Arent Fox & BET, A Story of Personal Revelations

    HELLO, MY NAME IS VAN SINCLAIR. THIS IS A STORY OF PERSONAL REVELATIONS.

    In the late 1980’s, an Arent Fox partner-turned-client was close friends with—and lived next door to— the general counsel of Black Entertainment Television, the hugely successful broadcast corporation aimed at African Americans founded by Robert L. Johnson. When a conflict of interest led the BET counsel to seek a recommendation from BET’s regular outside counsel for another lawyer to handle a matter, Van Sinclair’s name was put forward. “I was the beneficiary of a happy coincidence,” says Van. And he took full advantage. His relationship with Bob Johnson and BET grew to include a broad spectrum of legal work. 

    “We helped take them private in 1998, sold them to Viacom in 2001, and along the way negotiated deals with restau­rants, record labels, magazines, and a variety of other fascinating businesses.” The post-BET era was even more rewarding. “We competed for, and won, the Charlotte Bobcats N.B.A. franchise and built a state-of-the-art arena. In 2003, I became president of Bob’s RLJ Companies, the holding company for 20-30 diversified enterprises, encompassing sports and entertain­ment, financial services and hotels and hospitality.” Bob’s impressive success, Van says, springs from a down-to earth business outlook all too rare among executives of his rank.