Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsAttorneys

How I Made It: Pierre-Richard Prosper

From Rwanda to doll wars

September 21, 2008|David Colker | Times Staff Writer

The job: The attorney with law firm Arent Fox recently was appointed mediator of the high-stakes Barbie vs. Bratz dispute (officially known as Mattel vs. MGA Entertainment) in federal court.

The case: A jury gave Mattel ownership of early drawings of the Bratz dolls, a lucrative franchise debuted by MGA in 2001, and it awarded Mattel up to $100 million. But it's unclear how much of that monetary award will stand, and MGA is fighting to keep ownership of the doll line. The judge ordered the two sides -- archenemies for years -- to try to reach a settlement. "The parties are definitely entrenched," Prosper said, "and they are not holding back any punches."

His qualifications: From 1996 to 1998, Prosper was a war crimes prosecutor for the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. He then went to the U.S. State Department, where in 2001 he was appointed ambassador-at-large in charge of the secretary of State's Office of War Crimes Issues. "I believe that in every mediation, no matter how far apart two sides are, there is a resolution out there," Prosper said. "It's really a matter of working hard enough to get to the point where parties or individuals can see that reaching a solution is in the best interest of everyone."

Travelmania: "When I was ambassador, I would travel every other week to a different part of the world. There was one trip where I went to Nigeria on a Wednesday, got there Thursday, had a meeting Friday, got on a plane back to D.C. on Saturday, did my laundry on Sunday, and the next day left for Cambodia."

Background: Born in Denver, Prosper, now 45, grew up in a suburb of Albany, N.Y. His parents, immigrants from Haiti, were physicians. "In a normal home, when the phone rings it's for the teenagers. In our house, it was always for one of my parents. My sisters and I grew up seeing our parents on call 24/7 -- we decided being doctors was not for us."

Turning point: At first in law school at Pepperdine University, Prosper had planned a traditional law-firm career. Then he worked part time as a law clerk in the Los Angeles County district attorney's office in Inglewood. "One day I was in court and there was this gang-related murder of a man whose body was stuffed in a refrigerator, where it was left for days. I remember being shocked at the level of violence and evil people would descend to." He decided to enter public service.

The violence escalates: "I went from that moment with the refrigerator to, eventually, literally standing in mass graves with bodies all around me in Rwanda, in Bosnia, in Sri Lanka. All over the world."

Burnout: Prosper returned to the private sector in 2005. "I had seen so much with my own eyes. I felt I was still effective, but it was time to pass the torch."

Legacy he brings to the doll mediation: "We should be able to resolve these issues and spend our time and energy elsewhere. Seriously, what I try and say is 'There are more important things to be fighting about.' "

--

david.colker@latimes.com

--

Got an idea for How I Made It, a feature that appears in Business every Sunday? Send it to howimadeit@latimes.com.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|