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Entertainment and Sports Law Litigation

Players on the Move

A look at moves among attorneys, law firms, companies and other players in entertainment law.

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The Hollywood movie studio Thunder Road Films has hired one of its outside counsel, Eric Sherman, to serve as chief legal officer and general counsel. Sherman most recently was a partner at Los Angeles-based Ziffren Brittenham. He will oversee legal affairs for both Santa Monica, CA-based Thunder Road as well as the related companies game1, which focuses on sports storytelling, and Asbury Park Pictures, another studio focused on high-concept action and thriller films. Sherman is replacing Jonathan Fuhrman, who left in November 2021 for Castle Rock Entertainment, where he is executive vice president and head of business affairs. Sherman spent nine years at Ziffren Brittenham, where he handled all aspects of negotiations and deals for writer, director, actor and producer clients in film and television. Prior to that, he worked as a business affairs executive in the features department of Universal Pictures. He started his entertainment career at Artisan Entertainment. Manatt, Phelps & Phillips brings on entertainment litigator Nathaniel Bach from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher as a partner in Manatt’s Los Angeles office. Bach spent over two decades at Gibson Dunn, and has represented clients including television studios and networks, record companies, music publishers and journalists. Bach was part of the team that represented Rachel Maddow in a $10 million defamation suit brought by One America News in 2020. The Ninth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the case in August. In addition, Bach was part of a trio that extinguished a $100 million suit against Universal Music Group. The suit arose after a 2008 warehouse fire reportedly destroyed master recordings by numerous music legends. Bach comes to Manatt shortly after entertainment partner Christopher Chatham and associate Sandra Bignone, both of whom joined Manatt in January from Chatham Law Group. Chatham reportedly has represented television shows, including Dr. Phil and The Doctors. Chatham has also represented brands backed by celebrities Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell and Brad Paisley, in addition to major studios and streamers. Willkie Farr & Gallagher has added entertainment partner Sid Fohrman to its Los Angeles office. Fohrman, who has handled work for clients such as Spotify, Peloton and Vevo, joins the firm from Sheppard Mullin, where he served as leader of the firm’s music and e-sports and gaming industry teams. Alan Epstein, a co-founding member of Willkie’s Los Angeles office, noted in a statement that the firm is currently responding to demand driven by the convergence of technology and content, the exploitation of content, and the overlap between these trends and the firm’s mergers and acquisitions practice. Meanwhile, Sheppard Mullin in January added Marisa Brutoco to its entertainment, technology and advertising practice in Orange County and Century City, CA. She serves as co-leader of the firm’s technology transactions practice. Brutoco, previously a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine, brings deep ties to technology companies. She has served as in-house counsel at Google, YouTube, Amazon, GoPro and Apple. She previously negotiated Amazon Prime Video’s sports partnerships and served as the lead lawyer for YouTube and Google Play’s sports content, as well as YouTube’s livestreaming platform. Former Glaser Weil attorney Amin Al-Sarraf joins Locke Lord in Los Angeles to serve as head of the firm’s entertainment industry group. Al-Sarraf said he expects to see strong demand as the industry continues to grapple with a large amount of internal investigations tied to “ripple effects of the MeToo movement, which created a necessary focus on workplace conduct.” The Walt Disney Co. disclosed the pay package for the media entertainment giant’s new general counsel along with details on the company’s consulting services agreement with its former legal chief. Disney is paying its new top lawyer, former Spotify General Counsel Horacio Gutierrez, a $1.3 million base salary with the opportunity to earn another $2.6 million annual incentive bonus and $6.5 million in equity awards, according to an employment agreement included with the Burbank, CA-based company’s most recent quarterly report. Disney also recommended that its compensation committee approve an initial equity award with a target value of $10 million for Gutierrez, who collected a $2 million sign-on bonus when he officially took over as legal chief on Feb. 1, 2022. His employment contract expires at the close of 2024. When his predecessor, longtime Disney legal boss Alan Braverman, retired on Jan. 7, he raked in more than $16.6 in pay for fiscal year 2021. His haul included $7 million in nonequity incentive plan compensation, $4.5 million in stock awards, $3.2 million in option awards and a nearly $1.8 million salary. Disney has agreed to pay Braverman to stick around for a while as a consultant to help smooth the GC transition. He’ll get $40,000 for providing up to 20 hours of consulting services a month. If Braverman logs more than 20 hours in a month, Disney has to pay him an additional $2,000 an hour, according to his contract. The agreement states that Braverman will provide consulting services until March 1, but allows Braverman and Disney to extend his contract. Meanwhile, Gutierrez’s contract also includes a provision that allows Disney to slash his base salary by half for up to six months as part of any company-wide salary reduction program that affects similarly situated executives. In 2020, as Disney hemorrhaged money amid pandemic-related closures, Braverman and other execs agreed to forgo bonuses and reduce their salaries. Braverman’s cash comp for that year totaled nearly $1.6 million, an 80% plummet from his 2019 cash comp of $8 million.

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