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Name and title: Mark Van Vleet, chief legal officer, corporate secretary and senior vice president of business affairs Age: 42 Instrument icon: Discuss guitars with a musician and, invariably, the name Fender will come up. Since 1946, Fender Musical Instruments Corp. has been the premier manufacturer of guitars, basses and amplifiers. It also offers keyboards, sound systems and accessories for the amateur and professional musician. Fender revolutionized the manufacture of musical instruments and galvanized popular music, providing the foundation for the modern rock group. In 1951, California inventor Leo Fender introduced the solid-body Telecaster electric guitar. He also introduced the Precision Bass, an amplified, fretted alternative to the acoustic bass. Originally created for the country swing genre in 1954, the Fender Stratocaster is the Stradivarius of guitars. It has become the most famous, most influential and biggest-selling electric guitar in history. Fender’s headquarters is in Scottsdale, Ariz., with manufacturing facilities and the Fender Custom Shop located in Corona, Calif. Additional sites are in Tennessee and Washington, and satellite locations including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. The company employs more than 2,500 people. The privately held company keeps its financial details close to the vest. Daily duties: Van Vleet calls his post “a dream job.” He described his responsibilities as being “all over the place, and it’s never boring.” Fender sells to retailers, and its legal department drafts the standard agreements with dealers and distributors. The firm conducts direct operations or has distributors in “hundreds” of countries, Van Vleet said, and he works closely with local counsel to oversee the international legal work. Intellectual property is a busy area, as is the commercial arena. Discussing matters of strategy with Fender’s officers represents another chunk of the legal chief’s day. Van Vleet reports directly to Chief Executive Officer William Mendello. The downside of Fender’s leading-brand status is the emergence of knockoffs � rivals’ cheap imitations of Fender’s classic instruments. Fender’s legal team spends “lots of time and resources” addressing the problem, Van Vleet said, although these matters rarely reach the litigation stage. The company collaborates with musicians to develop customized lines or products according to their personal specifications. A business relationship subsequently arises, with Van Vleet participating in the negotiations and contracts. Legal team and outside counsel: Van Vleet jokes that he manages a “mighty department” made up of one other in-house attorney and a brace of paralegals. Turning to outside counsel is crucial for the small legal operation, and Van Vleet seeks advice from the following firms: New York’s Sullivan & Cromwell handles mergers and acquisitions; Bryan Cave gets the call for international issues and litigation; the Phoenix office of Milwaukee-based Quarles & Brady assists in corporate and employment matters; and Chicago’s Goldberg Kohn works with Fender’s trademark portfolio. Van Vleet considers firms’ diversity records when retaining outside counsel, and he notes that the larger firms generally have diversity programs. He would also like to pursue pro bono activities, but admits that due to the small size of his department, it is “difficult to get too involved.” Deals and more deals: In October, with Van Vleet at the helm, Fender announced its purchase for $117 million of Command Music Corp. Fender’s business affairs unit focuses on co-branding and licensing, and has consummated a major licensing arrangement with Sanrio Co. Ltd. for Fender Hello Kitty instruments and accessories. Van Vleet “heavily negotiated” a deal with Harmonix Music Systems Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., to combine music and video gaming for the Rock Band game. He worked on the 50th anniversary promotion of a replica 1954 Stratocaster, as well. The company has become the exclusive distributor and manufacturer of such well-known instrument brands as Gretsch, Guild and Tacoma. Over the years, individual Fender instruments have accrued in value, with many achieving collectible status. Eric Clapton’s “Blackie,” the Fender on which he wrote and performed his signature song “Layla,” recently sold at auction for just less than $1 million. Jimi Hendrix’s “Woodstock” Stratocaster � the one on which Hendrix played the national anthem at the music festival � was purchased for “well in the six figures” by Internet entrepreneur Paul Allen. Fender guitars owned by the late Stevie Ray Vaughan also have premium worth. Van Vleet and Van Halen: As an attorney in the music business, a perk for Van Vleet is interacting with Fender’s roster of artists. He negotiated an exclusive deal for the company to manufacture and distribute EVH products inspired by Eddie Van Halen, a Van Vleet hero. The lawyer told the guitarist that they shared Dutch ancestry, and Van Vleet sat enthralled as Van Halen spoke fluent Dutch for the next 20 minutes. The two shared a laugh when the lawyer sheepishly admitted that he didn’t understand a word of it. Route to present position: Van Vleet is a 1987 graduate of the University of Arizona, and he received his law degree in 1991 from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. After law school, Van Vleet signed up with the Phoenix branch of Chicago-based Winston & Strawn, which later broke off as Johnston Maynard Grant & Parker (now Maynard Cronin Erickson Curran & Sparks). He practiced there from 1991 until 1997. Next, he moved in-house with New Vision International, an Arizona company that sells nutritional supplements. In 2002, he joined Fender as its chief legal officer and corporate secretary. Later, he assumed the duties of senior vice president of business affairs. Personal: Rockford, Ill., native Van Vleet and his wife, Lina, are the parents of a pair of daughters aged 8 and 5. Inevitably, since arriving at Fender, he has tried his hand at guitar. “And I can make some noise on it,” he said. “I think I sound good.” Last book and movie: Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer, by Chris Salewicz, and Enchanted. Van Vleet’s most recent concerts include Van Halen (for himself) and Hannah Montana (for his children).

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