Eleanor “Nell” DeVane, an attorney with more than 20 years of experience in ESPN’s legal department over two stints, has been named Chief Counsel, effective in January. A deputy chief counsel since 2012, she will succeed Diane Morse who is retiring at the end of the year after 25 years in the department and serving as its lead since 2015. Over the years, DeVane has performed legal work for virtually every area of ESPN.
As a member of the senior leadership team – reporting to Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content, as well as the General Counsel of The Walt Disney Company – DeVane will lead the legal work in support of the ESPN and Sports Content group which acquires and produces ESPN’s live sports programming, as well as sports news and original and non-scripted sports-related content for The Walt Disney Company’s cable channels, the ESPN+ streaming service and ABC.
“Nell is an optimistic, solution-oriented executive who brings a keen legal mind, proven track record and sharp business acumen to this critical role,” said Pitaro. “Diane has been an incredibly valued partner and a key contributor to our success, and Nell knows she has big shoes to fill. We are confident she will succeed because of her exceptional abilities and the respect she has earned from our leadership team.”
Alan Braverman, senior executive vice president, general counsel and secretary, The Walt Disney Company, who is retiring at the end of the month, added, “Over the years we have worked together, Nell has impressed me with her deep knowledge of the business, her skills as a lawyer, and the respect with which she is held within the organization. Also, I want to thank Diane for the numerous, invaluable contributions she has made over the years. As much as she will be missed, we are fortunate to have a successor as worthy as Nell.”
DeVane originally joined ESPN in 1997 as assistant counsel after four years with Wiggin & Dana in New Haven, Conn., as an associate. In 1999, she left to be a senior associate with the Connecticut firm of Tyler, Cooper & Alcorn. She returned to ESPN a year later as assistant general counsel and in 2005 was promoted to associate general counsel. In 2012, she was promoted to her current position.
As Chief Counsel, DeVane will be responsible for all legal functions and government relations and will provide legal expertise and guidance across the organization. Her wealth of experience across legal disciplines, including intellectual property law, rights acquisitions, multi-platform distribution, newsgathering, advertising, marketing, digital and social media, regulatory and corporate governance, perfectly positions her for the role.
A 1986 cum laude graduate of Yale University with a bachelor of arts degree in English literature, DeVane received a master of arts degree from Columbia University in 1990, studying English literature and literary theory. She earned her law degree from Yale in 1993.