New Zealand Law Society - Carl Rowling — the Napier lawyer with the big-time boxing connection

Carl Rowling — the Napier lawyer with the big-time boxing connection

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Given the way business can be done in 2018, with everything a mere send button away, the opportunities for using a provincial town as a base have become increasingly within reach.

Which is certainly the case for Carl Rowling, the Napier-based Director of Rowling Law & Strategy – a name that reflects the work over and above just the legal involvement that many jobs entail. Mr Rowling moved to Hawke’s Bay from Auckland three years ago where he had become “stuck” after coming back from the United States in the late 1980s.

While working in New Zealand’s biggest city, for three large firms, and as General Counsel for Auckland City Council helping it ease into the super city local authority, Carl and his wife Meghann regularly explored Hawke’s Bay. “Every time we were driving or flying back to Auckland we would say to each other ‘why don’t we live here?’.”

Distance no problem

The distance from the main centres hasn’t proved an issue as he deals with boxing promoters and multinationals around the world.

Carl Rowling and Joseph Parker
Carl Rowling and Joseph Parker

“The way that legal practices work now, particularly the way that I operate as a sole practitioner, it didn’t really matter where I lived. I spoke with a number of my key clients and they endorsed that view and said it didn’t matter to them where I lived. In fact, some were quite jealous.”

Mr Rowling’s bread and butter is the oil and gas industry, local government, corporate commercial and major events.

Through his work with Auckland Council, he picked up some legal work with the sports promotion and events management company Duco Events, beginning with the rugby league tournament, the Auckland Nines.

“There is no tyranny of distance, almost all my work can be done by email and telephone. I’ve been surprised how little I’ve had to travel for meetings; in saying that, I have been caught up in quite a large M&A deal that is unfortunately likely to see me up in Auckland quite a bit in the next few months. But that’s the exception rather than the rule.”

Following the work with the Auckland Nines, Carl has been involved with the Rugby Tens in Brisbane and Australian fighter Jeff Horn’s big-money square off with boxing legend Manny Pacquiao in July 2017. “Because we were the lead promoter on that there was a huge amount of legal work to get through.”

Heavyweight boxing and big money deals

He has done the legal work for Auckland heavyweight Joseph Parker’s last few fights, including the multi-million bash for three world title belts against British superstar Anthony Joshua in London earlier this year.

It is in a way romantic work if you are a sports fan, but nevertheless, the basics remain the same and there’s plenty of negotiations and to-ing and fro-ing that will test the patience of any lawyer.

“The provision of services agreements, as we call them, between the promoters, are pretty complex beasts, particularly when you consider that they are for an event that is only going to last, perhaps, a few hours. There’s massive amounts of money moving, you’re looking at host and international broadcaster agreements, sponsorship and host city agreements, venue deals and there will often be side agreements in relation to the boxer and his camp, so there’s a whole suite of contracts that have to be put in place and they all have to link together.”

He says the guts of the deal are hammered out by promoters before anything comes to him. “It’s easy enough to document all those things that have been agreed, it’s another thing getting all the details sorted out and making sure that there’s still an agreement once you have dealt with all those other issues.”

“I really enjoy this work, I am lucky in that the Duco guys are fantastic to deal with, Joe [Parker] is just a lovely guy and very smart, so he knows what matters, and that makes it a lot easier. Sometimes, the people on the other side can be really difficult, with one European promoter being a complete nightmare. I sent at least three default letters to that promoter under our contract just trying to get them to play with a straight bat. But that’s not unusual in this game.”

Mr Rowling also worked with Duco on Parker’s controversial defeat to Britain’s Dillian Whyte in July, which was also negotiated with Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn, who Carl describes as “a delight to do business with”. Parker lost on points after 12 rounds but a knockdown that gave Whyte one round by two points was seen by many as due to a headclash, and could have swayed the decision.

Given the millions that are generated from the broadcasting rights with pay-per-view television the key breadwinner for the promoters and fighters, it’s not surprising that the main emphasis in the deal-making process is on this aspect.

In his first year and a half in the Bay Carl Rowling only did one local job due to his main focus in areas such as oil and gas, and corporate commercial law, and of course sports. Recently, however, he has conducted work for two of the Hawke’s Bay councils and the Big Save group, which has its HQ in Napier. He has also been appointed to the board of Sport Hawke’s Bay.

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