DEBRA WITTER


Accomplished, experienced senior legal executive with demonstrated track record of success managing a variety of complex, innovative legal transactions in challenging, fast-paced environments.  Effective partner to senior management, focused on finding cost-effective, practical solutions to legal challenges. 


CORE COMPETENCIES


•Advertising and Marketing

•Trademarks and Intellectual Property

•E-commerce

•Multi-Unit Retail and Restaurant Operations

•Outsourcing and Vendor Agreements

  1.     Franchising

  2.     Entity Formation


PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE


THE WITTER LAW FIRM, Dallas, TX April 2009-present

Sole practitioner with emphasis on business transactions, business formation, advertising, marketing, sweepstakes and promotion, ecommerce, and mediation.



BLOCKBUSTER INC., Dallas, TX2001-2008

Leading global provider of in-home movie and game entertainment; Fortune 500 company.


Senior Vice President, Legal (2007-2008)

Vice President and Senior Corporate Counsel, Operations and Marketing (2005-2007)

Senior Corporate Counsel (2001-2005)


  1. As Senior Vice President, managed all non-litigation, non-securities legal functions for all corporately owned BLOCKBUSTER stores throughout the world, including international, mergers and acquisitions, employment, finance, real estate, treasury, product, franchise and film acquisition/studio relationships.  Also had responsibility for administration of law department (at time of departure, 11 lawyers, 10 paralegals, and 7 assistants).


  1. Directly responsible for all marketing, advertising, trademark and store operations legal issues for all corporately owned BLOCKBUSTER stores in the United States and Canada (approximately 5000 stores) as well as for BLOCKBUSTER Online, an online DVD rental subscription program.


•Lead attorney for development of new concepts and new consumer offerings.


STAR CONCESSIONS LTD./THE MULTIRESTAURANTS GROUP, Dallas, TX   1996-2001

Minority-owned startup venture operating franchised restaurants including Chili’s, Whataburger, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Chick-fil-a, Seattle’s Best Coffee, bars, retail stores, gas stations, convenience stores and airline hospitality clubs at airports.  Joined company as it began operations; at time of departure company had approximately 500 employees and $25,000,000 annual revenues, with 25 locations.


General Counsel, Vice President of Administration, and Secretary


  1. Managed the company’s legal affairs; developed and managed implementation of policies, procedures and federal and state compliance systems.


  1. Executed a wide variety of legal work, including: Formation of joint ventures, including drafting and negotiation of joint venture agreements with the Dallas Cowboys; review and modification of franchise and license agreements; negotiation of lease/concession agreements with airport authorities; negotiation of loan agreements with the company’s primary commercial lender and investment agreements with the company’s primary venture capital investor; acquisition of existing restaurant concessions; creation and maintenance of numerous corporate entities; and alcoholic beverage licensing.


  1. Led team preparing extensive bid/proposal documents for concessions contracts at a variety of public venues.


•Established and managed the human resources function.


COHAN, SIMPSON, COWLISHAW, ARANZA & WULFF, LLP   1985-1995


Partner (1989-1995)

Associate (1985-1988)


Broad and diverse transactions practice, with involvement in a number of litigation and arbitration matters as well.

  1. Mergers and Acquisitions: drafted and negotiated documents and supervised or conducted due diligence on a number of mergers and acquisitions, including the merger of four regional electronic funds transfer networks, and several major asset purchase agreements, such as restaurant chains, a nurse placement company, a catering concession, a sign company, and a hardware store.


  1. Entity Formation and Capitalization: formed and counseled corporations, limited partnerships, general partnerships, joint ventures, limited liability companies, and a purchasing and distribution cooperative for a major national restaurant chain. Also participated in several private placements of securities.


  1. Intellectual Property: prepared trademark and copyright registrations; counseling on trademark, copyright and trade secret matters; prepared and reviewed software licenses, software escrow agreements, reseller agreements and related contracts; and confidentiality agreements.


  1. Regulatory: compliance with federal and state regulatory requirements for electronics funds and benefits transfer networks, franchises, securities regulation, alcoholic beverage regulation, and other areas.


  1. Litigation: extensive participation in research and briefing on several major lawsuits, arbitrations and administrative hearings, including antitrust, breach of contract, and state tax matters.


•Non-Profit: pro bono counsel to an arts company; formed the corporation and obtained a 501(c)(3) determination from the IRS.


ARCO, Dallas, TX1984-1985

Assistant Tax Counsel


JENKENS & GILCHRIST, Dallas, TX1982-1984

Associate


  1. Commercial lending:  represented lenders in major commercial lending transactions.


•Entity Formation:  formed and counseled corporations.


EDUCATION AND HONORS


Juris Doctor with high honors, University of Texas at Austin School of Law; Member, Texas Law Review; Chancellors (highest academic honor); Order of the Coif


Bachelor of Arts with highest honors and special honors in sociology, University of Texas at Austin; Phi Beta Kappa


Fellow, Texas Bar Foundation