March 31, 2013

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Professional Reflections of Richard W. Pound

Richard W. Pound, in his capacity as Business Law Advisor, offered the following remarks at the Council Meeting during the 2013 Midwinter Meeting. William Rosenberg provided the introduction. Please take an extra minute to enjoy these comments as did those who attended the Council Meeting.

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RICHARD W. POUND: Thank you very much. I feel like my job today is to thank the guest speaker, but… (Laughter.) Anyway, it was nice to see those pictures up there. There was one, the second one, I think, that shows that I actually had ribs at one point - haven't seen them for quite a while. (Laughter.) Anyway, thank you for this opportunity to speak to such a distinguished group, and thanks, William [Rosenberg], I suppose, for your customary overselling of used goods. (Laughter.) As he has mentioned, I am by profession a tax lawyer and I had thought of giving an overview of a lifelong and unrepentant tax practitioner. But then it occurred to me that there's only so much excitement that a group like this can stand, so I decided against it. (Laughter.)

In fact, I doubt very much that the reason I'm here today springs from my citywide reputation as a tax lawyer. My path to the law was both direct and indirect. Indirectly it came from my father's profession as an engineer. He was a superb engineer in the pulp and paper business, the reward for which was that we lived in small, stinking towns hundreds of miles from civilization. So no engineering, thanks.

I actually started off to become a chartered accountant, which is a CPA here. I studied accounting at McGill University in Montreal. About halfway through that, I thought I should have some kind of a hedge against obsolescence. The fork in the road for somebody in commerce in those days was that you either went to become an MBA or you went to the law. It was pretty easy for me to choose the law and I've now been practicing for some 45 years and have enjoyed every single bit of it.

But I want to say that the combined academic credentials, plus two additional interests of sport and higher education have provided me with some extraordinary experiences and some very valuable life lessons. I was in Montreal at the age of 26, and the club where I swam every day used to be where the "mafia" that ran the Canadian Olympic Committee had lunch. One day, one of these venerable people (who probably looked a little like me at this point) came over and said, "Young Pound," - I was Young Pound, "you're a Chartered Accountant, aren't you?" I said, "Yes, sir," - which is what you said in those days. "And you're going to be a lawyer?" I said, "Yes, sir, assuming I pass my bar exams next year." And he said, "Well, how would you like to become the Secretary of the Canadian Olympic Committee?" I'm a well-educated guy on the way to a second profession, and I said something really intelligent, like, "Gee, that would be swell. What do I have to do?" And he held up his hand and he said, "We'll, take care of that." So I became, at the age of 26, the Secretary of the National Olympic Committee in Canada.

Two things followed very shortly thereafter. One was that the new President of the Canadian Olympic Committee was from Vancouver, so he's 3,000 miles away. And the second was that Montreal was awarded the 1976 Olympics. So there I was at age 26, 27 by now, effectively running the National Olympic Committee of the host nation. So that was kind of fun. After the Games, I became the President of the Canadian Olympic Committee and then a couple years later I was co-opted by the International Olympic Committee. For those of you who are not sure how the IOC picks people, if you've ever been to the Sistine Chapel and you've seen that mural where the (laughter)… the finger of God comes out and touches you on the shoulder, that's pretty much what happened to me. By then I was 36, but by IOC standards, a mere child who should be neither seen nor heard. We had a new President very shortly after that and I was lucky enough to be put in charge of our television negotiations. I had said, "I don't know anything about television negotiations," and he said, "Well, neither do I and we're going to have to learn." Television was our major source of revenue and the IOC was so old-fashioned about it that we used to allow the Organizing Committees for each Games to negotiate the television rights - our main source of revenue, our main window on the world and how we presented the games and so on. Eventually, we said, "Look, this is nuts, so we've got to take this in hand."

I must say that there are some fascinating legal issues involved in Olympic television rights, I'm sure, and others. What happens if the Games are canceled? That's easy enough. What happens, though, if you're selling the rights to NBC and the United States decides not to participate? Do they get their money back? Do they get a reduction? What happens if the IOC, in its infinite wisdom, decides to take basketball off the program - a huge sport here in the United States? So there were some pretty fascinating questions that had to be negotiated. One was, when has the IOC finished discharging its obligations? When it puts on the Games? When it gives the camera positions that we've negotiated with the broadcasters? Or do we have to make sure that the signal gets from (say) Korea back to the United States? Whose responsibility is that? When have we done our job and when does the risk pass to the broadcaster? So that was kind of fun. The biggest problem I had was having to pretend we were doing all the negotiations in Italian Lire so that the numbers didn't scare me to death. When we had the Games in Montreal - just to give you some examples - the total worldwide television rights were $35 million. By the time we got to Atlanta, 20 years later, they were $935 million, and now they're well north of $2 billion. So it's a big issue for the IOC.

