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President and CEO
Albrecht sees that the boom in TV series shifts dealmaking clout to sellers, and traditional pricing norms get shattered. Amid all the growth, he gets requests from talent asking to lift exclusivity to work elsewhere, which “was almost unheard of even three years ago.” Granting it would undermine the exclusivity rule, he notes. Lionsgate has a pending $4.4 billion deal to buy Starz. Starz original TV series have grown from two, when Albrecht arrived in 2010, to eight today. “Entertainment was a relationship business where things got done through the strength of those relationships,” Albrecht says. “But short-term economics seem to rule the day more than they used to.”
Chairman and CEO
Time Warner Inc.
Despite the heft of Warner Bros. and HBO, Time Warner lacked a direct pipeline to consumers, a strategic gap in the interactive age that Bewkes likes to plug. The proposed $85.4 billion sale to AT&T connects TW to AT&T’s telephone and DirecTV consumer businesses. Half the payment will be in debt-heavy AT&T stock, which represents some risk for Time Warner shareholders. After rising through the ranks of HBO, Bewkes ascended to the corporate parent, becoming CEO in 2008. His patience in business has paid off big time; AT&T’s $107.50 cash-and-stock per share buyout deal for Time Warner far surpasses the rumored $85 a share from Rupert Murdoch that Bewkes waved off in 2014.
Daniel H. Black
Chair, West Coast Entertainment & Media Practive
Big companies, including many outside entertainment media, want their brands in the digital space, but that requires navigating unfamiliar territory. Black advises clients to contract with digital facilitators both big and small to translate their brands. As they move forward they need to protect intellectual property, comply with regulations, establish a timeline, and be prepared for litigation. “It’s really a collaborative process” to cover all bases, he says. Black’s transactional practice handles corporate clients and individual executives. They include BBC America, iHeartRadio, publisher The Guardian, Microsoft, Pokémon (Pokémon Go app) and Sonar Entertainment. “I’m a great believer in staying current and anticipating what’s to come,” he says.
President, Business & Media
Major League Baseball
With Disney’s $1 billion purchase of a one-third stake in BamTech, which is Major League Baseball’s video streaming services unit, Bowman gets a bigger bankroll to bid for content rights in the future, including non-sports. BamTech provides streaming technical services to ESPN, HBO Now, and WWE. In addition, it already holds digital streaming rights for NHL and PGA. Disney is expected to use BamTech for future digital startups. Bowman joined MLB in 2000 after working in digital, and earlier he served as president of conglomerate ITT and state treasurer of Michigan. Honest in his self-assessment, he’s been known to say, “I can’t write a lick of [computer] code.”
P. John Burke and Alissa Miller
Partner, head of entertainment and media practice
Senior Counsel, Entertainment Group
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Burke and Miller worked for CIT Bank on the complex financing for the indie sector’s most expensive film, the reported $180 million-budgeted sci-fi epic “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” from Luc Besson. “It was a complex transaction because it was cross-border, the number parties involved, and the size of the film,” says Miller. The paperwork was in multiple languages, production in multiple currencies, with 10 significant financing entities. The duo reps banks, other financiers, distributors and producers in movies and TV. Clients include Bank of America, Comerica Bank, East West Bank, JP Morgan, and MUFG Union Bank.
Joseph Calabrese, Chris Brearton, Nancy Bruington, Ken Deutsch, Robert Haymer and Libby Savill
Global Chair of Entertainment, Sports & Media practice
Deputy Office Managing Partner
Latham & Watkins
“Investors and distributors from around the world have a robust appetite for the film and TV industry,” says Calabrese. This increases activity in Hollywood mergers-and-acquisitions and joint ventures. International entities seek Hollywood expertise, content for use in their home territories, and eventual monetization. For companies in China, this often means mounting initial public stock offerings, Calabrese adds. He points out that dealmaking cultures vary; Chinese companies, for example, are deliberate and process-oriented. For their part, Hollywood majors and independent outfits seek stable sources of capital and access to restricted foreign territories. In the team’s law practice, Calabrese handles the full media/entertainment/sports spectrum as chief of the group. Brearton focuses on strategic alliances, project financing, and mergers and acquisitions. Haymer advises on entertainment and sports industries for M&A, securities, and partnerships. Savill covers European media, especially TV. Bruington specializes in financing matters. Deutsch handles production, financing, and distribution. Their clients include EuropaCorp, Legendary Entertainment, MGM, China’s Tencent, and Univision.
