Todd McTavish, senior vice president, general counsel and chief compliance officer, Multimedia Games Holding Co. Inc., Austin (Mark Graham)
A lucky break turned into a great career move for Todd McTavish, senior vice president, general counsel and chief compliance officer of Multimedia Games Inc. The Austin-based public company designs, manufactures and distributes gaming technology, such as slot machines, to Native American and commercial casino markets. McTavish said he got the job as the company’s top lawyer by “being in the right place at the right time. It was total luck.”
The right place was the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, an annual gaming conference, in the fall of 2012, where he met Pat Ramsey, the CEO of Multimedia. At that time, McTavish was general counsel for Video Gaming Technologies Inc., a privately held company in Franklin, Tenn. Ramsey and McTavish had both been collegiate athletes.
“We talked sports for about 10 minutes; it was a cordial introduction with no agenda or anything,” McTavish said.
Then about a week later, he heard that Multimedia was looking for a new GC.
“It was so coincidental,” he said. “I looked up the number and called Pat. … It was serendipitous. He encouraged me to apply. I wasn’t looking for a job or anything. I was very happy at VGT.”
McTavish liked the Multimedia people he met while interviewing for the job, as well as the opportunity to be the GC for a public company.
“It’s a more visible stage and much different role in a public company than a private one,” he said.
The Path to Law School
McTavish grew up in Hershey, Penn. His father was an accountant and his mother a homemaker.
“When I grew up, all of my summer jobs were working on farms as a farm hand,” he said. “It was very hard manual labor, baling hay, a typical country rural childhood.”
McTavish earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at West Virginia University in 1991 and was a linebacker on the school’s football team. He obtained a law degree at Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in New York City in 1998. He also earned a LL.M. in corporate finance law from Fordham University School of Law in 2004. Between college and law school McTavish “did a lot of odd jobs” including working as a salesman at a Porsche dealership.
“I’ve always had a fascination with why things are the way they are, why laws are written in a certain way, and I just had that intellectual curiosity about the law,” he said. “That’s what drove me to go the law route.”
After law school McTavish joined Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft in New York as a corporate associate. He liked working with small companies, advising executives on money-raising strategies and executing business plans.
“I began to think of going in-house,” he said.
Through a professor who he met while pursuing the master’s degree at Fordham, McTavish got a job in 2003 working in the tax planning department of PepsiCo Inc.
“It was not a legal position,” McTavish said. “I was just interested in getting in-house and getting some experience in-house.”
After a year with PepsiCo, he joined PricewaterhouseCoopers as a consultant, helping clients implement the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002. While with the consulting firm, McTavish learned about D1 Sports Training, a company based in Franklin, Tenn.
McTavish thought that the company’s business model—developing training facilities geared toward specific sports—was a good idea. He joined the company in 2005 as vice president of business development and general counsel.
“It was a big risk going from living in New York City for 11 years to a small town in Tennessee, but it was what was in my heart,” he said. “It was a small company, where I could be involved in management and strategy.”
A call from a legal recruiter in 2008 sparked a meeting between McTavish and executives with Video Gaming Technology in Franklin, Tenn.
The meeting was his first stroke of luck in the gaming industry. The privately held company had been growing quickly; by 2008 it needed a legal and compliance department.
“It was pure luck that they were looking for a general counsel and they needed to build a legal department and compliance function—areas where I had expertise and had built at D1 on a smaller scale,” he said. “It was another challenging role.”
He was with VGT for five years before joining Multimedia. Multimedia has 500 employees and five in-house lawyers, including McTavish.
Most of the company’s revenue comes from gaming operations such as leasing slot machines to casinos for a share of the revenue, he said. Other revenue sources include selling machines to casinos or casino operators and running the New York and Washington state lotteries, he said.
Like most GCs, McTavish has a generalized practice that includes handling matters such as Securities and Exchange Commission reporting, commercial transactions and intellectual property.
“Licensing is big in our industry,” he said.
The company has to obtain licenses from each jurisdiction—states or Native American tribes—with which it does business, he said.
McTavish said he uses outside counsel for litigation, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory matters and some intellectual property work.
McTavish “has a very calm demeanor, a very calm, deliberate approach to his job,” said William Mills, a corporate partner in Cadwalader in New York.
Mills has known McTavish since 1998 when they worked together at the firm.
“I think he’s a very practical general counsel,” Mills said. “He knows how to sift through issues and identify the ones that are important to his business.”
John Ghostbear, a solo practitioner in Tulsa, Okla. who works with McTavish on Indian law matters, said, “His is an easygoing style. He will let you know if he needs an answer yesterday, or periodic reports, etc.”
Does McTavish still feel fortunate about joining Multimedia?
“It really turned out to be a great career move,” he said. “I’m very happy with being here.”