Manatt, Phelps & Phillips is launching a digital media consulting division out of its entertainment legal practice, and the firm has hired digital media vet Peter Csathy to pursue venture investments in the sector.
Csathy, named CEO of Manatt Digital Media Ventures, said he is now “aggressively” looking at funding opportunities in digital media and entertainment companies ranging from content distribution and mobile to advertising and social media. Investments will run gamut from early-stage startups to established companies.
“We are going to be a lot more proactive,” he said. “We are out there, rubbing elbows with these people and spending more of our time in the community.”
The firm’s newly created Manatt Digital Media division, based in L.A., is led by media attorney T. Hale Boggs, who bills it as a one-stop shop for legal and business consulting services. The unit is comprised of about 20 attorneys and consultants.
Manatt expects to make 10 to 15 investments per year, ranging from $15,000 to $600,000, according to Csathy. The firm has a dedicated venture fund but he declined to disclose how much it has earmarked for digital activity.
Csathy, most recently topper of online video tech and distribution services provider Sorenson Media, said he was drawn to Manatt’s vision for the digital media practice.
“This firm can really connect the dots across the A-list artists and global brands,” he said, vowing a departure from conventional “cookie-cutter” approaches from other legal and consulting firms.
Csathy has 25 years of experience across the entertainment and digital media landscape. He began his career as an entertainment attorney, working as general counsel for division of Universal Studios and legal affairs exec at New Line Cinema and Savoy Pictures.
Over the last decade, Csathy has led digital media companies including social-video chat company SightSpeed (acquired by Logitech International in 2008) and online music company Musicmatch (acquired by Yahoo! in 2004).
Boggs, chairman of Manatt Digital Media, opened the firm’s Silicon Valley office in 1998 and later helped establish its San Francisco office in 2007. He noted that Manatt has invested in more than 90 companies, including Pinterest, Etsy, Idealab and Mandalay Digital Group. The firm makes direct investments in companies as well as co-investments with others, particularly venture capital and private equity firms.
Manatt maintains a clear separation between its investing activities and legal and consulting services to avoid conflicts of interest, Boggs said, noting that the firm never makes an investment a precondition for doing business with it.
“We are careful with the hats we’re wearing,” Boggs said, adding that “our clients understand the distinction” between the legal and business/venture sides of the house.
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips’ 400 attorneys span multiple industry sectors, including entertainment, advertising, healthcare and financial services. Firm has offices in L.A., Orange County, Calif., Palo Alto, Calif., San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif.; New York City and Albany, N.Y.; and Washington, D.C.