Richard L. Wirthlin retired from the partnership on October 31, 2012. Mr. Wirthlin was a Corporate Department partner for 26 years, in the firm’s Los Angeles and Moscow offices, and founding Global Chair of the firm’s Media & Entertainment Practice, which also includes sports transactions. He was a founding member of both the firm’s International Law Practice and Communications Practice, as well as a member of the firm’s Mergers & Acquisitions, Intellectual Property and Emerging Companies Practices. He is also the former Managing Partner of our Moscow, Russia Office.
Mr. Wirthlin’s practice involved a variety of international and domestic business transactions, with particular expertise and focus on entertainment, media, internet and new media, sports and telecommunications. His practice also included mergers and acquisitions, private equity, high tech, joint ventures, licensing, complex (particularly global) contracting and emerging technology matters.
Beginning in the 1980's, when Mr. Wirthlin was part of KKR's acquisitions of Safeway, RJR-Nabisco and Owens-Illinois, with his particular focus on the global aspects of complex transactions, he developed an active M&A practice which continued throughout his career. His M&A clients included KKR, Owens-Illinois, AIG Brunswick, Decima, Encompass Media, Countdown India, the LDS Church, Credit Suisse, First Element, Foster Farms, Foster’s Group Limited, Infonet, Nexos Capital Partners, Northrop Grumman, Richmond Park Partners, Avenue Capital, WH Smith plc, and others.
Mr. Wirthlin served as DIRECTV’s lead counsel in the 1990’s, representing DIRECTV from its inception, concluding partnering agreements, acquiring media product (cable, pay-per-view, studio, sports, events, etc.) and securing the agreements and relationships necessary for the infrastructure required for the first direct broadcast satellite business in the United States. Among other agreements, he negotiated the ground-breaking “NFL Sunday Ticket” deal and other pay sports agreements with the NBA, MLB, NHL, Wimbledon, Don King, pro volleyball and so forth. Mr. Wirthlin secured studio and cable television content in deals with all of the major networks, including ESPN, CNN, TNT and studios, including Disney, Paramount, Universal, Sony, MGM, Dreamworks and others.
He also negotiated with FIFA rights to World Cups 2002 and 2006 (and other soccer tournament and content) for all of Latin America, excluding Brazil, for DIRECTV Latin America; and, in addition, negotiated the television, radio and other sublicensing deals in countries throughout the region. Further, he negotiated a variety of agreements in support of DIRECTV Latin America’s media distribution for both such World Cups.
Mr. Wirthlin advised during his career at the firm on a variety of other media clients. In addition to DIRECTV, Mr. Wirthlin's many media and entertainment clients include The Africa Channel, Amazon, AMC Theatres, Andrita Studios (now Encompass media), AssureSat, ATLX Channel, Bandeirantes, Euronews, Eurosport, Frontier Cable, Hulu, InterTouch Media, Don Johnson, LodgeNet, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Major League Soccer, Media FLO, MGM, MGM International, MGM Latin America, MGM Networks, Movielink, MySpace, Paramount Studios, Park Court, ProSiebenSat, STAR Asia, STAR India, Starbucks Entertainment, Steven Spielberg, Telemundo, TVG, TVN, Univision, Verizon FiOS, World Championship Sports Network (now NBC Universal Sports), Yahoo and others. As part of his representation of networks, he has concluded hundreds of distribution deals with Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, Charter, DISH, DIRECTV and others.
Mr. Wirthlin currently serves as Vice Chair to both the Los Angeles Sports Council (LASC) and the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games (SCCOG). LASC’s members include professional, collegiate and other sports teams and organizations, along with media and other sports-related properties in Southern California. SCCOG is the 90-year-old institution that has hosted the Olympic Games in 1936 and 1984 in Los Angeles and which acts as bid committee for future Olympic Games.