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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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Once the chief legal officer of one of the world’s most valuable fintech firms, Louise Pentland is about to handle legal at Disney. Pentland, who in late 2021 announced plans to step down from PayPal “to seek renewal and creating space to do that,” started in September as chief counsel for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. That includes the Burbank, CA-based Disney empire’s six parks and consumer products division, including Disney’s cruise line. Pentland previously was executive vice president and chief business and legal officer at PayPal. At Disney Parks, she is moving into a chief counsel post that’s been held for more than three years by Margaret Giacalone, a 23-year Disney veteran. On LinkedIn, Giacalone changed her status to former chief counsel. She did not immediately respond to an inquiry on whether she is staying with Disney or what she plans to do next. The chief counsel role at Disney is not all magic and fairy tales. Giacalone defended Disney against a number of high-profile cases, including a suit filed in 2021 by Vermont parents of a 3-year-old who alleged the child was sexually assaulted by an older child while in day care on a Disney cruise. The suit, which sought $20 million, alleged negligence and said Disney staff failed to intervene. In July, Disney prevailed, with a judge granting the company’s motion for summary judgment, but the family has appealed. A year after packing up at BMG’s offices in Los Angeles for the company’s Berlin headquarters, Tony Abner has been promoted to global general counsel and executive vice president. He will now lead legal operations for the world’s fourth-largest music company. A veteran music industry attorney, Abner joined BMG in 2018 and two years later became senior vice president, business and legal affairs. Abner will report to BMG’s new CEO Thomas Coesfeld, who took over in July from founding CEO Hartwig Masuch. Prior to joining BMG, Abner was managing partner of Abner & Fullerton and a partner at Abner Chernis. Steven Fabrizio, the ex-general counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), has been disbarred in New York State, the Appellate Division, First Department, ruled. Fabrizio pleaded guilty in 2021 in the District of Columbia Superior Court to charges of blackmail and third-degree sexual abuse. The former MPAA GC admitted to blackmailing a woman he’d met online into having sex with him following an initial, consensual sexual encounter in exchange for money. He was sentenced in January 2022 to one-year imprisonment and required to register as a sex offender. Fabrizio was admitted to practice in D.C. and Pennsylvania, as well as New York, and was previously disbarred in those jurisdictions. He was an entertainment attorney and partner at Jenner & Block before he joined MPAA in 2013. He was fired by the MPAA in August 2019, following his arrest. Longtime Charter Communications executive David Ellen, who helped guide the cable operator’s restructuring after its $79 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable, is stepping down in December and transitioning to an advisory role, the company has announced. Ellen has been serving as senior executive vice president. He joined the company in 2016 from Cablevision, where he was general counsel, following that cable powerhouse’s $17.7 billion sale that year to the French telecommunications giant Altice. His arrival at Stamford, CN-based Charter came just months after regulators at the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission approved its purchase of Time Warner Cable along with a separate deal to buy Bright House Networks for $10 billion. The mega three-way merger made Charter the second-largest cable TV provider in the United States. Ellen oversees several key aspects of Charter’s business, including human resources, diversity and inclusion, corporate security, communications, and regulatory compliance. He also has legal oversight for programming, product and regulatory. At Charter, Ellen received $8.3 million in compensation last year, including a $1.2 million salary and stock awards and options valued at $5.5 million, according to Charter’s latest proxy filing. In October 2022, Ellen extended his employment agreement, which was previously set to expire on July 1, to December. Ellen’s career included serving as Federal Communications Commission special counsel during the Clinton administration, focusing on implementing the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress’s first major overhaul of telecommunications law in more than a half-century. Aimee Williams-Ramey is out as Six Flags Entertainment Corp.’s chief legal officer after just 15 months on the job. Tucked within a lengthy recent regulatory filing, the Arlington, TX-based theme park operator disclosed that Williams-Ramey had been “terminated without cause,” entitling her to more than $1.1 million in severance-related payouts. The company now has had three legal chiefs depart in three years. Williams-Ramey’s hiring came seven months after Six Flags ousted Laura Doerre as legal chief after 20 months on the job, saying it was eliminating her position in a restructuring aimed at reducing layers and improving the company’s agility. The company didn’t explain that reversal of course. Doerre had taken the Six Flags job when it opened up as a result of the retirement of Lance Balk, who’d held the job for a decade. Six Flags and Williams-Ramey did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Entertainment Law & Finance affiliate The regulatory filing was written in the passive voice, saying Williams-Ramey’s “employment was terminated” — wording that makes it unclear whether the company booted her or whether she opted to leave on her own. Her employment agreement gave her the right to cancel the agreement and receive severance under several circumstances, including a “material, adverse change in the executive’s authority, duties, responsibilities, or reporting responsibility.” Williams-Ramey earned $653,625 in total compensation from her June 2022 hiring through the end of last year, according to the company’s proxy statement. Under the terms of her employment agreement and her separation agreement, Williams-Ramey will receive $799,318 in severance, plus $355,000 for agreeing to make herself available to consult for up to 10 months. In addition to the $1.15 million, she will receive $38,333 every month she consults, a total of $383,330 if she completes the full 10 months. Williams-Ramey is leaving at a time the company says its business is doing well. Six Flags’ shares were trading around $26, double where they were when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020 but far below their three-year high of $47 in April 2021. Hogan Lovells’ Miami, FL, outpost has a new addition to its media and bench from Pryor Cashman’s Miami law office. Hans Hertell, who originally began his career at Hogan Lovells, is rejoining the firm’s Miami office as his practice becomes more global. During his time at Pryor Cashman and Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, Hertell’s practice morphed from mostly handling commercial litigation to handling a variety of practices, with a heavy emphasis in the media and entertainment space. Seeing Hogan Hovells’ involvement in the massive deal that brought soccer star Lionel Messi to Miami particularly piqued his interest. Additionally, Hertell, who is from Puerto Rico, was working on international matters in which some work was referred to Hogan Lovells, and that also had an effect. Hertell has been practicing in Miami for more than a decade, following a move from D.C. to Florida while he still worked for Hogan Lovells as an associate. He originally spent almost five years with the firm. Eventually he moved on to Stroock, then had joined Pryor Cashman when it debuted its Miami location. Pryor Cashman did not respond to requests for comment.

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