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Marianne Niles is vice president and general counsel of Washington Sports and Entertainment, L.P. What does your company do? Washington Sports and Entertainment is a premier sports and entertainment enterprise. WS&E is the parent entity for the Washington Wizards (the District’s National Basketball Association franchise) and the Washington Mystics (the Women’s National Basketball Association franchise). WS&E also owns and operates MCI Center, a state-of-the-art, 20,000-seat arena in a revitalized retail and business corridor. The MCI Center hosts professional sports events, including the NBA All-Star Game, collegiate events such as home games for the Georgetown University men’s basketball team, and NCAA and ACC basketball tournament competitions. Other events include the World Figure Skating Championships, as well as concerts by Bruce Springsteen, Janet Jackson, Paul McCartney, and Fleetwood Mac, among others. WS&E also manages the Patriot Center at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and has various other business endeavors. How did you come to the job? In early 1997, I received a call from Mr. Abe Pollin, the chairman and CEO of WS&E, to consider a position at WS&E, while I was serving as president of the National Association of Investment Companies. While my two years at NAIC had been rewarding and productive, I simply could not pass up the opportunity Mr. Pollin was offering. At that time, construction had just commenced on MCI Center, and the company was in need of an attorney with extensive experience in the government and politics of the District, particularly large-scale project development. Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, current front-office executive at WS&E and also a longtime friend, endorsed my candidacy for this position. During the planning stages for the MCI Center project, I was general counsel and senior policy adviser for the District’s Sports Commission, which played an integral role in the public-private partnership envisioned by Mr. Pollin, and in shepherding the project through an extensive and complex set of administrative requirements and political realities. What’s top of mind for you in your job right now? What’s in those folders piling up on your desk? Under the direction of the president of WS&E, my office provides legal support, advice, and counsel to executive management, corporate, and operating departments of the parent company and the wholly owned subsidiaries. A major responsibility is the daily management of MCI Center, which hosts events more than 200 days a year, as well as managing the retail tenants and business partners who serve our various patrons for these events. In addition, our office oversees literally hundreds of ongoing contracts related to the management, marketing, sales, promotion, and programming of MCI Center events — those involving our owned entities and those where outside parties lease the facility or otherwise engage in business with WS&E. We also manage some of the legal aspects of the relationship between our sports franchises and their professional leagues. To ensure that WS&E and its facilities remain in compliance with all relevant administrative regulations governing the health, safety, welfare, and security of our patrons, employees, and tenants, we work closely with regulatory and public safety agencies of the city and surrounding jurisdictions. Our office is also active in monitoring local and national legislative initiatives that have a bearing on our business, and we promote favorable legislation whenever possible. Describe your administrative duties. What are the top issues and challenges you face in that area? I manage two attorneys and a paralegal/ executive assistant on a full-time basis. In addition, I monitor the work of a number of interns, law students, and recent law graduates, who are chosen from a vast group of applicants. I would characterize my role as “consensus manager” and “team builder,” which means that I provide an open and supportive work atmosphere where each employee can reach their fullest potential, but I also hold each individual accountable for performing their delegated tasks in the most efficient and professional manner. While I give my team members a broad range of responsibility, my ultimate duty is to keep an eye on the big picture, both the legal and broader business/policy aspects, to ensure that our office not only gets all the specific legal details right, but also serves the health and welfare of the corporation as a whole. As an in-house counsel, it is important to remember that you are part of a team, and as I am constantly reminded, given the focus on this particular corporation, you are defined not by personal achievement alone, but by the successes of the management team as a whole. It is critical, therefore, that department heads and others keep their egos in check. We must always remember that we have much to learn and gain from the skills and expertise of all of those around us. What kind of work do you send out? Our office generally farms out large, work-intensive litigation matters, complex financial and tax issues, high-level league-governance issues, and some labor and employment matters. While the primary day-to-day responsibility for these delegated matters rests with our law firm counsel, our office closely monitors the progress of each project, and receives and reviews reports from our outside attorneys on a daily basis. Which outside counsel do you turn to in various substantive areas? WS&E and Mr. Pollin have enjoyed a long-standing and successful relationship with David Osnos at Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn, who handles a majority of the outsourced matters, particularly issues involving the National Basketball Association and other team-related matters. We recently worked closely with Robert Mance, a solo practitioner, who assisted us in a breach of contract suit.

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