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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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Hipgnosis Song Management (HSM), the investment and management company founded and run by former Elton John and Beyoncé manager Merck Mercuriadis, has hired Jonathan Baker as its first general counsel. Baker comes to London-based HSM with almost 20 years of legal experience, including more than a decade focused on the music industry. He joins from Berlin-based BMG, where he has been general counsel for the United Kingdom as well as executive vice president of legal and business affairs for international. In this new role, Baker will oversee legal aspects of catalog acquisitions and day-to-day music legal and business affairs carried out on behalf of Hipgnosis Songs Fund, which is publicly traded, and Hipgnosis Songs Capital, which is private and has received more than $1 billion in backing from the New York-based private equity giant Blackstone. “Jon’s experience and expertise in global music legal affairs will support our funds while allowing us to prioritize responsible governance and compliance for Hipgnosis,” CEO Mercuriadis said in a statement. Hipgnosis launched in 2018, capitalizing on the trend of artists selling rights to their music to third parties. Hipgnosis Songs Fund controls the rights to the music of a trove of prominent musicians including Justin Bieber, Leonard Cohen, Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado and Kenny Chesney. Though the Hipgnosis Songs Fund’s catalog portfolio has been valued at more than $2.3 billion, it’s had a bumpy ride in the public markets. A columnist for The Guardian recently blasted the company’s contract-management practices after it canceled its dividend for the second consecutive quarter to conserve cash. Hipgnosis blamed the suspension on an increase this year from $23 million to $68 million in catalog bonuses due under past acquisition agreements. … Michelle Shanahan, a nonprofit attorney who spent a quarter century in senior roles at National Public Radio (NPR), has joined the advocacy organization America’s Public Television Stations as general counsel. Shanahan joined NPR in January 1997 as assistant general counsel. Through the years, she rose to associate general counsel, senior associate general counsel to deputy general counsel, the title she held when she departed the Washington, DC-based news and entertainment provider in February 2022. She also served a four-month stint as acting general counsel a year before she left. America’s Public Television Stations launched in 1979 to represent the interests of the nation’s public television stations. In her new role, Shanahan will oversee all the Arlington, VA-based organization’s legal affairs, governance, regulatory, contracting and corporate compliance, as well as its interactions with the Federal Communications Commission. The nation has 170 public television licensees operating more than 350 stations. Many of those stations saw significant cuts in fundraising and in content budgets during the COVID-19 pandemic and are still working to rebuild their revenue streams to prior levels, according to an analysis by Public Media Company. America’s Public Television Stations is a small organization, with 15 employees and revenue of $3.7 million in the fiscal year that ended in June 2022, according to a filing with the Internal Revenue Service. Fox Corp. has hired Campbell Soup general counsel Adam Ciongoli to replace departing chief legal and policy officer Viet Dinh. Ciongoli is an in-house veteran with a career spanning nearly 30 years, the last eight as Campbell’s general counsel and chief sustainability, corporate responsibility and governance officer. He joined Campbell after stints as general counsel of insurer Lincoln Financial Group, insurance broker Willis Group and media company Time Warner, Europe. Ciongoli takes the reins at a challenging time for the New York-based media giant Fox Corp., just months after it paid $787 million to settle a defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems. Still looming is a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Smartmatic, another maker of voting machines. Both firms allege Fox News decimated their businesses by giving oxygen to false claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Fox announced in August that Dinh would be stepping down at the end of the year as the top lawyer job at Fox but would stay on two years as a special adviser. Dinh was a central figure in the network’s legal battle with Dominion and received criticism for how the company played its hand. Fox Corp.’s news release announcing Ciongoli’s appointment made no reference to the defamation cases. In a message to ALM, parent company of Entertainment Law & Finance, Dinh said of Ciongoli, “I have known and respected Adam for a quarter century and am heartened that he will build on our successes at Fox.” Ciongoli will be paid a base salary of $1.7 million, with a target bonus of $2.75 million and a long-term incentive plan payout of $3 million, according to an 8-K Fox filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Ciongoli’s appointment appears to be a setback for Fox Corp.’s Jeff Taylor, who was widely speculated to be a leading contender for the position. Taylor serves as executive vice president and general counsel, the No. 2 legal post at the company, and is listed on the Fox website as one of its 11 most-senior executives. Taylor did not immediately respond to a LinkedIn message from seeking comment. Ciongoli started his legal career at Kirkland & Ellis after clerking for Samuel Alito, who was then a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He would later clerk for him again for seven months when Alito became a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. He was also an adviser to then-Sen. John Ashcroft when he was chairman of the subcommittee on Constitution, Federalism and Property Rights. Ciongoli then moved to the Department of Justice, where he served as counselor to Ashcroft while Ashcroft was attorney general. After recently losing top legal executive Lauren Fisher to TV station giant Tegna, Vox Media has tapped Deputy General Counsel Brian Leung to succeed her. New York-based Vox Media which publishes its eponymous website as well as New York Magazine, SB Nation and Polygon, hired Leung in 2014, and made him deputy GC eight years later. Before joining Vox, he was an M&A and securities associate at ArentFox Schiff. Leung, who will have the title general counsel, will immediately step in for Fisher, who had been with Vox since 2009 and had been chief legal officer since 2015. The media industry veteran also was previously in-house at Hulu, where she was vice president of business and legal affairs, and at AOL, where she was an assistant general counsel. Vox said in a statement that Leung has and will continue to provide Vox counsel on more than just legal matters. The company said he’ll play in active role in everything from future mergers plans to advertising deals. …  Reed Smith has brought on video games and AI lawyer Stuart Irvin in D.C. as a partner in the entertainment and media industry group and co-chair of the video games and esports practice. Irvin joins from Covington & Burling, where he founded the firm’s video games and esports practice. According to Elle Todd, co-chair of Reed Smith’s entertainment and media industry group, Irvin’s arrival adds to the law firm’s client base from large game publishers to small developers. … Dan Malasky resigned as chief legal officer of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to take the legal reigns of the IMG Academy, an athletics-focused boarding school in Bradenton, FL, that draws students from all over the country aspiring to become sports stars in college and eventually go pro. The school recently changed hands for $1.25 billion, underscoring its stature as a powerhouse in developing elite athletes in a range of sports, from tennis and football to basketball and soccer. Before joining the NFL franchise in 2018, Malasky spent 13 years at the United States Tennis Association, where he rose to general counsel. Since joining the Buccaneers, Malasky has become a prominent player in Florida’s burgeoning sports scene, serving as a board member of the Florida Sports Foundation and as a board member — and, for one year, chair — of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission. Endeavor, which represents artists, athletes and other celebrities and owns Ultimate Fighting Championship, sold IMG Academy in June to the private equity firm EQT for $1.25 billion. The sale came three months before Endeavor completed its $9.3 billion purchase of World Wrestling Entertainment.

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