SBJ/20090323/Forty Under 40

Peter Zern

Age: 35
Title: Partner
Company: Covington & Burling LLP
Education: A.B., history, Dartmouth, 1995; J.D., Georgetown, 1998
Family: Wife, Kathie; son Christopher and daughter Caitlin (both 2)
Career: Began at Covington as an associate in 1998; made partner in 2007.
Last vacation: Rockport, Maine
Favorite book: Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry
Favorite movie: Old School or Butch Cassidy, depending on the day
Whats on your iPod? My iPod broke recently
Pet peeve: My broken iPod. And people who stand to the left on an escalator.
Greatest achievement: My kids
Fantasy job: Alaskan fly-fishing guide
Executive you most admire: My father
Business advice: Be sincere, work hard and do your best.

Peter Zern has spent many a day in rooms negotiating NFL loans, stadiums and TV deals. As one of the principal outside attorneys for the league, he is in the thick of serious and complex talks revolving around weighty financial issues.

Covington & Burling LLP

But if there is one negotiation that the average fan on the street would surely want to speak to him about, it would be sitting in a room with a formerly obscure New England Patriots videographer and working out terms so the ex-employee would release game tapes he had in his possession.

While the talks with Matt Walsh over Spygate involved the league getting ahold of tapes the Patriots had illegally taken of other teams, ironically Walsh was more interested in protecting his right to write a book, Zern said. To date, Walsh has not written a book about the affair, and in Zern’s opinion, there is not much material for one.

“I was the principal drafter of the agreement that he was comfortable releasing to the NFL,” Zern said. “He spent most of the time worrying about a book deal.”

The deal released videos Walsh took as a Patriots employee of opposing teams, violating league rules. However, there was not a tape of a walk-through by the St. Louis Rams before their Super Bowl loss to the Pats in 2002, as had been reported.

The NFL is not Zern’s total focus. He’s working with the NHL on selling equity in the NHL Network to cable operators, and he helped Major League Baseball with the launch of its network. He also has worked with NASCAR with its online operations.

But no matter how impressive his résumé, his work on unveiling a handful of largely dull game tapes is sure to make Zern the star at many a cocktail party.

Back to 2009 Forty Under 40 list.

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