Donaldson + Callif
Pro-social documentaries carry a special vibe. Callif notes that most financiers have an emotional connection to them as well as a financial one. Such docus often stitch together $25,000-50,000 each from a handful of equity investors, $25,000-plus each from a few foundations and a distribution deal. “Typically, the funding comes in waves over a long period of time,” she says. “A filmmaker can start making a film with just a camera.” Callif handles independents with emphasis on production and rights clearances, including “Weiner,” “Making a Murderer,” and “Snowden.”
Jason Michael Berman
Berman combines producing smarts, expertise in physical production, and a knack for raising money with what he calls a persistence to “help make things happen.” He has assembled $54 million in film production financing since 2010, including five Netflix movies, and is credited as a producer on festival-favorite period drama “Birth of a Nation.” A graduate of the University of Southern California, he teaches, as an adjunct, an entrepreneurship in entertainment course at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Chief Development, Distribution & Legal Officer
Incumbent subscription TV providers are advantaged in launching replicant over-the-top TV packages because they simultaneously buy for their traditional big bundles, says Campbell. Discovery wrapped its carriage deal with AT&T/DirecTV that included OTT rights in a “comprehensive deal,” he says. Offering both traditional full bundles and startup OTT “fits nicely with our overall distribution strategy.” Campbell also worked on the $100 million minority investment/strategic partnership with digital holding outfit Group Nine Media and acquiring 27.5% of owner of Chilean broadcaster Mega TV. “Dealmakers should comfortable with their negotiating styles,” he says. “Just be prepared and be empathetic to the other side’s concerns.”
Chatham Law Group
Chatham suggests future-proofing talent and production company contracts. That involves mandating that disputes get settled in private to avoid bad publicity, tailoring exclusivity narrowly and arranging for knowledgeable arbitrators. “You have to understand all that clients are doing outside the contract” being negotiated, he says. His corporate, transactional and litigation entertainment practice includes Dr. Phil, Stage 29 Productions (for its CBS series “Bull” and VH1 talker “The Amber Rose Show”), Ariana Grande, Halfbrick Studios, and producer Bud Yorkin’s estate. “The key to a successful contract is to have all your safeguards written in the original contract, because problems don’t emerge until you have a successful deal,” he says.
Senior Vice President – Team Leader
City National Bank
Colletta sees technologists who distribute music and music creators, two groups that have been at odds, now “learning to live in each other’s worlds.” She’s upbeat on the economic prospects of the music business because of growing online streaming, concerts, music merchandise, and advertising endorsements. “We believe that these will be a key formula for success,” she says. City National Bank led a 12-bank, $500 million syndicated credit facility for Toronto-based music publisher Ole. Colletta is responsible for Los Angeles music-related banking. “Everybody says the devil is in the details,” Colletta says. “You find out how true that is through your time and experience in the industry.” City National Bank was acquire by the Royal Bank of Canada in November 2015, increasing its size and scope, but continues to operate under its own name and brand.
Partner and Chair, Media and Entertainment Group
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips
Expect co-financing of movie slates with Chinese partners to expand to TV digital content, predicts Conner. Digital means online distribution, VR and augmented reality. In various deals, Hollywood gets money and access to China and the Chinese partners “participate in and better understand the global content/distribution business, Western storytelling and technical skills,” Conner says. This year he repped Beijing-based Perfect World Pictures in a five-year film slate co-financing with Universal, Tang Media Partners for a TV slate, and Sony Pictures for virtual reality content.
Jay L. Cooper
Los Angeles Entertainment Practice
Music talent needs a proven social-media following and compelling demo tapes to land recording contracts today, says Cooper. The decline of the lucrative CD era in the 2000s means “far less money for the labels to develop talent, but there are more avenues to reach a broader audience.” Cooper’s clients include Sheryl Crow, Katy Perry, Oscar-winning composer John Williams, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, screenwriter David Seidler, and film producer Mace Neufeld.
Executive VP-Chief Content Officer
Davis is building a Hasbro universe with the toymaker’s brands to create “story-led worlds that we have an opportunity to own and control.” Paramount Pictures, which distributes “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe” theatrical films, which are based on Hasbro properties, is developing an interconnected cinematic universe. Hasbro also bought Ireland-based animator Boulder Media for universe creation. Separately, Hasbro is developing live-arena shows globally to showcase its brands, starting in China. “Irrespective of the size of a transaction, you always have an opportunity to be disruptive internally in a positive way or in the marketplace,” Davis says. “And those end up being the best deals.”
