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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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Warner Bros. General Counsel John Rogovin resigned his post, following the completion of parent company WarnerMedia’s $43 billion merger with Discovery. Rogovin had been at the helm 14 years. Variety, which first reported his departure, credited him for masterfully handling the IP of some of the company’s biggest properties, including The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and Two and a Half Men. It also said he rescued the film group from a high-stakes rights battle over the character of Superman, brought on by comic co-creator Joe Shuster’s family. Rogovin joined the company in 2008, serving as general counsel for the former WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, which encompassed units like Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Bros. Television. Rogovin told staffers that a reorganization fueled by the merger with Discovery made this an opportune time for him to depart. The new company is known as Warner Bros. Discovery. Prior to Warner Bros., Rogovin spent four years at the Federal Communications Commission, where he served as general counsel. He was also deputy assistant attorney general in the civil division of the Department of Justice during the Clinton administration. Sidley Austin expanded its entertainment, sports and media industry group by six lawyers. These include former O’Melveny & Myers sports industry group co-chairs Charles “Chuck” Baker and Irwin Raij, who have joined Sidley as co-chairs of the firm’s sports industry group. Baker will remain in New York, but Raij is relocating to Miami. Three Miami-based associates were also hired to support the incoming partners, including first-year associate Greg Fritzius from Jones Day’s Miami office and incoming fall associates Ally Levy and Max Budowsky, both recent University of Miami School of Law graduates. Sidley also announced the addition of incoming fall associate Taylor Larson to the sports group in Los Angeles. Raij and Baker have worked on sports transactions involving domestic and international professional sports leagues, representing buyers and sellers of large sports franchises. American Lawyer recognized Raij in its 2019 “Dealmakers of the Year” issue. Recently, he represented David Tepper, founder of global hedge fund Appalossa Management, in his $2.2 billion acquisition of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Raij also represented parties to deals involving the MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers, the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and Italian professional soccer team AS Roma. Baker has represented private equity firms and individual investors in transactions involving Major League Soccer’s Charlotte FC, Seattle Sounders and Philadelphia Union, and the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks, among other high-profile sports and media deals. Paul Loving, one of the most connected sports, media and entertainment lawyers on the West Coast, left his job at Holland & Knight for Rimon PC, a midsize virtual law firm. The Portland, OR-based attorney maintains a diverse book of business that includes a special counsel role at Adidas, multinational brands such as Logitech and Hanes, and celebrity clients that include Snoop Dogg. Loving said he left Holland & Knight looking for more rate flexibility, transparent compensation, and a departure from the broader Big Law formula. “When it comes time for compensation at a traditional firm, you know if you’ve hit your hours, but you have no clue what that means. There is this guessing game as to what your compensation next year is going to be, or what your bonus is going to be,” Loving said. By comparison, he explained that Rimon allows him to calculate his compensation in real time by viewing his collections on the firm’s website. He said the firm’s compensation model doesn’t include hourly minimums or “subjective” compensation decisions. All of Loving’s clients moved with him to 180-lawyer Rimon. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s Hong Kong rainmaker, Julie Gao, is leaving the firm to join ByteDance Ltd., the Chinese owner of social media video app TikTok, as chief financial officer. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s Hong Kong rainmaker Julie Gao leaves the firm to join ByteDance Ltd., the Chinese owner of social media video app TikTok, as chief financial officer. Gao is a prominent name in the legal sector and has for many years sewn up the market for high-value and highly complex U.S. initial public offerings (IPO) for Chinese companies. In more recent years, she’s also built an extremely strong brand in representing large Chinese startups. She was the head of Skadden’s China practice. Gao joined Skadden in 2009 and since advised on billions of dollars’ worth of listings for Chinese companies. Among these, in 2020 Gao advised a special committee in New York Stock Exchange-listed video-game streaming site Huya Inc. on a merger with rival site DouYu International Holdings Ltd. The deal, facilitated by Tencent Holdings, was for Huya to acquire all the outstanding shares of NASDAQ-listed DouYu through a stock-for-stock merger to create a $10 billion company. Gao had been representing ByteDance on several of its strategic transactions since 2016. She advised the company when it tried to acquire gaming firm Shanghai Moonton Technology Co. and video app Musical.ly. ByteDance had been meaning to fill its CFO position for months; the company is planning for a U.S. IPO, making its appointment of Gao particularly crucial. Gao joined Skadden in 2009. After 12 years at the Miami headquarters of international law firm Diaz Reus, sports and entertainment lawyer Ahmand Johnson joined Greenspoon Marder’s Miami office as a partner. He arrives at the firm’s entertainment and sports practice, a group that added eight attorneys from Taylor English Duma last July across Greenspoon’s New York and Atlanta offices, including partners Sandra Brown, Alan Clarke and Kendall Minter. Similar to the Taylor English laterals, who represent award-winning recording artists, producers, filmmakers and professional athletes, Johnson’s clientele includes music executives, celebrity entertainers and athletes. He has negotiated more than 20 NFL player contracts as a NFL Player Association agent, according to his former firm’s website and has negotiated deals for recording artists and record labels. He’s also defended professional and collegiate athletes in contractual disputes and criminal investigations. Johnson said he expects entertainment and sports demand to rise in Miami as the region produces an increasing number of major hip-hop artists and continues turning out top-level NFL and MLB talent, including NCAA athletes who may now enter into licensing deals.

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