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Live Nation Entertainment, the largest producer of live concerts and other entertainment events in the world, reached a contract extension with longtime general counsel Michael Bowles just days before his employment agreement was set to expire at the end of 2022. Bowles inked the deal with the Beverly Hills, CA-based company on Dec. 21, according to a new Live Nation U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The pact keeps him on board through 2027. Under the agreement, Bowles will receive a base salary of $1.1 million, a 61% increase from the $683,333 he made in 2021. He also received a stock grant of 74,469 shares valued at $4.5 million and will be eligible for an annual cash bonus of up to 150% of his base salary. Bowles joined Live Nation as legal chief in 2006 and was instrumental in the company’s $2.5 billion acquisition of Ticketmaster four years later, a deal that faced widespread opposition on antitrust grounds. It eventually won Department of Justice approval after Live Nation agreed to concessions, including selling off the self-ticketing company Paciolan. Live Nation has faced a barrage of challenges more recently, including weathering a plunge in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. the death of 10 concert-goers in a crowd-crushing incident at the Astroworld Festival in Houston in November 2021, and fan outrage over Ticketmaster’s recent botched ticketing for Taylor Swift’s upcoming concert tour. Live Nation, which has more than 10,000 employees and a stock market value topping $16 billion, reported a profit of $576 million on revenue of $12.4 billion in the first nine months of 2022. [Editor's Note: See the related story of Live Nation retaining a prominent antitrust attorney-turned-lobbyist prior as it faces scrutiny by Congress and regulators over anti-competitive concerns] … David Hyman, the longtime chief legal officer of Netflix, has opted to cut his salary by $2 million in 2023 to qualify for larger stock option grants, which would soar in value if the company’s slumping stock rebounds. In a recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the Los Gatos, CA-based company disclosed 2023 compensation for its six most highly compensated executives. Like all Netflix employees, the executives get to choose for themselves how much of that pay is in cash and how much is in stock options. Hyman, the legal chief since 2002, will receive a total of $11 million in 2023, the same he received in 2022. But the mix will change, with $4 million in the form of cash salary and $7 million in stock options. In 2022, he received $6 million in salary and $5 million in stock options, doled out in monthly increments. His decision to take more of his 2023 pay in the form of options came with Netflix shares in the cellar. The company’s stock fell 51% in 2022, driven down by numerous setbacks, including intense competition among streaming services and the company’s April announcement that its subscriber count had declined for the first time in a decade. … Corii Berg resigned as general counsel to the movie and TV production company Lionsgate, the company disclosed in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, a departure that comes months ahead of Berg’s contract expiration. It was not clear why he was stepping down. The company and Berg did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Berg spent nearly two decades in senior roles at Sony Pictures Entertainment before taking the legal reins at Santa Monica, CA-based Lionsgate in June 2018. In 2020, Berg extended his Lionsgate contract to July 2023, a pact that provided an annual base salary of $1 million, in addition to an annual incentive bonus and equity awards. He was the company’s fifth-highest-paid executive in 2021, earning $2.1 million. With Berg’s departure, associate general counsel Adrian Kuzycz and Randall Jackson and chief ethics and legal compliance officer Rahwa Ghebre-Ab will manage Lionsgate’s legal team on an interim basis. The company owns a host of major movie franchises — including The Hunger Games, Twilight Saga, La La Land and Monster’s Ball — in addition to the cable network and streaming service Starz. But all major media and entertainment companies are under intense pressure to boost profitability after years of operating in a growth-at-all costs mentality. Against that backdrop, the company is exploring options to maximize the value of its assets. In May, it announced plans to spin out Starz into a separate business. But in September, it said it was considering the opposite: keeping Starz but spinning out its studios. … Scott Shipman, former chief legal officer for nonfungible token (NFT) company Dapper Labs, has joined music startup JKBX in the same role. Pronounced like “jukebox,” the startup promises investors new ways of owning music by purchasing fractional shares in hit songs and profiting from royalties. Shipman was with Dapper Labs from April 2021 until October 2022, where he presided over the company’s legal team during its meteoric growth via its NFT video game CryptoKitties. But the trading volume for NFTs and Ethereum, the cryptocurrency token used by most major NFT projects, tumbled last year. JKBX founder and CEO Scott Cohen, formerly chief innovation officer at Warner Music Group, said in a recent interview with Billboard that JKBX’s fractional shares will eschew a blockchain and NFT structure. Instead, its investments will be packaged into special purpose vehicles, such as limited liability companies, and registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
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By Michelle Davis
Force majeure is lurking in the shadows of the Hollywood strikes, offering struggling studios a potential lifeline out of debt. But the best attorneys and the strongest contracts are proactive, rather than reactive. Thus, consider the following drafting tips to strengthen your force majeure language now, in the calm before the next storm.
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By Entertainment Law & Finance Staff
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