Kelly Crabb, Prominent Sports and Entertainment Attorney, Dies at 72

Kelly Crabb obit - Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Sheppard Mullin

At Sheppard Mullin, he served as legal counsel for four Olympics and repped the likes of Paul McCartney, Dave Matthews, Charles Barkley and Elizabeth Smart.

Kelly Crabb, a special counsel at the sports and entertainment law firm Sheppard Mullin, died Sunday of natural causes at his home in Alpine, Utah, the firm announced. He was 72.

A frequent lecturer, Crabb wrote the book The Movie Business, published by Simon & Schuster in 2005, and taught a "Sports Law in Practice" class at USC Law School for several years.

Crabb worked on the broadcasting agreements and/or other projects for the local Olympic organizing committees on the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, the 2012 Summer Games in London and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. He also served as head international counsel to the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee for the 2008 Summer Games.

Crabb represented Paul McCartney in connection with a world tour, Dave Matthews in connection with a management agreement and Charles Barkley in an endorsement deal in Japan and performed services for NBA China and Major League Baseball in China.

In 2004 before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, Crabb successfully represented American Paul Hamm, the Olympic all-around gymnastics champion whose victory at the Athens Summer Games was in jeopardy over a scoring dispute. He liked to tell his kids that he was one of the few lawyers who had "won" a gold medal. 

"Without question, Kelly was highly experienced and recognized in the arena of international entertainment and media, but, more importantly, he was universally well-regarded as a terrific mentor and loyal partner and friend," said partner Robert Darwell, who helped recruit Crabb to the firm in January 2010 as a partner in its entertainment, technology and advertising practice group. 

Crabb also represented Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted from her home in Salt Lake City at age 14 before being rescued months later, in the publishing of her 2013 best-seller, My Story, and he handled the media rights for her a decade earlier.

In his spare time, Crabb wrote a musical play, All My Friends Are Cowboys, which became a 1998 PBS special and soundtrack album featuring Wilford Brimley, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash and Roy Rogers.

Crabb received his J.D. in 1984 from New York's Columbia University School of Law, where he was an editor of the Columbia Law Review, after receiving bachelor of arts and master's degrees from Brigham Young University.

Survivors include his wife, Janice; children Amanda, Sara Marie, Lowell Charles, Christopher Kelly and Catherine; and granddaughters Abigail, Georgiana, Emma and Charlotte.