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It’s not easy to come up with new accolades for Richard Wiley. Over the last four decades, the co-founder of Wiley Rein has been dubbed “the sixth commissioner,” the “brand name of the communications bar,” a “telecom lion,” and “the godfather of HDTV.” A former chairman, commissioner, and general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission, Wiley is renowned for his skills as a strategist, his industrywide expertise, and his extensive network of connections. “He’s one of a kind,” says Robert Beizer, general counsel of Atlanta-based Gray Television, which owns 36 stations. “He has a tremendous capability for building and maintaining relationships with clients and people in government and the industry at large.” Beizer, who has known Wiley for more than 25 years, is not only a client but also rents space in Wiley Rein’s D.C. office. In such close proximity, he sees firsthand the 72-year-old Wiley’s energy and capacity for hard work. “He’s the first one in the office in the morning,” says Beizer. “He’s going all the time.” Currently, Wiley is representing Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. before the FCC in its bid to merge with XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., a controversial deal that has been the subject of hearings in both the House and the Senate. High-profile deals are rather a specialty for Wiley. He was lead FCC counsel for BellSouth Corp. when it was acquired by AT&T Inc. for $67 billion last year in a deal that created the nation’s largest phone company. He represented Comcast when the cable giant, along with Time Warner, bought Adelphia for $17 billion in 2005. He helped IntelSat Ltd. last year win FCC approval of its $6.1 billion purchase of PanAmSat Holding Corp., thereby forming the world’s biggest satellite company. And he’s now representing IntelSat in a $16.4 billion transaction, in which a group led by private equity firm BC Partners is buying a 76 percent stake in the company. In the media realm, Wiley counts the Newspaper Association of America as a long-time client. He has represented the press on a range of policy matters, including a hard-fought dispute with the phone companies over the delivery of information services. The final agreement between the parties on that issue was incorporated into the Telecommunications Act of 1996. John Sturm, president of the newspaper association, calls Wiley “a truly terrific strategist.” Sturm says, “People trust his judgment. He’s so straightforward. He’s greatly admired by people across the political spectrum. He treats everyone with respect.” One of Wiley’s biggest long-term projects has been the transition from analog to digital television. In 1987, he was appointed chairman of the FCC’s advisory committee on advanced TV service. Working pro bono, he was tasked with building an industrywide consensus on a national standard for digital TV. Wiley singles this out as one of his proudest achievements, noting that it “changed the whole tenor of television.” In 1998, he received an Emmy award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for his work. An Illinois native, Wiley earned his law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in 1958. He came to Washington in the early 1960s for a three-year stint with the Army Judge Advocate General Corps. During that time, he earned an LLM from Georgetown University Law Center. Wiley then moved back to Chicago to join now-defunct Chadwell, Keck, Kayser, Ruggles and McLaren as an antitrust lawyer. He left private practice to work on Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign and was rewarded with the job of general counsel at the FCC. It was new terrain for Wiley. When he got the offer, he says, he had to stop and think what the initials “FCC” stood for. He became a commissioner in 1972 and chairman in 1974. He served until 1977 — in an unusual move, the Carter administration, which shared many of his views on deregulation, kept him on the job for almost a year after the election. Hot topics at the time, Wiley recalls, included media ownership, telephone competition, and indecency standards. “The exact same issues as today,” he chuckles. “I thought we solved them all, but I guess we didn’t.” After his government service, Wiley joined Kirkland & Ellis, but client conflicts compelled him to leave in 1983. Much of his legacy is wrapped up in what he did next. He and Kirkland colleague Bert Rein decided to launch their own firm with 37 lawyers plus staff from Kirkland’s D.C. office. Name partner Fred Fielding joined in 1987 (but left earlier this year to become White House counsel). With Wiley at the helm as managing partner, the firm has grown to 270 lawyers and boasts the largest communications practice in the country. Alumni include current FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. So when will Wiley rest on his laurels? “I don’t see myself slowing down at all,” he says. “I’ve always found the field fascinating. It changes all the time, and it’s so connected with the way we live.” He adds, “It keeps an old guy like me wanting to come back to the office.”

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