The cannabis industry is growing immensely, and Cresco Labs, one of the largest vertically integrated multi-state cannabis operators in the U.S., has just appointed a distinguished trial lawyer, celebrated business leader and former member of the adjunct faculty at Harvard Law School to its board: National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts. She is the board’s 10th director and its first female director.
“Ms. Roberts is an outstanding addition to our board,” said Tom Manning, Cresco Labs’ Executive Chairman and former Chairman and CEO of Dun & Bradstreet. “Drawing on her experience in leading one of the most important player organizations in the sports world and her expertise in law and litigation as a highly-accomplished trial attorney and educator, Michele will provide a unique perspective at a critical time of continued growth and expansion in the industry.”
Since joining NBPA in 2014, Roberts has worked on behalf of NBA players to ensure their rights are protected and are fairly compensated for the value they bring to the sport and their impact on society. Prior, she was an esteemed trial lawyer with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Her practice focused on complex civil and white-collar criminal litigation before state and federal courts and in administrative proceedings.
A top-ranked attorney who has received numerous accolades from Chambers Global, Chambers USA and Benchmark Litigation, among other notable publications, she has tried more than 100 cases to jury verdicts, representing clients in a wide variety of areas, including products liability, white collar, racketeering, securities regulation violations, Title VII issues and premises liability.
When I met Roberts while covering the 2016 Black Entertainment & Sports Lawyers Association conference in New York City, she was a featured panelist speaking (alongside other top executives including DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the National Football League Players Association ) on the topic of running a major sports union. I recall that she brought great insight to the discussion, one in which BESLA’s members seemed enthused.
I recently caught up with Roberts to talk about the Cresco appointment.
TNJ.com: What about Cresco Labs, as a company, attracted you to becoming a board member, and advancing their goals?
Michele Roberts: I have, for several years, “stalked” new and emerging industries as both a matter of personal interest and because of the potential they offer communities who have historically had limited participation in established industries. Cannabis has had my attention for the past ten years. Cresco’s impressive growth, together with its commitment to promote the participation of communities of color in this space kept my attention.
TNJ.com: What role will Cresco Labs play in the cannabis industry’s first Social Equity and Education Development initiative?
Michele Roberts: In my view, Cresco has the potential to be a leader in empowering communities of color to be active participants in all aspects of this industry – including ownership. Its education, mentorship and expungement initiatives serve as a strong foundation for fostering actual diversity in this market.
TNJ.com: What can corporate boards do to become more diverse?
Michele Roberts: They can begin by simply looking around. The tired old myth that there is a dearth of diverse candidates qualified to serve on corporate boards has always been just that – a myth. In my mere 30+ years in business, I have routinely met, worked and become familiar with a plethora of professionals superbly qualified to serve in any capacity on public and private boards. Inclusion is not simply “the right thing to do.” It is good business. Companies that wish to operate in an echo chamber deprive themselves of the richness of varied insights and experiences that always serve to expand the entity’s vision and growth.
TNJ.com: With your background as the current Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association, what unique perspective do you bring to the table in your new role at Cresco Labs?
Michele Roberts: Perhaps the most obvious answer is my experience in labor. As a union official, I have, for the last six years been tasked with identifying and promoting the best interests of our members, while at the same time working to expand the business, allowing both labor and management to prosper. Cresco’s employee base has been on a rapid growth path. I intend to assist in its efforts to further develop a positive relationship with its employees and a culture which respects every person’s role in the Company. Further, my experience managing a variety of stakeholders in my current job – including federal regulators – is an asset.
TNJ.com: You are the first female director on Cresco’s board. Are there plans to ensure that you won’t be the only female director?
Michele Roberts: The short answer is “yes” – and you will see the addition of yet another woman quite soon!