X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Name and title: Rick Buchanan, executive vice president and general counsel. Age: 44 Company profile: From 10 tall men running up and down the court, a business empire has grown. The National Basketball Association Inc. (NBA) has 1,100 league office employees, while each team employs an additional 100 people or so. Professional basketball’s licensing business leaves its profitable mark on apparel, video games, posters and endless other items. Pro basketball is all but omnipresent through NBA TV and wireless streaming footage. Interest in basketball has grown worldwide. The league in January announced the launch of NBA China, headed by Tim Chen, the former chief executive officer of Microsoft Greater China. League headquarters is in New York. “The thing that separates us, to some extent, from some of the other sports leagues in this country is the interest in basketball internationally,” Buchanan said. “We have the opportunity and the footprint to take all our businesses into Europe, Latin America and now China. We’re a $4 billion business heading north.” Legal team and outside counsel: Buchanan manages a team of 24 attorneys assigned to specialized groups. “We’ve got a group that we would consider league-side lawyers dealing with the collective bargaining agreement, salary cap, player contracts, the drug-testing program and disciplinary matters � everything related to playing the game and the economics that underlie that,” Buchanan said. “We’ve got an intellectual property group that focuses on registration of our trademarks, copyright issues [and] intellectual property issues arising from our digital businesses. We have lawyers assigned to the marketing and licensing arm of the NBA who work on sponsorship, licensing, photography, footage � whatever it is. And we have a fourth group who are counsel to NBA Entertainment.” For outside counsel, the NBA works with Proskauer Rose of New York on labor and corporate matters. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, also of New York, assists with litigation and labor issues. Covington & Burling of Washington counsels on tax matters and corporate. “We’ve got a lot of ex-lawyers running around this place,” Buchanan said, noting that NBA Commissioner David Stern was formerly the general counsel and that Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver was once an associate at New York’s Cravath, Swaine & Moore. “People like to call the NBA ‘nothing but attorneys.’ We’ve got some other lawyers who have turned into businesspeople in other places in the company, as well. Lawyers are all over the place.” Daily duties: Buchanan figures that somewhat less than half of his time is spent managing his team of lawyers, with the majority spent as counsel to the commissioner’s office, the basketball operations group, the business operations of the NBA and the 30 teams. “The unique thing about this job is there are so many different constituencies,” Buchanan said. “You have to look at problems from the perspective of our fans, the surrogate for the fans � which is the media � the owners and our players. Navigating through that makes this job a little unusual and more interesting. “A lot of times I’ve got to enforce rules and regulations against the teams, so there are circumstances where literally, in the space of the same conversation with a team, I will change hats from being a lawyer to that team to prosecutor of that team. It’s an unusual setup to find a lawyer who’s a confidant to a businessperson turning around and saying, ‘OK, I need to investigate you and potentially fine you for some very large amount of money.’ It makes life interesting here.” The American public’s sustained preoccupation with sports makes Buchanan’s job unique. “Sports are a big part of everybody’s lives,” Buchanan said, speaking right after the Super Bowl. “I stopped at the bank before work today. There’s a teller there I see occasionally and he had me for 20 minutes just talking about the Super Bowl and his family rooting for the [New York] Giants. I thought the guy was going to start crying in front of me, he and his family care that much about the Giants and that they did this well. The ancillary part of that, though, is that there’s an unusual priority in terms of the focus that people give sports.” Buchanan recalled a late afternoon in 1997 when he sat in a conference room at NBA headquarters in New York to watch an improvised satellite feed from San Francisco of a press conference in which Latrell Sprewell, then a player for the Golden State Warriors, addressed the infamous incident in which he throttled head coach P.J. Carlesimo during practice. “When the press conference ended, the television clicked over to the 6 o’clock national news,” Buchanan said. “The first story is Peter Jennings talking about the [Sprewell] press conference � race and sports. The second story is [United Nations] inspectors find evidence of nuclear weapons in Iraq. There’s this interest level in sports that is not necessarily related to the relative importance of the subjects, but nevertheless, that’s what we deal with.” Route to present position: Buchanan grew up in Seattle and its environs but headed east to attend Amherst College, where he played varsity golf and squash, graduating in 1985 with a major in political science. He stayed in Massachusetts to attend Harvard Law School, graduating in 1988. In his first year after law school, Buchanan clerked for Judge Kenneth W. Starr at the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In 1989, he joined Covington & Burling, which represented the National Football League (NFL) and the National Hockey League (NHL). He worked a year there under Paul Tagliabue, who left to become NFL commissioner, and then under Jeff Pash, who left to become general counsel of the NHL and is now general counsel of the NFL. Buchanan followed the example of his mentors, leaving Covington in late 1993 to become assistant general counsel of the NBA. He was promoted steadily and achieved his current position in 2006. Personal: Buchanan has a daughter, Sophie, 9. In March he will marry his fianc�e, Nancy Kistner. “I’m a hiker, water skier, a runner and a gym rat,” he said. “I work on projects at my house in Westchester [County, N.Y.], both landscaping and inside.” Last book and movie: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.