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November 16, 2007

Drinker Biddle
Nets NBA Law Star

No, Drinker Biddle hasn’t signed any of the NBA’s seven-footers for work.  Instead they’ve nabbed Naomi Travers, former EVP (Media Rights and Entertainment) with Bobcats Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Charlotte Bobcats.  Bisnow headed over for a quick one-on-one with the newest Counsel in Drinker’s Communications and Media team.

Attending all the Bobcats home games was part of Naomi’s job duties while she was with the franchise.  She watched from the suite of former Bobcats President Eddie Tapscott, who’s now Director of Player Personnel with the Wizards.  Her favorite Bobcats player?  Emeka Okafor, the franchise’s first-ever draft pick, former UConn star, and according to Naomi, all-around good guy.   

Naomi’s road to the NBA began with her position as Assistant General Counsel at Black Entertainment Television, where she was chief IP lawyer.  When Viacom bought the network for $3 billion in 2003, Naomi handled all those aspects of the transaction, ensuring the validity of BET’s trademarks and other rights in show names, show segments, and even the animated character “Monie.”  (What, you don’t remember BET’s short-lived cartoon “Hey Monie!”?)

During her undergrad days at Howard, Naomi did internships at the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.  She wanted to marry her interest in news media with the law, and began her career as an FCC staff attorney.  Speaking of marriage, Naomi is getting married in March.  Her fiance, Baxter Goodly, is a Captain in the U.S. Navy and works at the Pentagon.

Naomi continued to work for BET co-founder Bob Johnson, and was one of a small number of people (including H. Van Sinclair, president of The RLJ Companies and of counsel to Arent Fox) to work on the transaction in which Johnson’s investment group purchased the NBA expansion franchise in Charlotte.  (NBA General Counsel Joel Litvin and Joe Leccese of Proskauer Rose sat on the other side of the table for the NBA.)  Naomi took a business role with the team, helping to create a regional sports network and supervising TV and radio productions of the Bobcat’s home games.  But Naomi says she “never stopped practicing law”; she often found herself doing things like reviewing contracts for on-air talent or satellite distribution of Bobcats games.

Hmmmm, hard to tell whether it’s business or pleasure when you work in entertainment.  Naomi “researches” mobile video by downloading episodes of The Office to her iPod.  Here, she’s checking the 5,000-song playlist on her iPod, which goes heavy on bluegrass, electronica, and hip hop

At Drinker Biddle, Naomi joins a group that represents Nexstar Broadcasting, which owns 30 TV stations across the country.  Since starting, the former college reporter has spent time advising stations on whether or not their news reports present defamation or other legal problems.  (Naomi nixed a recent piece that tied a law enforcement official to a kickback scheme involving commitments for mental health care; it was a little thin on facts.)

Naomi says she’s attracted to the “entrepreneurial aspects of private practice” (Bisnow translation: future rainmaker) and would like to bring in clients who produce video content for Internet distribution.  Naomi thinks it’s the coming wave—she describes today’s gadgets as “billboards that we carry around with us.”  Yep, definitely a future rainmaker.

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