Las Vegas Review Journal about Marc Risman
By John G. Edwards – Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
When Marc Risman was a fifth-grade student in Los Angeles, he got into a fight that changed his life. It was the first in a series of chance encounters and events that Risman turned into a career. Today, the Las Vegas attorney represents nationally famous entertainers and pro athletes.
He has also established his expertise as a lawyer in the travel and tourism industry, conceiving the idea for converting the Debbie Reynolds Hotel into a themed casino-resort for the World Wrestling Federation. Risman believes his life demonstrates the saying: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” It all started with the incident in the fifth grade. His best friend insulted a black girl with a racial slur. “I got mad at him, and he and I got into a fight over it,” Risman recalled.
The girl’s mother, who happened to be a secretary to attorney Martha Louis, appreciated that Risman defended the girl’s honor. So he was invited to meet Martha Louis’ husband, former heavyweight champion Joe Louis. Decades later, Risman obtained his license to practice law in Nevada and met Martha Louis by chance again in Las Vegas. She remembered meeting him years earlier and he became the couple’s attorney and friend. “I was with Joe the night before he passed away,” Risman said. Those connections and credentials opened the door for Risman’s legal practice in the boxing profession. At one time, he represented the heavyweight champions from three different sanctioning bodies: Tim Witherspoon, Tony Tubbs and Larry Holmes. He met Holmes during a visit to Las Vegas before the boxer became champion.
They became fast friends. His resume also lists boxer Julio Cesar Chavez, former St. Louis Cardinal Curt Flood, auto racer Willie Ribbs, golfer Lee Elder, Olympic runner Wilma Rudolph, former U.S. Sen. Chic Hecht and Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones. When former Washington Redskins star Deacon Jones tried to establish a limousine service in Las Vegas, Risman was hired as the attorney. The walls of his office are filled with signed photos of the attorney with celebrities. “Here’s two great boxing wannabes,” he said, pointing to a photo of Slyvester Stallone. Risman said he represented Stallone’s mother. Another photo shows Risman, an active Republican, with former top Nixon aide John Ehrlichman, who died last week.
When the Internal Revenue Service seized the personal possessions of Redd Foxx, Risman said, the comedian hired him to negotiate with the IRS. Risman said he recovered most of Foxx’s possessions and reduced his tax liabilities to 10 cents on the dollar. Foxx was a resident of Las
Vegas, and the Review-Journal extensively quoted Risman in a story about Foxx’s death in 1991. “(Foxx) was extremely patriotic, and I think it really bothered him that some people thought he was trying to avoid taxes,” Risman was quoted as saying in Foxx’s obituary.
Last year, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court put the Debbie Reynolds hotel-casino on the auction block. Risman said he asked his father, a building and property manager, about the opportunity. Risman said they contacted the World Wrestling Federation and put together the group of investors, including Risman, who bought it for $10.7 million. The WWF group plans to demolish the building and replace it with a 1,000-room hotel with a 50,000-square-foot casino. The WWF, which has regular shows on cable television, will cross-market the hotel to wrestling fans.
“I clearly saw the advantage of cross-marketing a gaming resort with an entertainment product that had a regularly following constituency, constant television exposure,” Risman said. While a typical Strip casino operator gets virtually all of its revenue from the hotel-casino, the new hotel-casino probably will represent only one third of the WWF resort’s revenue. Risman said he sees other opportunities for medium-sized casino resorts tied in with nationally known programs and institutions. Not only would these properties benefit from cross-marketing, he said, but their client bases would also give them more resistance to gambling slumps.
Risman said he is discussing similar cross-market casino projects with other groups.
He continues to practice law, too. Although he said he doesn’t like the type of clients that come with a criminal practice, he has helped some well known criminal defense attorneys with cases. He assisted famous criminal defense attorney Richard “Racehorse” Haynes with a criminal and civil case involving an associate of evangelist Oral Roberts in the early 1980s. Haynes gave him a reference when F. Lee Bailey of Boston wanted assistance with a minor criminal case in Fort Worth, Texas, a little later.