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Tough Negotiator, Encouraging Mentor

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

By Traude Gomez Rhine

Ted Russell (JD 1994) is so relaxed and gracious with his time in his book-filled office at Twentieth Century Fox, it’s almost hard to imagine the affable lawyer engaged in the sort of tough negotiations that come with being an executive vice president of business affairs at the Century City entertainment studio. Russell and his team negotiate high-stakes deals and agreements for the worldwide distribution of Fox film and television content.

Russell and his colleagues also forge strategic partnerships and investments that keep the studio innovative and dynamic in the ever-changing entertainment industry. “We consider how to partner with startups that will help us drive film distribution,” he says. “For instance, we recently bought a stake in Boom! Studios comics as it will provide a significant pipeline of content.”

Ted Russell negotiates high-stakes deals and agreements for the worldwide distribution of Fox film and television content.

Even though he served as Fox’s senior vice president of litigation from 1998 to 2010, Russell doesn’t engage in aggressive ‘take-no-prisoners’ negotiation tactics. Indeed, he doesn’t believe in them.

Using sharp negotiation tactics is unnecessary, sometimes unethical, and often backfires,” he says. “And if this happens, everyone is worse off.”

Russell believes that the best negotiators accomplish their goals without creating unnecessary friction.

“The key to successful negotiations in my book is being able to slow down and think not only about what you are trying to achieve, but also what the other side needs to achieve,” he says. “You want to address their core needs if you want to get a deal done.”

Russell is passionate about social justice and believes that one way he can effect positive change from his position is by guiding young lawyers to behave more ethically across the span of their careers. To that end, from 2006 to 2009 he served as a lecturer in law at Gould, where he taught a course in Negotiation Ethics.

As a teacher and mentor, Russell is quick to disabuse rising lawyers from thinking they can’t be good negotiators because they lack the right temperament or personality. The research shows that negotiation skills can be learned by anyone who takes the subject seriously.

But curiosity and bold action are just as critical to achieving professional success, Russell says, and he encourages junior lawyers to become deeply engaged in their businesses, while following their interests and passions. This is what Russell did when he decided to pursue an MBA at the UCLA Anderson School of Management while working full-time and helping to raise two young children.

“I am a voracious reader, so when I found myself surrounded by all of these thick business books, I figured it was time to get a degree,” he says. “Both law and business are fundamentally about identifying and solving problems, and that’s what I love doing, and perhaps what I do best.”

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