TITLE: SVP of Legal Regulatory Affairs, Senior Deputy General Counsel, Comcast Corp.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Partner at WilmerHale, chair of its Communications, Privacy and Internet Law Practice Group; In-House Counsel at The Washington Post.
QUOTE: “Ben Bradlee was there, and I would sit in his office sometimes, and he would tell me stories … He was just such a presence and so funny. I loved him. He was just terrific.”
There’s no rest for the weary when you’re part of Comcast’s legal team in Washington, with all the big deals the media giant has undertaken in recent years. And that’s just fi ne with Lynn Charytan.
She serves as senior vice president of legal regulatory affairs and senior deputy general counsel for the Philadelphia- based entertainment conglomerate. Most recently, Comcast executives said Charytan is playing a central role as the company seeks government approval for one of the biggest transactions in cable history: the proposed $67 billion merger with Time Warner Cable.
“I feel so lucky to be part of this incredibly creative, exciting business … midwifing a lot of things,” Charytan said.
As Comcast’s legal eagle in Washington, Charytan has broad responsibilities, offering advice on regulatory matters and overseeing the company’s advocacy in that arena, including fi lings for proceedings and related litigation and appeals.
During her Comcast tenure, Charytan has been deeply involved in several high-profile court cases, disputes and mergers — including the acquisition of NBCUniversal, where she set up the internal structure to insure compliance with the regulatory strictures of that deal. And she’s crafted strategy for Comcast in still-murky, uncharted legal areas, particularly regarding its duties as an Internet-service provider and on the issue of network neutrality.
Shortly after she joined Comcast in November 2010, Charytan was thrust into a dispute between the company and Internet backbone provider Level 3 Communications over so-called “peering” and Internet-neutrality principles.
“I had kind of an explosive start because we had this huge dispute with another company that just fell into my lap, and it was hugely public, so that was helpful just sort of announcing that I was there [at Comcast],” Charytan said.
Because of her telecom background as a partner in WilmerHale — where she was chair of the Washington firm’s Communications, Privacy and Internet Law Practice Group — Charytan was assigned to handle the Level 3 spat.
“Nobody really understood anything about this,” she said, referring to the questions raised in that dispute. “This wasn’t an issue in the company that any of the lawyers had really, really dealt with.”
Although the long-term answers to the Level 3 matter still need final resolution, Charytan called working on the case “exciting and challenging and new and uncharted territory — and it was just really fun.”
Charytan was named head of Comcast’s new Legal Regulatory Group a little more than a year after coming on board in Washington. She built and staffed that startup unit.
“Lynn has made significant contributions to the communications industry through her decades of work in the federal legal regulatory field, including her efforts on behalf of Comcast over the past few years related to the NBCUniversal transaction, the Verizon Wireless spectrum sale, and now the Time Warner Cable transactions,” Comcast executive vice president David Cohen said. “Lynn is universally respected — inside Comcast and externally for her legal acumen and superb judgment.”
Charytan’s successes include handling Comcast’s appeal of a Federal Communications Commission ruling that found the cable company had illegally placed Tennis Channel, an independent network, on a higher-priced sports tier.
“We had lost at the FCC, and overnight I sort of parachuted in there,” Charytan said. “I put together what I thought was a dream team and we did these killer pleadings and worked like crazy people — really, really hard and really fast.”
The strategy worked, and an appellate court overturned the FCC decision.
When Charytan joined WilmerHale, where she spent 17 years, she was quickly viewed as a star with a sharp legal mind and a tireless work ethic, said William Lake, the exhead of the law firm’s telecom unit, who is now chief of the FCC’s Media Bureau.
“She’s a straight shooter,” Lake said. “She has very good people skills. She’s very smart. And she’s a very skilled advocate. All of those things she brings to bear on everything she does with us.”
In Washington, Charytan works closely with Melissa Maxfield, Comcast’s senior vice president of federal government affairs (who is also in the 2015 class of Wonder Women). “She’s a great person,” Maxfield said. “I’ve learned a lot from Lynn.”
Prior to WilmerHale in 1993, Charytan spent two years as an in-house counsel for The Washington Post, where she worked with legends Donald Graham and Ben Bradlee.
“It was like a dream job,” Charytan said. “I got to review articles before they came out and work with the reporters, who obviously didn’t enjoy anything you said to them.”
At Comcast, Charytan integrated the legal department into the product-development process of all the company’s businesses, anticipating and addressing the legal and regulatory issues raised by new innovations, a part of her job she loves.
PASSION FOR GARDENING
Charytan and her husband Marc have raised three sons, ages 15 to 20, and the family enjoys outdoor activities together. Charytan is also an active member of her synagogue who strictly observes the Sabbath, going totally offline.
“She’s a great mother, a wonderful member of her synagogue, and still produces more work than most other people can manage to do,” Lake said.
Charytan is also a passionate gardener, managing to fi t the hobby into her busy schedule — even at night. “I was trimming azaleas in the dark,” she said. “It’s really stupid, I know, but I had to get it done. I literally cut through my finger.”
Charytan quickly went to a neighbor for assistance — the doctor who had reattached John Wayne Bobbitt’s penis after his wife severed it with a knife. “We called him and said, ‘Do you have a suture kit at home?’ and he said yes,” Charytan said. He fixed up her finger.
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