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A Team Player

Monday, Oct 9, 2017

Paul Richardson '90, who serves dual roles at ESPN and Disney, will join Dean Guzman on Nov. 2

By Anne Bergman

He’s met Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the World Cup. He’s watched the Super Bowl from the field. He was even been part of the team that hosted former First Lady Michelle Obama at a military veteran’s event. Yet Paul Richardson (JD 1990) says he’s “leaving room for the best career highlights to still be ahead....”

Richardson has plenty of opportunities to add to his career highlight reel, as he serves dual roles as ESPN’s senior vice president of human resources and as chief diversity officer (CDO) at The Walt Disney Company, helping to create competitive advantage through the company’s diversity and inclusion practices. 

The Walt Disney Company recently received 100 percent on the 2017 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a national benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality, administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

At Disney, Paul Richardson (JD 1990) and his team have launched many successful initiatives, including "Heroes Work Here" for veterans.

As Disney’s CDO, Richardson views diversity as not just a human resources initiative, but “a critical ingredient of our strategy. We use our diversity to serve and meet the needs of our global customers, viewers, guests and fans,” he says. At Disney, Richardson and his team have launched many successful initiatives, including “Heroes Work Here” for veterans. In fact, the company recently received the Freedom Award from the Department of Defense for its support of employees serving in the National Guard and as reserves.

Juggling both jobs does pose some challenges. He concedes that working on both coasts is “complicated,” estimating that he spends a third of his time in Burbank, where Disney is headquartered, a third in Bristol, Conn., at ESPN’s base, and the remaining third either in New York City or traveling for events.

Richardson’s path to a career began in Los Angeles within the legal department at the Times Mirror organization, where he worked for 12 years supporting Human Resources as his principal client. “Eventually, I took on a special project in HR to roll out the company’s enterprise-wide diversity initiative, and I never quite returned to the legal department,” he recalls.

From Times Mirror, Richardson served in HR leadership positions at Paramount Pictures and media agency Universal McCann, before he joined ESPN in 2007, adding the role of CDO for The Walt Disney Company in 2011.

Despite a career rooted in the media sector, Richardson says that as a law student he was “industry agnostic.” But, he adds, the “Gould experience was critical in developing the skills to be a good lawyer, listener, thinker and teammate.”

For him, the value of the Trojan Network wasn’t just about finding the right mentor. It was about forging connections with his fellow students.

“These folks were incredibly bright and many have gone on to have amazing careers both within and beyond the practice of law,” Richardson says. “Being a good team member and leader with the ability to persuasively and clearly communicate has proven invaluable through the years.”

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of USC Gould's alumni magazine.

Dean Andrew Guzman will host a conversation with Richardson on Nov. 2 at the law school.

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