Committee and Chairman of the International Antitrust Law Committee, of the Antitrust Section of the American Bar Association (ABA). He was also a member of the ABA's NAFTA Tri-National Committee and an Adjunct Professor of Law at Fordham Law School. He was a founding member of the Board of Advisors of the Georgetown University Study of Private Antitrust Litigation. He is a member of the Boards of Legal Aid Society and the New York International Arbitration Center, as well as the Board of Visitors at Columbia Law School. He is also a fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.


  • “After Further Review: How the Eighth Circuit’s Misinterpretation of the Norris-LaGuardia Act Fumbled the District Court’s Ruling in Brady v. NFL,” 1 Berkeley J. Ent. & Sports L. (2012).
  • Co-author, International Trade and U.S. Antitrust Law, 2nd Edition (2006).
  • “The Supreme Court's Decision in Dagher: Canary in a Coal Mine or Antitrust Business as Usual?,” Antitrust (2006).
  • Inside the Minds: Antitrust Laws (2005).
  • “Strategies for Litigation,” The Litigation Leadership Roundtable (2005).
  • The Corporate Counselor and Antitrust/The Corporate Counselor’s Deskbook (2003).
  • Editorial Board, Competition Laws Outside the United States (2001-2003).
  • Protecting DVD Trade Secrets in an Internet World (2002).
  • Understanding Business and Legal Aspects of Sports Industry – Practising Law Institute, Co-Chair (1999-2000).
  • What Justice Breyer Could Not Know at His Mother’s Knee: The Adverse Effects of Brown v. Pro Football on Labor Relations in Professional Sports (2000).
  • Co-Editor-In-Chief, State Antitrust Practice and Statutes, 2nd Edition (1999).
  • Consents and Settlement Agreements, Antitrust Law in New York State (1995).
  • “The New Wave of Antitrust CIDs: What To Do When The Department Of Justice Comes Knocking On Your Door,” The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel (1995).
  • “New International Antitrust Guidelines,” ANTITRUST (Summer 1989).
  • “The Antitrust Legacy of the Reagan Administration,” The Antitrust Bulletin (1988).
  • “Litigating International Antitrust Cases,” The Practitioner’s Viewpoint (1987).
  • “S. 1300-H.R. 4831 – An Overdue Antitrust Reform,” The Antitrust Bulletin (1986).
  • Integrated Reform Suggested for Antitrust Remedies (1983).