ESPN elevates long-time in-house lawyer to legal counsel role (1)

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ESPN Inc. is promoting Eleanor “Nell” DeVane to senior legal position at the sports and entertainment media company in January, when she succeeds retired chief counsel Diane Morse.

DeVane has been deputy chief counsel at ESPN since 2012, according to a press release issued Thursday by ESPN, based in Bristol, Connecticut. The network, owned by Walt Disney Co., said it had “performed legal work for virtually all areas of ESPN.”

DeVane will report directly to two people, one of whom is Disney’s general counsel, ESPN said. Alan Braverman, who currently holds the post, is set to retire from the Burbank, Calif.-Based media conglomerate after his contract expires on January 1.

ESPN spokesman Dave Nagle said Braverman’s successor has not been named. Disney media representatives did not respond to a request for comment on the matter. Braverman also did not respond to a request for comment.

“Over the years we have worked together, Nell has impressed me with her in-depth knowledge of the business, her skills as a lawyer and the respect with which she is held within the organization,” said Braverman in a statement released by ESPN.

DeVane will also report to ESPN President James Pitaro, who took over network in 2018. Pitaro was previously an executive at Disney and began his career as a partner at the law firm Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker.

ESPN initially hired DeVane as an associate legal counsel in 1997 after spending four years as an associate with Wiggin & Dana in New Haven, Connecticut. The Yale Law School graduate left the company in 1999 to become a senior partner at Tyler, Cooper & Alcorn – a Connecticut company that closed its doors over a decade ago, returning to ESPN the following year as Deputy General Counsel.

DeVane was promoted to Deputy General Counsel in 2005 before moving to Deputy Chief Counsel seven years later. Morse, her predecessor as ESPN’s senior advisor, has held this position since 2015.

ESPN brought in Morse to succeed former chief lawyer David Pahl, who later joined DLA Piper as senior lawyer in his media, sports and entertainment practice. ESPN said Morse will retire in January after 25 years in his legal department.

In October, ESPN announced that former Disney Deputy Chief Lawyer Heather Anderson would be vice president of programming and acquisitions. Paul Richardson, long-time former lawyer and head of human resources at ESPN, has been named Disney’s new director of human resources to July 1.

Disney has called on Jill Ratner to become its new Deputy General Counsel for Litigation effective September 13. She replaced Edward Nowak, who retired after a 36-year career with the company. Disney also appointed a new chief compliance officer last January in the person of Alicia Schwarz. She succeeded Jacob “Jack” Yellin, who also retired.


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