We’ve known Marshall Grossman for half our life, having worked as a summer associate for him many moons back. So we were glad to see that Erin Andrews, the ESPN broadcaster, turned to the tenacious titan.
Andrews, of course, is ALL over the Internet, after TMZ.com and other media outlets reported on the tape of her enjoying the joys of ironing in the nude alone in her hotel room. http://www.tmz.com/2009/07/21/erin-andrews-peeping-tom-naked-video-inside-job/ (This is, of course, the same TMZ that showed a picture of Michael Jackson’s corpse and Britney Spears’ naked breasts, leading to lots of blogbabble about TMZ’s hypocrisy.)
Seems the very credible threat of Grossman going nuclear may have shown a million websites the error of their ways.
Grossman helmed his own firm (Alschuler Grossman) for many years, before joining Bingham McCutchen a few years back. His client list is a who’s who of the biggest, toughest, matters. He became famous in the 1980s representing the Guess? Jeans owners against Jordache, and has gone on to represent AIG, Apple, Arthur Andersen, J.K. Rowling, and, most recently, Grupo Televisa in its $600 million settlement with Univision Communications. http://www.bingham.com/Lawyer.aspx?LawyerID=991
Despite that, he says it’s just been “unrelenting craziness,” dealing with the flood of coverage and interest in the Andrews video. “Whose number do you want? Larry King? Anderson Cooper? Robin Roberts? I’ve got them all.”
He is controversial and loves a good fight. He is a great person to have in your corner and a horror as an opponent. And though he’s been involved in many high-profile cases, he said in a rare interview, he’s “never seen anything that captured the media like this in such a short focused period of time.”
That Andrews is beautiful and successful in the challenging world of sports journalism accounts for part of the lure of the story, as does the Internet’s ability to virally ensnare anyone, no matter how lovely and successful, like a bird struggling to survive an oil spill.
Posting about the video started in France in February, followed by isolated posts and speculation as to the identity of the woman in the video. Some sites named Andrews, while others mentioned a “well known female sportscaster.” When the general counsel of ESPN issued a cease and desist order to one of the websites, though not naming Andrews, the cat was pretty much out of the bag.
Enter Grossman, who was hired to scour the web of the video – a mind-bendingly difficult task. Each time he and partner Dan Alberstone got one site to take it down, other sites picked it up. It was spreading almost as fast as it was coming down.
“We were engaged in nonstop warfare on Friday through yesterday in knocking these down just as quickly as we could,” says Grossman, who is winning this digital game of whack-a-mole. The story has taken a different turn each day, from speculation as to Andrews’ identity, to threats against those who posted it. Some bloggers suggested any woman who presents herself in public is asking for it, then others suggested it was a staged publicity stunt. “That craziness stage was expanded on by certain mainstream media including the New York Post and Fox News by showing these images once again in the guise of expressing sympathy for her for what she’s gone through,” Grossman says. Most recently, there has been a backlash against irresponsible media and bloggers for not respecting Andrews’ privacy while allowing the process to work itself out through the normal course.
Key to Grossman’s success was winning the cooperation of Google, YouTube and other major internet publishers through a carefully worded statement – the “one and only one we have issued to the media,” he says.
It is clear and an elegant illustration of Grossman’s style. Cross him and you will wish you hadn’t. “While alone in the privacy of her hotel room, Erin Andrews was surreptitiously videotaped without her knowledge or consent. She was the victim of a crime and is taking action to protect herself and help ensure that others are not similarly violated in the future. Althought the perpetrator or perpetrators of this criminal act have not yet been identified, when they are identified she intends to bring both civil and criminal charges against them and against anyone who has published the material. We request respect of Erin’s privacy at this time, while she and her representatives are working with the authorities.”
“I believe we have handled it well,” says Grossman. “Part of the overall approach here is to not say anything further publicly to feed the fire.” Despite receiving several hundred media requests, Andrews’ team has turned them all down.
“She is showing her dignity, class and determination to let the investigation proceed without either exploiting the situation or causing difficulty in the investigations which are ongoing,” he says. The team is working with law enforcement and conducting parallel investigations with ESPN and through its own private investigative sources.
As for Andrews, Grossman speaks to her almost hourly. “It’s a very serious and traumatic event for any woman,” he says. From a close family, she has never been touched by negative news or subjected to anything like this.
As for the perpetrators, Grossman warns, “we want to find out who did it. And we will find out who did it.”