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Name and title: Byron Marchant, executive vice president, chief administrative officer and general counsel of BET Holdings Inc. Age: 48 Pioneering company: Black Entertainment Television (BET) is a groundbreaking 24-hour TV network: the first and only one in the United States to be primarily aimed at African-American viewers. It beams entertainment, news and public affairs programming into 71.4 million households, and BET is also the consumer brand of a multitude of other black-oriented media products. BET Holdings Inc., its parent company, was the first African-American-owned enterprise to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Launched by Robert L. Johnson with a $15,000 investment in 1980, the media firm was sold to Viacom Inc. for $3 billion in 2000. BET has 450 employees in its headquarters in Washington and branch locations in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Revenues are “not broken out separately by BET for public reporting.” Specialist to generalist: Marchant’s legal background is tilted heavily toward specialization in the regulatory, communications and corporate sectors. Over time, however, he has evolved into more of a generalist, reflecting the wide variety of issues faced by BET and its legal team. In any given week, he estimated, 30% to 40% of his time is devoted to entertainment-related matters. Marchant is involved in, or supervises his department’s work on, contracts for various BET projects, either for the network or ancillary markets. Contracts are required for original productions, and sometimes for content integrated into pre-existing shows. The legal team deals with performer contracts and there are also third-party vendor agreements covering support operations. Marchant manages the legal aspects of the network’s annual BET Awards show, and handles the appropriate contracts. Music videos, the core of BET programming, require legal documents as well. BET’s GC also acts as chief technology officer, leads the human resources group and is head of satellite broadcasting. Corporate real estate work, generally in the form of the disposition of assets through sale or lease holdings, accounts for 20% of Marchant’s work, regulation another 10%. He answers to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and attends to administrative law issues involving the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, Department of Labor matters or tax issues. Federal Trade Commission regulations and legislation concerning advertising also require Marchant’s attention. Employment or litigation responsibilities fill the rest of his time. Diverse duties: Marchant “still wears the lobbying hat” for his company, mostly on a state and local level. From time to time he coordinates federal policy issues for BET, particularly those related to its status with Viacom. Advertising and publicity are also in his purview. BET has some Canadian distribution and overseas program sales, so resulting tax issues or those involving music rights are also on his plate. Litigation for Marchant mostly entails “sensitive employment matters” that he prefers to keep confidential. He was, however, successful in defending BET in a case that “raised the level of burden for plaintiffs to plead their case when it comes to suing broadcast cable networks” for libel, slander or invasion of privacy. Janie Luster Wiley v. AIDS Healthcare Foundation Inc., No. 04-432250 (San Francisco Co., Calif., Super. Ct.). BET and minorities: As many as a dozen BET senior executives who run the material operations of the company are women or minorities, and Marchant asserted that “it is unique to find [such] a penetration and concentration of African-Americans in leadership positions in the cable industry or broadcast industry, for that matter.” He considers as career highlights his BET stint, and the opportunity presented by the Viacom merger for him to work alongside his peers at Showtime, MTV and Viacom. Working at the FCC also exposed him to important players in the communications field as well as their colleagues on the legal side. He is looking forward to wrestling with the challenges brought by the latest technologies in wireless, broadband and the Internet, and to taking advantage of the new international opportunities in the media business. Legal team and outside counsel: Marchant’s team fluctuates between 15 and 20 members, “depending on when you take the snapshot,” with seven attorneys and a roughly comparable number of paralegals and administrative personnel. He turns to Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and the New York office of Coudert Brothers for employment matters; Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham and New York-based Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom for corporate dealings; hires Reed Smith for employment and general litigation; engages the entertainment practices of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Chicago’s Lord, Bissell & Brook; and the Washington office of Seattle’s Davis Wright Tremaine gets the call for cases involving program standards and practices, cable regulation and litigation. The general counsel reports to BET President and Chief Executive Officer Debra Lee. Route to the top: Marchant graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1978 and, after fulfilling his military obligation, attended the University of Virginia School of Law. He received a juris doctor degree in 1987. His first career assignment was as an associate in the Washington office of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, with a practice centering around telecommunications and corporate legal work. Next, after an appointment by President George H.W. Bush, he served under Commissioner Andrew Barrett with the Federal Communications Commission (from 1989 until 1995). He then spent two years as general counsel of Telecommunications Systems Inc., an Annapolis, Md., engineering services and software company. Marchant was a partner at Washington-based lobbying firm Patton Boggs from 1996 until 1997, and then BET beckoned: He joined as senior vice president and general counsel and attained his present position in 1998. Personal: Marchant was born in Chicago and has a 9-year-old daughter, Rebecca. He enjoys swimming, biking, skiing and golf. Last book and movie: The Story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (originally published as First Across the Continent: The Story of the Exploring Expedition of Lewis and Clark in 1803-4-5), by Noah Brooks, and March of the Penguins. - Roger Adler

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