Thomas Day, Richard Gray, Sachin Dosani, and Tom Manwaring
Chief Executive Officer & President
Television hasn’t fundamentally changed for decades, but now Dey says he sees that “we’re at the crossroads of globalization of content and technology to create a new media landscape.” His investment bank advised content companies for $1.5 billion in 2016 mergers and acquisitions. Dey sees big media continuing acquisitions because content is “like an umbrella against the disruption.” Dosani finds small-screen producers are platform-agnostic and Netflix stands out with its global reach. ACF repped TV producer Pilgrim Studios in its majority-stake sale to Lionsgate and also Paddington Bear IP rights, which Studiocanal bought. Dey, Gray, and Dosani worked in at accountancy Grant Thornton, forming ACF in 2010. Manwaring came from Ingenious Media.
Matthew Erramouspe, Stephen Scharf, Bruce Tobey, and Amy Siegel
Erramouspe foresees the acceleration of tech outfits
going Hollywood in a big way with acquisitions and also inhouse content production. “The scale of acquisitions could run the gamut” by the likes of Amazon, Apple or their peers, he says. Also on that list of technological companies to be acquired could be Chinese players such as Alibaba and LeEco/LeVision. Tobey notes that Hollywood-Chinese commerce is a two-way affair. It is unlike past international waves that mostly just co-financed Hollywood content. Tobey adds that Chinese players buy American corporate assets for their income generation or to distribute back home in China. Meanwhile, Hollywood’s exports to that country are broadening “from just new theatrical
releases to other types of filmed entertainment such as library product and television programs, and sporting events,” Tobey says. The foursome’s clients include Sony, Warner Bros., Alibaba Group, Alibaba
Pictures, Lionsgate, Skydance, Studio 8, STX Entertainment, The Weinstein Co., virtual reality’s Jaunt, The Void, and
the Professional eSports Assn.
Donaldson + Callif
Besides traditional lawyering, Cheley helps independent producer clients create a roadmap for financing and distribution that has led to deals with Amazon Studios, Netflix, YouTube Red, and Vimeo. He also repped AwesomenessTV for its low-budget movie and TV series projects. Cheley worked on music, archival footage and photograph clearances for Ron Howard’s “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week” documentary. His clients are in film, TV, and internet-based content, and Cheley often handles copyright law and free speech issues.
Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler & Feldman
While Hollywood companies want their hired talent to leverage their personal social media to promote projects, Feldman advocates specifying limits on volume, recommending time frames (such as around premieres), and requiring talent approvals. “Employment agreements are starting to cross the line” into private lives, he observes. He also advocates contractually limiting talent’s exposure in employer-issued publicity — for example, behind-the-scenes featurettes. Feldman’s transactional-talent practice includes Kiefer Sutherland, Viola Davis, Dylan O’Brien, Lawrence Grey (producer of “Lights Out”), writer-director Barry Jenkins, and Josh Singer (Oscar-winning co-writer of “Spotlight”). “Every client basically wants the same thing, which is get everything but don’t blow the deal,” he says.
Ruth Fisher and Benyamin Ross
Co-Chair, Media, Entertainment, and Tech Practice (Fisher), Partner (Ross) Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
Hollywood outfits can partner in equity-based joint ventures or set up simpler contractual relationships, which requires upfront planning. “As technology converges, the deals are getting more sophisticated and complicated,” says Fisher “There are no more standard deals.” Ross says creating a jointly owned equity enterprise “is more complex and opens up a host of other issues.” These include determining control and conditions when co-owners can exit. They advised Technicolor in selling its M-Go joint venture. Fisher repped DirecTV in its Disney/ABC/ESPN TV channel carriage deal. Ross advised AT&T/Chernin Group’s Otter Media in forming a digital producer, and Universal Pictures for its Blumhouse Productions tie-up.
Executive VP of Corporate Strategy and General Counsel
Hollywood players are satisfied to become friends after creating an alliance, but in China the relationship comes first. “We have a deep and meaningful relationship with our partners long before we ever do business,” says Fogelson. Dealmaking requires sizing up a counterpart’s expectation for exclusivity and goals, he adds. Fogelson and the STX team shepherded investments in STX from Hong Kong’s PCCW and China’s Tencent Holdings; acquisition of virtual-reality outfit Surreal; and Chinese TV co-productions with XG Entertainment. “For every great idea and opportunity, somebody else has thought of it too,” he says. “So the winner is going to be the one who moves quickest and most efficiently.”
Partner, Head of Entertainment Group
The digital revolution breeds “chaos,” but Galsor feels the media industry will benefit despite pockets of woes, including indie films struggling with contracting ancillary revenue. But there’s growth from OTT, VR content, and international. Digital benefits Hollywood because “with a click of a button, you can deliver something worldwide.” Galsor reps talent and IP, including James Cameron, Tom Cruise, David Copperfield, David Fincher, Harmony Korine, and Ubisoft Entertainment. “It’s a very uncomfortable time right now because the earth is shifting under everyone’s feet, and a lot of people didn’t buy earthquake insurance,” he says.
