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The media company Lionsgate has quietly brought aboard a new general counsel, Bruce Tobey, who spent the past decade as a partner at O’Melveny & Myers and before that was chief operating officer of CBS Films and executive vice president at Paramount Pictures. Tobey’s arrival at Santa Monica, CA-based Lionsgate comes as the company plots a historic restructuring that will split its two businesses, TV and movie studio Lionsgate and the Starz streaming service, into separate, publicly traded companies. The split-off, percolating since last year, is scheduled to occur in September. Lionsgate never announced Tobey’s hiring, but Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings show he signed a three-year employment agreement March 27 with a starting annual salary of $1 million and a signing bonus of $250,000 paid in stock. Under the contract, he also will be eligible for an annual cash bonus, with a target of 75% of his salary, plus a grant of stock and stock options valued at $1 million. The 64-year-old Tobey, who’d been the transactional co-head of O’Melveny & Myers entertainment, sports and media practice, also has the title executive vice president and reports to Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer. Toby replaces Corii Berg, who stepped down without explanation in December, seven months before his contract was to expire. Berg had been a Sony Entertainment executive for nearly two decades before joining Lionsgate in 2018. Lionsgate opted to pay Berg severance even though the company said he resigned on his own volition, which normally would have disqualified him from receiving severance. A Lionsgate SEC filing in July showed that severance totaled $1.65 million, bringing Berg’s compensation for the fiscal year that ended March 31 to $4.3 million. Lionsgate owns a host of major movie franchises including The Hunger Games, Twilight Saga, La La Land and Monster’s Ball. Starz, which Lionsgate bought in 2016 for $4.4 billion, features movies and TV shows and has more than 27 million subscribers. … Barnes & Thornburg announced that Brian L. Schall has joined the law firm’s Los Angeles office as a partner in the entertainment, media and sports practice group. He joins from Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman & Rabkin. Schall has advised and guided the careers of a range of multi-platinum musicians, songwriters, electronic artists, social content creators, music publishers, record companies, management companies, music industry executives and record producers in connection with their various legal needs. This has included contracts for virtually all aspects of the music industry, including negotiating and drafting recording agreements, producing agreements, distribution agreements, endorsement agreements, catalogue sales agreements, music licensing agreements, merchandising agreements, touring agreements, worldwide residency agreements, management agreements and executive employment agreements. … The Portland Trail Blazers have hired National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) attorney Zandria Conyers as general counsel, following the departure of its longtime legal chief earlier this year. Conyers “will bring two decades of experience to Rip City, including 15 years in the sports law space,” said Dewayne Hankins, the National Basketball Association franchise’s president of business operations. Conyers spent the last decade at the Indianapolis-based National Collegiate Athletic Association, where she handled its response to congressional inquiries on gender equity. Conyers joined the NCAA as an associate general counsel and director of legal affairs and enterprise risk management in 2013, and has been deputy general counsel since 2019. From 2008 to 2013, she was general counsel of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), where she directed litigation and managed the LPGA’s intellectual property portfolio. Conyers replaces Ben Lauritsen, who left the franchise in February after 13 years to take a partner role at Portland-based law firm Stole Rives, where he was an associate earlier in his career. … The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) has tapped Coca-Cola in-house leader Curtis Franks as its general counsel as it gears up for World Cup 2026. Franks broke the news on his LinkedIn profile, saying he is resigning from the beverage giant to take the role. He was senior legal counsel and head of global procurement for Coca-Cola for the last year and half, serving as the lead attorney with top marketing agencies for the beverage giant’s sports, entertainment, music, gaming, influencer and social media partnerships, according to his LinkedIn profile. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola is a longtime FIFA partner and official World Cup sponsor. Before that, Franks was an associate general counsel for the National Collegiate Athletic Association for three and a half years, and a senior legal counsel overseeing NBC Sports Group’s golf division. In his new role, Franks will help World Cup 2026’s chief operating officer in the planning and delivery of the World Cup tournament. A job description posted to an in-house jobs board back in March described the job as being responsible for “managing all corporate and governance matters, including legal, regulatory, and FIFA institutional requirements and best practices within the host countries.” Franks will also work with FIFA’s intellectual property team on brand protection, in addition to managing the day-to-day legal operations of FIFA 2026 subsidiaries in the United States and overseeing FIFA lawyers in Canada and Mexico.
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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.
By George Ernst
This year’s update from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service for O-1B visa petitions has knock-on effects for the movie and TV industries. The update has clarified the correct standard of adjudication for an individual with both elements of an O-1B artist and O-1B motion-picture-and-television-industry (MPTV) classification, meaning situations where a foreign national will be working in the U.S. as an artist, but some of their work will be in MPTV.
By Thomas Kjellberg and Robert W. Clarida
Termination is not automatic. It may be effected only through affirmative action on the part of the author or his or her statutory successors, who must serve an advance notice, signed by or on behalf of all of those entitled to terminate the grant, on the current copyright owner within specified time limits and under specified conditions.
By Entertainment Law & Finance Staff
Notable court filings in entertainment law.