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Entertainment and Sports Law

Players on the Move

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

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Exceleration Music, a year-old music company that supports artists, creators and entrepreneurs in independent music, has named veteran entertainment industry lawyer Jennifer Newman Sharpe as general counsel and head of legal and business affairs. The appointment comes amid a deal-making spree by the Nashville, TN-based company, which was launched in January 2021 by indie music veterans Glen Barros, Dave Hansen, Charles Caldas, Amy Dietz and John Burk. Even before the official launch, the company backed by outside investors had begun buying up music businesses. In 2020, it bought the venerable jazz label Candid Records. It’s struck a string of acquisitions and partnerships since, including deals with the estate of Justin Townes Earle and the Dutch independent label publisher Heroic Music. Newman Sharpe most recently spent eight years as general counsel and head of business affairs at ONErpm, a global label services and digital distribution company and one of the largest music multi-channel networks on YouTube. During her tenure at ONErpm, she helped support the company’s expansion across 25 offices in 15 countries. Prior to joining ONErpm, she spent over a decade in private practice, representing independent record labels, recording artists, songwriters, publishing companies, tech startups, music producers, and other clients. Michelle Cooke — who led Manatt Phelps & Phillips intellectual property protection and enforcement practice, served as Manatt’s chief diversity and inclusion officer and was a member of the board — has arrived at ArentFox Schiff as co-leader of the firm’s media and entertainment industry team. Based in Los Angeles, Cooke will co-lead a team of 60 lawyers that advise some of the world’s top movie studios, television producers and broadcasters, music services, and multimedia developers and publishers. Her own practice focuses on digital rights creation, helping clients expand established and emerging brands in existing and developing mediums such as the metaverse and Web 3.0. Her clients are CEOs and senior executives at media and entertainment, consumer and software companies. Cooke was at Manatt for almost eight years, joining as a partner in 2014. Prior to Manatt, she was chair of Lex Mundi’s intellectual property practice group, helping facilitate collaboration between the law firm network’s global members. ArentFox Schiff chair Anthony Lupo — a well-known fashion, entertainment and tech lawyer — said Cooke has earned a reputation as the “go-to” lawyer internationally for businesses seeking to protect and enforce their IP rights and addressing risks that threaten brand value, including navigating new challenges arising from the metaverse. Her work in digital assets, including nonfungible tokens (NFTs), focuses on trade secrets, technology, privacy and data security, evaluating and preparing internal and external policies and procedures on the collection, use, transfer, maintenance, and protection of privacy and data information. FanDuel has promoted its chief risk and compliance officer Carolyn Renzin to chief legal and compliance officer — filling a vacancy created by the recent promotion of former legal chief Christian Genetski to president. Renzin joined the New York-based online gambling company in 2019 as vice president of legal, regulatory and compliance. “In her time at FanDuel, she has led transformative change for our business in building out a regulatory and compliance function befitting the current and future scale of our company,” Genetski said in a statement. FanDuel’s sportsbook products are available in 15 states. The company recently launched online live dealer games in Pennsylvania. … The new owners of the Denver Broncos have tapped longtime Hogan Lovells partner Tim Aragon as general counsel. Aragon succeeds Rich Slivka, who retires after 22 years with the organization. Paying $4.65 billion, the new ownership group of the football franchise is led by Walmart heir Rob Walton and includes former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Starbucks Chair Mellody Hobson, and Lewis Hamilton, the winningest Formula One driver in history. Aragon, a Denver, CO, native, was with Hogan Lovells for 18 years and served as managing partner of its Denver office since 2021. He is a prominent Hispanic leader in the city and serves on various civic boards, including the Colorado Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In a press release, the Broncos noted Aragon’s legal experience includes working with sports franchises across the National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball. The Pittsburgh Penguins promoted Tracey McCants Lewis to chief people officer and general counsel. McCants Lewis succeeds Kevin Acklin, who was recently named president of business operations. Acklin joined the organization in 2018 as senior VP and general counsel and spent the past two seasons as the team’s chief operating officer and general counsel. McCants Lewis joined the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019 as VP of human resources and deputy general counsel. In this new role, McCants Lewis will have responsibility over the development of the former Civic Arena site, where the Penguins played until 2010, and will handle all HR-related matters and legal affairs. McCants Lewis’ promotion is among several executive appointments announced by the Penguins as the team continues its transition under new ownership. In December, Fenway Sports Group (FSG), owned by billionaire John Henry, acquired controlling interest in the Penguins. Although terms of the deal were not disclosed, the Pittsburgh Penguins was recently valued at $845 million by Sportico, making the team the National Hockey  League’s 15th-most-valuable team. FSG’s portfolio includes the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool of the Premier League and Roush Fenway Racing in NASCAR. NBA superstar LeBron James is a part-owner. FSG also has 80% ownership of New England Sports Network and the Salem Red Sox, a minor league baseball team. Grace Del Val, head of business affairs at Bad Robot, a production company co-led by Lost and Felicity creator J.J. Abrams, has been promoted so that her role also includes general counsel. In her new role, Del Val oversees and sets legal strategy for the company. As the Santa Monica, CA-based company’s key corporate counsel, she also assumes an executive role, according to Deadline. Del Val joined Bad Robot as head of business affairs in 2020, helping the company launch its audio division and navigating its partnership with RCA Records. She has held numerous in-house counsel roles at production and entertainment companies, including Alcon Television Group, A&E Television and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

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