Senior Partner, Ziffren Brittenham
A talent-side lawyer, Gilbert-Lurie negotiates downstream bonuses to offset the demise of sequential windows for TV programs. “For streaming services that are acquiring worldwide rights, everything is on demand all at once,” he says. “It turns the model we’ve been using for 30 years on its head.” His clients include Sandra Bullock, Claire Danes, Tina Fey, Imagine Entertainment, and TV mega-producer Dick Wolf Entertainment extending its NBCU tie-up through 2020. Among his memories: “Many years ago, I concluded a deal for a movie that was about to start the following day standing in phone booth in Montana holding my 2-year-old daughter in one hand.”
Chuck Googe and Justin Hamill
Partner and Chair of the Entertainment Department and Head of the Intellectual Property Group (Googe), Partner and Deputy Chair-Media and Entertainment Group (Hamill), Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
Representations and warranties insurance has “become more prevalent among strategic acquirers in the media and entertainment industry,” notes Hamill. He says that escrowing part of purchases was popular in Hollywood, but that freezes a chunk of proceeds for a time. Googe says deals increasingly document consumer data and sales information. “That data is an asset of the target company,” he says. Deals address data collection, storage, use, regulatory compliance, safety, and past intrusions. Googe and Hamill represented WME | IMG in the $4 billion acquisition of Ultimate Fighting Championship; and also buying experiential marketing outfits IMG Live (spun off in 2007), and Fusion Marketing. Googe advised Jeffrey Katzenberg in the sale of DreamWorks Animation. Hamill represented WME | IMG when SoftBank Group invested $250 million.
President and CEO
Greenberg has developed a special windowing system to benefit both his premium pay TV platform and all other participants: the first window is Epix premiere; the next is a few months in VOD streaming/electronic sell-through; and finally the product comes back to Epix. “For us, it’s important to get that first window because it’s critical to branding the network,” Greenberg says. Before co-founding Epix in 2008, he worked at Showtime Networks and HBO. “Many have wanted to embrace a ‘skinny bundle’ strategy,” he says. “In business school, we call that a price war. You would be better off creating more value by offering more consumer benefits and then can charge a higher price.”
Co-financing is growing as film and TV projects share the funding burden and risks, which means balancing more competing interests, Griffith says. Final interparty agreements can spell out how collected money is handled, governance, operating structure, and rights of various layers of debt and equity. “All the pieces have to be woven together in a way that works,” she adds. Griffith’s clients are producers and lenders, including Bank of America, Media Rights Capital, JPMorgan, MUFG Union Bank, RatPac Film Fund, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, and SunTrust Bank. “You have to be solutions-oriented,” she says. “Clients dislike hearing ‘no’ without a plan B.”
Vice President of Corporate Development & Strategy, Lionsgate Entertainment
This UCLA MBA graduate rolled up his sleeves for an assortment of Hollywood transactions. Delaney worked the pending $4.4 billion merger with Starz, and on the majority stake buy in Pilgrim Media, planting Lionsgate in unscripted TV. He also worked on the Discovery Communications and Liberty Global purchase of minority positions in Lionsgate. In addition, he helps shepherd the ambitious launch of branded video streaming platforms with third parties. Before joining Lionsgate in 2011, Delaney worked in leveraged finance at Deutsche Bank and private equity firm Paine & Partners.
Josh Grode, Sam Kozhaya, and Paul Swanson
Partner (Grode), Of Counsel (Kozhaya & Swanson), Irell & Manella
Cross-border Hollywood trade, particularly that involving Asians and Latin Americans, is soaring and with changed objectives, says Grode. Offshore players used to simply license finished content for their home territories, but are now seeking to produce original content with Hollywood studios and other established producers. They want “digital distribution rights to expand their footprints,” Grode says. “The focus is shifting away from acquisition of library content and moving toward doing deals with content creators in Hollywood.” In their corporate and transactional practice, the trio repped Dalian Wanda Group for its $3.5 billion acquisition of Legendary Pictures. Grode and Swanson handled Wanda again for its Sony Pictures co-financing and marketing pact, and also Bank of America in its $100-plus million Endemol securitization. Grode and Kozhaya advised Miramax in its sale to BeIN Media. Kozhaya repped Dallas-based Tango Films for its film library sale. Swanson worked on a $125 million credit line for distributor A24.
