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Name and title: Richard Cotton, executive vice president and general counsel. Age: 63 Big media: NBC Universal Inc., a global multimedia company, was formed in 2004 through the combination of General Electric Co.’s NBC network and Vivendi Universal Entertainment. The New York-based company owns and operates a portfolio of news and entertainment networks, a motion picture company, television production operations, a television stations group and the Universal theme parks. NBC Universal is 80% owned by General Electric and 20% by Paris-based Vivendi. The company expects 2008 revenues of about $18 billion and has 16,000 employees. Recently, the company launched Hulu LLC, a joint venture with News Corp., which presents contemporary and vintage TV shows online. Legal team and outside counsel: Cotton supervises the equivalent of a midsized law firm, with more than 170 attorneys spread over 12 specialties. He reports to Jeff Zucker, the president and chief executive officer of NBC Universal. “We do as much work as possible inside, and we’re set up to do that,” Cotton said. “We have practice groups that relate to employment, intellectual property, litigators, media lawyers, broadcast issues � and these specialists serve all of [NBC Universal's] business units.” As a result, Cotton doesn’t need outside firms very often, although he does use them for “large-case litigation and large transactions, where it’s difficult because of the peaks and valleys” of that sort of work to staff internally. Outside firms also assist with such specialty work as antitrust and labor and employment. Cotton estimated that he uses between 20 and 30 firms a year, but declined to name any of them. Not surprisingly, Cotton considers himself a generalist, “because I supervise a wide variety of specialists. That is the route to the highest quality service and advice, and we have asked all of the [rank and file] lawyers to be specialists,” he said. NBC Universal’s law department has made work force diversity a priority, Cotton said, and tracks its efforts in that area internally. General Electric maintains a legal pro bono effort at the overall corporate level to encourage its lawyers in that area. Daily duties: Cotton faces two major priorities when dealing with the digital world. One is disseminating digital content across multiple platforms, including most recently the Internet. “Digital technology is forcing radical changes in the business plans in every division of the company,” he said. “The biggest challenge is to provide legal advice on how to deal with the changing market, approaches to getting content to consumers, strategically expanding the international business and expanding digital online offerings.” His other major challenge is dealing with digital piracy, estimated to cost content providers as much as $500 billion annually. “NBC Universal has developed a team of lawyers and government relations specialists focused on intellectual property protection,” Cotton said. Cotton spends as much as half of his time traveling. Frequent destinations are Washington and Los Angeles. “The big challenge in large organizations is to engage strategically with senior lawyers and to facilitate communication among lawyers and specialists who may overlap,” he said. “So it’s a pretty steady diet of meetings and conference calls, aimed at making sure we’re moving forward and that there’s real communication across the legal organization.” Cotton has served since January 2007 as chairman of the Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy, a joint project of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. The organization, which speaks for some 500 companies, lobbies Congress and cooperates with the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI and Department of Homeland Security in enforcing intellectual property rights. Cotton said he has no immediate plans to retire, but offered some advice to his eventual successor: “Things come at you so fast that you need to really focus and make sure you’re thinking about every aspect of the problem, but also to be thinking strategically,” he said. “How can our organization change to prevent legal problems before they arise?” Route to the top: Cotton earned his undergraduate degree in 1965 from Harvard College, where he majored in political science, economics and anthropology, with a focus on city politics. He earned his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1969. He then served as clerk to Judge J. Skelly Wright of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1969 and 1970, and to U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. in 1970 and 1971. He was appointed deputy executive secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare under Secretary Joseph A. Califano in 1977 and was named the agency’s executive secretary in 1978. In 1980, he became special counsel to Deputy Secretary John Sawhill of the U.S. Department of Energy, leaving that same year for private practice, specializing in health and environmental regulation, First Amendment and libel issues, arguing cases at trial and on appeal in federal and state courts. From 1987 to 1989, Cotton was president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based management company HCX Inc. He then became executive vice president and general counsel at NBC. In 2000, he headed for London, where he became president and managing director of business channel CNBC Europe. He helped expand the unit’s reach to 85 million homes and establish programming relationships in Europe, Turkey, Russia and the Middle East. Cotton was named general counsel of NBC Universal when the company was formed. Personal: Born in Washington, Cotton has been “a political junkie and news junkie forever.” He worked for Newsweek for a while between his bachelor’s degree and law school. Outside of work, Cotton is a self-described “passionate tennis player,” who enjoys hiking and travel. He also likes spending time with his children, Rachel, 26, and Jon, 24. He confessed a weakness for Paris and London, and has been looking forward to visiting Beijing for the summer Olympics, which NBC will broadcast. Last book and movie: Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and The Lives of Others.

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