But it also didn't take a rocket scientist to understand that we had all of our economic eggs in one basket - television - and in that basket probably 95 percent of the rights at the time came from the United States. It would make your hair stand on end as an economic model. One day the IOC President called me up and said, "You're now in charge of our Marketing Commission." And I said, "I don't know anything about marketing and we don't have a Marketing Commission." He said, "Well, we have a Marketing Commission now and you're in charge, to balance our revenue sources." So we developed something that brought together - it was kind of an innovative concept, looking back on it - where we brought the two organizing committees, Summer and Winter, in each quadrennial period, the IOC itself, and 205 National Olympic Committees around the world, all in a single contractual arrangement to contribute marketing rights in certain categories and then share the revenues. So the contractual aspects of that and the negotiation aspects of that were quite fascinating. And this program produces well north of a billion dollars now in every quad.

All was not always great. We had a couple of major hiccups in the late 1990s. One was the Salt Lake City bidding scandal. Through a failure to avoid eye contact I got stuck with heading up the investigation, which led to expelling or forcing the resignation of 10 or 11 of our members. I got a life lesson from that experience, which is that organizations like the idea of being clean - what they don't like are the cleaners. The second hiccup arose from a doping scandal in the 1998 Tour de France in cycling, a sport in which drug use is really embedded. That led to the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), of which I became the initial President. To make this work on a legal basis, we had to really develop a completely parallel system of law, including a mechanism for dispute resolution, to avoid the problems that would come from judgments of State courts. A U.S. court, for example, can give a judgment that is enforceable in the United States, but if you want to enforce it in Belgium you've got to go through an awful lot of hoops. So the dispute resolution system that we developed for doping was the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is recognized now as an international arbitral tribunal, which gives us the advantage of the New York Convention, so that in an international sports system you can enforce these awards. There's no point in being allowed to compete in the United States by judgment of a U.S. court if, when you go anywhere else in the world, they say, "I'm sorry, you're ineligible."

Thus, in creating WADA, we established a hybrid organization which was 50 percent governments. The United States has been represented since the beginning, along with Canada and others. And 50 percent of control rests with the sports movement - people like me from the IOC, the International Sports Federations, National Olympic Committees and, because it's doping and the big impact of doping affects athletes, we have athletes in the governance structure. There were some very "iffy" early days where, you know, the governments are looking at the athletes, the athletes are looking at these monolithic states, and someone says, "Well, just… let me get this straight. Can this cross-country skier's vote on the question, cancel out the vote of La France?" You say, "Yep, that's the way it works." It took a little while to get that sorted out. We adopted a single set of rules called the World Anti-Doping Code that applies to all sports, to all athletes, all countries. Governments negotiated an International Convention Against Doping in Sport under the aegis of UNESCO. It has now been ratified by 175 countries, including the United States, which is not, as you know, known for its enthusiasm in signing up for treaties. But it certainly is a real problem. Doping, no matter what you read in the media, is not accidental. The odd kid takes some supplements that may be tainted, but by and large, it is organized, deliberate, cheating to get an advantage.

In any event, all these opportunities came to me in part because I was a lawyer. The organizational skill sets of law, the rigor of analysis that we're used to, the advocacy aspects of many of the things that we were trying to accomplish were all critical to whatever success we enjoyed. In my case I had the additional advantage that these were all volunteer positions. I earn my living as a tax lawyer and these were all opportunities to put back into the well from which I had drunk. The activities of volunteers had helped me achieve whatever success I had in swimming and I figure you've got to put back at least as much as you take out.

Life-wise, every morning, going to the office, when the phone rang, I didn't know whether it was a tax problem, a McGill problem, a doping problem, an IOC marketing problem, whatever it was… I found that a lot of people would say, how do you do that… isn't that upsetting or fatiguing? I said, no, no, if I were sitting there searching for 212(1)(b)(vii) exemptions all day, every day, I would probably… (makes a noise)… do this. (Laughter.) Instead, I found it quite energizing.

As I mentioned a minute ago, there are a number of life lessons that I've learned from all this over the years and they may be of interest to you. They are, for the most part, observations of others. The only credit I claim is that I had enough energy to write them down and not forget them. But here are half a dozen or so that I've found particularly appropriate.

First is choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life.

Secondly, as a young person, I learned that you cannot build a reputation on what you're going to do.

Third was, keep your mind on the objective and not on the obstacle.

Again - as a young person - those who would be noticed by the gods must first take care to place themselves in their path.

It's easy to make a buck - it's much harder to make a difference.

And the last two… one of them I actually have in my letterhead drawer and I look at it almost every day when I pick it up. I found it in a newspaper and it was attributed, oddly enough, to Vidal Sassoon: the only place… the only place… where success comes before work is in the dictionary.

And finally, when I was in university, Bishop Fulton Sheen was very active at the time and something that he said many, many years ago I have found particularly helpful in setting one's personal compass. And that is: if it's wrong, it's wrong, even if everybody's doing it and if it's right, it's right, even if nobody's doing it.

Thanks very much.