Stew Heathcote and Andrew Klein
Senior Vice President (Heathcote), Senior Vice President (Klein),
AEG Global Partnerships
Corporate sponsors pursue a growing bundle of benefits from music tie-ins, including sophisticated digital tech access, says Klein. “Brands are looking for a more intimate relationship with artists and events to deliver more return on investment,” he adds. For example, sponsors seek to download apps on concert-goers’ personal devices to offer on-site benefits, experiential involvement, visuals in concert video panels, and direct artist ties. Heathcote and Klein placed retailer H&M in a Coachella festival global sponsorship, Budweiser into country music events, American Express with artist concert tours, and Hewlett Packard for New York’s Panorama music fest.
Head of Los Angeles office/VP,
Dealmaking is a tower of Babel. Hodge says that Hollywood talks talent and creation; Silicon Valley is about distribution and disruption; Wall Street focuses on risk/return; and Chinese investors want to build their industry and exporting muscle. “You have to get them comfortable with what the deal is in their own language,” he says. Hodge shepherded his merchant bank’s $100 million investment in Imagine Entertainment and Perfect World Pictures’ five-year co-financing for Universal. “You can say dealmaking is constant conflict,” he says, “but if you look at it as solving a puzzle, it is a lot more fun.”
Chief Executive Officer, Hulu
TV viewers will interact with personalized navigation pages with Hulu’s forthcoming OTT service that aims to seamlessly blend live TV, on-demand and recorded content, Hopkins says. “The consumer won’t have to think about it,” promises Hopkins, a former Fox Networks distribution executive. He shepherded Time Warner’s recent purchase of a 10% interest in video streamer Hulu for $583 million, acquired viewer-recommendation outlet Video Genome Project, and licensed linear TV channels. “Play the long game with the things you really need in the deal; don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Manager, Global Partnerships, Yahoo
Ferguson handles video deals, both bringing in content and also placing Yahoo content with third parties. He helped expand Hulu’s distribution deal taking free ad-supported TV series to Yahoo View. That non-exclusive pact gets in-season shows from ABC Television, Fox and NBC Television as well as library product. Ferguson also places Yahoo content at Facebook, YouTube, and Pluto TV. Finally, he takes a hand in acquisitions, where he’s comfortable as a former content development executive and a onetime Starz distribution executive.
Partner, Barnes & Thornburg
Movie pre-sales continue to shrink “as international buyers increasingly demand the complete package of script, director, cast, and budget,” and domestic buyers often want to see a rough cut, says Hunt. Emerging digital platforms fill some of the financing void, she adds. Her clients include City National Bank, East West Bank, Pacific Mercantile Bank, and Union Bank for film, TV, and corporate facilities; U.K.-based Grosvenor Park; and various equity investors. Words she recalls: “When I first made partner, my father-in-law, who was a very successful investment adviser, told me to keep in mind that ‘if you don’t ask, the answer is always no.’”
Andy Kaplan, George Chien, and N.P. Singh
President, Worldwide Networks, Sony Pictures Television (Kaplan), Executive Vice President, Networks, Asia-Pacific, Sony Pictures Television (Chien), CEO, Sony Pictures Networks India (Singh)
Sony Pictures Networks India agreed to buy TEN Sports Networks for $385 million earlier this year, bulking up in the Asian territory with live sports. TEN Sports brings “cricket, wrestling, soccer, tennis, golf, motor sports, and cycling,” says Kaplan, who oversees 160 Sony TV channels around the world, including 14 in India. “We can provide more in-depth coverage of each sport and cultivate more local Indian leagues across a range of sports.” Kaplan has worked at Sony for most of his career. Chien joined in 2001, after being a financial consultant to Disney and a trainee at United Talent Agency. Singh began at Sony in 1999; earlier he worked at Modi Xerox and Spice Telecom. Kaplan and Chien are in Culver City; Singh is based in Mumbai.
Executive Vice President, TV Operations & Corporate Development, Lionsgate Entertainment
Emerging mobile and social media make selecting suitable strategic partners more complicated, says Kennedy. While programming is a longtime attribute, marketing clout is now desirable for emerging direct-to-consumer platforms. For example, Lionsgate OTT video services aligned with crowd-magnets Comic-Con and Kevin Hart. Kennedy worked on the $4.4 billion buy of Starz, and Discovery Communications and Liberty Global Media’s strategic investment in Lionsgate. She also runs strategy, operations and business development for Lionsgate Television. She’s not big on meetings: “Successful transactions are about building relationships with people you can trust and work with in the long run. It’s not just about flying across the country for meetings.”
