SBJ/April 30-May 6, 2012/In-Depth

Sports Lawyers: Marie Donoghue

When John Skipper started overseeing ESPN.com in 2000, Marie Donoghue was his Internet lawyer. As Skipper has progressed to become ESPN’s president, Donoghue has gradually expanded her role as well.

Donoghue joined ESPN as an attorney for the ESPN Internet Group and Walt Disney Internet Group. While she no
Photo by: ESPN
longer practices law day-to-day, she relies on her legal training to negotiate specific contract language.

“I learned that things usually aren’t that complicated,” Donoghue said. “In the end, you have to simplify and focus on what matters.”

For example, when ESPN executives first came up with the idea of the “30 for 30” documentary series, Donoghue was being pressured to use Hollywood experts, such as agents, to run the program. Donoghue fought that idea and wound up with a one-page deal sheet she would take straight to the directors. More than 90 percent of the directors Donoghue and her team approached signed up.

“It was a more simplified and transparent deal structure,” she said. “We learned from independent filmmakers. … We need to think differently sometimes.

“Understanding deal structures and negotiations can make a big difference in accomplishing your business and creative goals.”

— John Ourand


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