Kleinberg Lange Cuddy & Carlo
An independent film can require 80 separate legal contracts and “the life of a movie transcends three years,” says Kleinberg. Contracts cover financing such as bank loans, subsidies, insurance including completion bonds, employment for creative talent, producers, physical production, and revenue-generating distribution. His clients include J.K. Rowling, Jack Nicholson, Toby Keith for motion picture/TV, producer Paula Wagner, animators Glen Keane and John Kahrs, Douglas Trumbull, and Peter Cetera. “The amount of work and documentation for an independently produced motion picture is almost the same whether the budget is $15 million or over $100 million,” says Kleinberg.
“That’s why it’s daunting for independents.” In April, Kleinberg was Variety’s first Power of Law honoree.
Hollywood talent needs to milk oppor-tunities in online, endorsements, music, theater, and book-writing to augment their core income, says Kohner. Traditional film and TV deals today “might be tougher (but) the breadth of work is so much greater,” he adds. Kohner reps the Duffer brothers (“Stranger Things”), Jonathan Krisel (“Portlandia”), Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz, Kate Bosworth, John Cho, NASCAR for intellectual property, and the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust. “It is extremely rewarding to help an artist you admire and care about build a career, but if you don’t have a connection with the client, it’s just a lot of work,” he says.
Owner, LaPolt Law
Music tastes have become more eclectic so concert audiences are increasingly a mashup, says LaPolt: “We’re all competing for the same fan.” Concert promoters incorporate contests, giveaways, bundling of recorded music with tickets, and VIP meet-and-greets in order to stand out. LaPolt reps deadmau5, Fifth Harmony, Eddie Money, and Britney Spears. “If people who are negotiating deals take their egos out of the equation, we could close deals more efficiently and with a lot less drama,” she says.
Gregory B. Maffei
President and Chief Executive Officer, Liberty Media
Maffei continued diversification from the company’s cable TV roots after agreeing to buy London-based car racing org Formula One for $4.4 billion in September, with plans for premium F1 video streaming. Previous deals give Liberty 65.5% of satellite radio’s Sirius XM and 34% of concert giant LiveNation Entertainment. Maffei sits on the boards of cable systems giant Charter Communications and Zillow. He joined Liberty in 2005, after holding senior financial posts at Oracle and Microsoft — giving him tech smarts. His showman side came out at a November investors meeting where Maffei entertained in a video dressed in full “Hamilton” Revolutionary Era costume, singing show tunes.
Partner, Munger, Tolles & Olson
Masuda says non-majority money players now insist on deals that “have greater rights to trigger and control exit events” to avoid being locked down too many years. He repped independent directors in the $3.8 billion sale of DreamWorks Animation, Hugh Hefner in his $100 million mansion transaction, the San Diego Chargers, and Tim Leiweke for the Oak View Group venue management venture with Irving Azoff. “The pace of deal negotiation and flow has continuously accelerated,” he says.
Jelenko puts his talent smarts to good use repping up-and-comers. As digital disruption roils film and TV deals, he seeks more upfront for gigs without typical back-end bonuses, attaches producing work to talent deals, and cultivates industry relationships. His clients include “Chappaquiddick” screenwriters Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, hyphenates Hannah Pearl Utt and Jen Tullock, and screenwriter Adam Hoelzel. He also assists with the firm’s clients EuropaCorp, Billy Ray, and Michael Cera.
Mickey Mayerson and Susan Williams
Deputy Chairman and Chair of the Entertainment Finance Practice (Mayerson), Partner (Williams),
Loeb & Loeb
Hollywood’s money machine is firing on all cylinders. “While there’s attention to the influx of Chinese investments, money still comes in from all sources,” says Williams. High-net-worth individuals and even Wall Street, learning from its uneven results in the past, bring more private equity deals that Williams says are crafted soundly. Other promising indicators include flourishing startup theatrical distributors, and senior bank lenders recouping from their troubled Hollywood transactions, she adds. Mayerson and Williams advise financial institutions, hedge funds, wealthy individuals, and entertainment companies. They rep Bank of America, CIT Bank, City National Bank, Comerica Bank, Opus Bank, Warren Beatty’s movie “Rules Don’t Apply,” Teddy Schwartzman’s Black Bear Pictures for slate financing, Endgame for a P&A transaction, and Vine Alternative Investments for multiple movie credit facilities.
Partner and Entertainment and Digital Media Practice Co-Leader,
Michaelson sees M&A activity heaviest for traditional media, particularly with offshore buyers seeking access to content. M&A is also brisk in digital, but often with fewer dollars for startups because “nobody knows which investments are going to be successful,” she says. Michaelson repped China’s Tang Media Partners for buying a majority in IM Global and Lionsgate for its controlling interest in Pilgrim Studios. “It’s better to win a few important points than all the points,” she says.
Darrell D. Miller
Chair of the Entertainment Department, Office Managing Partner, Fox Rothschild
Miller angles for ancillary revenue in addition to basic salary and bonuses when negotiating talent deals. That can mean retaining personal merchandising rights for unscripted talent portraying themselves, international rights, new bonus windows, or even live stage rights. “You have to think a lot broader than you did in the past” given the expanding media landscape, he says. Miller, named this year as Entertainment Lawyer of the Year by the Beverly Hills Bar Assn., reps talent including Angela Bassett, Reginald Hudlin, T.D. Jakes, Teyonah Parris, Jussie Smollett, and Courtney B. Vance. “Think differently and embrace change,” he advises. “You can’t use 20th century thinking to succeed in the 21st century.”
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan
Moore says theaters will convert to virtual reality, with Disney and Fox best positioned for this. He reps local-language content vehicle Globalgate for its $100 million offering; Greek investors for the Hercules Film Fund; and single-picture transactions for Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” and “The Irishman,” as well as Oliver Stone’s “Snowden.” He doesn’t tolerate needless complexity: “Contracts should be as elegant as E equals MC squared. I am tired of long-winded contracts that say nothing.”
Associate, Kleinberg Lange Cuddy & Carlo
Kuo has a foot in both Holly-wood Silicon Valley and negotiates branded-content transactions between social media stars and companies. He also reps cloud-computing giant Salesforce in entertainment-related matters. His traditional Hollywood assignments have involved TV producers Thinkfactory Media and also Intuitive Entertainment; composer Hans Zimmer; producer Paula Wagner; Chinese film producer Mandoo Pictures; and sports legend Sugar Ray Leonard.
Benjamin R. Mulcahy and Gina Reif Ilardi
Partner and Co-Chair of Trademark, Advertising and Unfair Competition Practice (Mulcahy), Partner (Ilardi), Jenner & Block
Ilardi cleared notoriously difficult music rights to 16 videos in just two weeks for a mash-up Chrysler television commercial by persuading record labels and artists that the blurb would introduce the tunes to a much broader audience. She corralled master and synch music licenses, and artist publicity releases. Mulcahy deals with the industry-wide controversy of advertisers claiming their media-buying agencies short-changed them on volume-advertising discounts. He incorporates processes to better identify discounts in new contracts and he is “evaluating hundreds of millions of dollars in [past] media spending.” Together the duo represents Chrysler (for upcoming movie “Fast 8”), ESPN, Fox Cable Networks, Game Show Network, Lionsgate, brewer Molson Coors, and The Weinstein Co. Mulcahy’s clients include Paramount Pictures for multiple movies (including tie-ins with Enterprise Holdings, Bing, Vizio, and Quicken Loans for “Star Trek Beyond”). Ilardi handles entertainment/sports deals for Daniel J. Edelman PR for its consumer goods clients.
Richard S. Petretti
Partner, Sidley Austin
Dealmaking makes sure everyone understands what they get in the end, financiers receive rewards commensurate with risks, and areas of contention are identified quickly, says Petretti. “Clients want solutions and not just academic answers,” he adds. He handled City National Bank in its $500 million syndicated loan for a music outfit; J.P. Morgan for a $700 indie producer loan; and a TV producer for a $100 million facility for two TV series. “It’s not if we win they lose,” he says. “If we do our job, everybody is better off.”
Co-Chair, Atlanta Entertainment & Media Practice, Greenberg Traurig
Rosen helped clients Florida Georgia Line launch a whiskey and Kenny Chesney create a rum with distillers because “a successful spirits brand can yield a lifetime of earnings to an artist. After initial heavy lifting, then the brand partner takes up the distribution and marketing.” Talent issues are whether to co-own or license, financial terms, promotion responsibilities, and creating an association without directly using the artist’s name. Rosen represents music and executives including Brad Paisley, Steve Martin for music, and Thomas Rhett. “If deals don’t close, no commerce takes place,” he says. “Understand what’s important and move the deal to closure.”
Stephen L. Saltzman
Partner and Chair, Asia Entertainment and Media, Loeb & Loeb
Saltzman finds similarities between Hollywood and China, while others see only differences. “People observe that ‘guanxi’ — relationships — are at the core of doing business in China, and it’s certainly no different here,” he says. Personal ties, he adds, are just as important to entrepreneurial Hollywood independents as are formal contracts. Saltzman reps Huayi Bros. for its Russo brothers JV and Beijing Shouhuan Cultural Tourism Investment for a Universal-branded theme park.
Partner, Loeb & Loeb
Schick serves as a bridge that links Broadway and Hollywood. He repped Warner Bros. for stage adaptations of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” “Misery,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”; Sony Pictures Entertainment for “Groundhog Day”; Paramount for “School of Rock”; and 20th Century Fox for “Anastasia.” He also is counsel for three different Broadway productions opening next spring. Schick helps clients develop, finance, and co-produce on the Great White Way, regional, touring, and overseas.
Robert Schumer and Ariel Deckelbaum
Partner and Chair of the Corporate Department (Schumer), Partner and Deputy Chair of the Corporate Department (Deckelbaum), Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
Media and entertainment mergers have pursued horizontal aggregation of similar businesses, but that’s changing. “With technology upending the media and telecoms, there’s a greater desire by industry participants to be invested in both content and distribution,” says Deckelbaum. That means vertical integration to put content and distribution pipes under one roof. “You do have a focus now on how size does matter,” adds Schumer. Mergers face scrutiny where regulators want to protect consumer and commercial access in media, says Deckelbaum. Schumer says eventually vertical integration will fall out of favor because business is cyclical. Schumer and Deckelbaum both advised Time Warner Cable in its sale and Viacom in exploring the sale of a Paramount Pictures’ minority interest. Deckelbaum repped Imagine Entertainment in receiving a financing infusion.
Managing Director, Head of Entertainment Industries Group,
Financiers shower the content industry with coin because of its booming TV series business and reduced jitters about declining DVD revenue, says Shaheen. “There are now more educated entertainment banks and other institutional lenders than we’ve seen in over a decade.” His unit advised Lionsgate in buying Starz and raised $4.4 billion in debt; advised theater chain Carmike in its sale; and raised debt for Amblin Partners, MGM, Skydance, and STX .
Upstart digital may roil cash-cow traditional media, but Moonves maintains that “my mantra these days is to embrace that disruption, even though it’s not comfortable out there.” Moonves sees digital providing content funding, alternative distribution, and low-cost production tools. Shaw notes that newcomer Netflix offers global distribution so talent “making a deal with a U.S.-based service has international ramifications.” She adds that client Raoul Peck for his documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” received early funding from European pre-buyers, which “talks to the global nature of the marketplace today.” Shaw represents talent in all media, including Ava DuVernay for documentary “13th” and OWN TV drama “Queen Sugar.” Moonves handles actors,
Partner, Chair of Production Practice, Fox Rothschild
Over the years, a genuine profit-sharing mechanism has emerged in digital dealmaking built on no interest/overhead charges, no arbitrary distribution fees, and no onerous production cost deductions, says Simon. “You can look forward to a more realistic back end,” he says. His transactional practice for content includes online talent, distribution platforms, and producers such as animator Six Point Harness, military community The Mighty Networks, and also traditional TV producers. “For 15 years now, people have been saying convergence of TV and digital is five years down the road,” he says. “Now it looks like it really is just five years away.”
President and Chief Operating Officer, Skydance Media
Sisgold sized up VR startups before buying established video-game developer The Workshop Entertainment, which is now Skydance Interactive. The deal closed in April. Its talent meshed philosophically with Skydance. “Ultimately, we opted for skill and pedigree over new and flashy,” Sisgold says. He also helped arrange a $700 million recapitalization, international content partnerships, including with Alibaba, and ramped up TV series distribution and co-productions with ABC, AMC, Netflix, Amazon, and others. “I like to approach deals as if I’m about to get married,” he says. “It’s with a long-term vision, and both of us have to wake up the next day and feel good.”
Christopher S. Spicer
Partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Spicer sees a mixed future for single film and television projects and slate deals. In recent years, volume declined from traditional sources using pre-sales, tax credits, and equity. On the positive side, he says, online streamers, particularly Netflix, “have partially picked up the slack” for banks. Spicer expects more deal growth from over-the-top platforms. He reps Bank of America, City National Bank, Comerica Bank, J.P. Morgan, East West Bank, MUFG Union Bank, and SunTrust. His big frustration: Wi-fi cutting out at 30,000 feet.
Randall L. Stephenson
Chairman and CEO, AT&T
With AT&T’s traditional phone business plateauing, Stephenson made a big bet on TV distribution/programming with the pending $85.4 billion buy of Time Warner and the $48.5 billion acquisition of DirecTV in 2015. He says that the acquisition of Warner Bros. and HBO will break down walls between programming and distribution to “accelerate innovation in terms of content that’s mobile, customized, and social.” Joining the company in 1982, Stephenson has a finance and accounting background. Playfully responding to a question about regulatory hurdles, he says, “I’m not a lawyer, but once Time Warner closes, I’ll play one on TV, OK?”
CEO and co-founder, Kickstarter
The crowd-funder’s projects are audience-financed so “the ambition is creative, not monetary,” says Strickler. In the past year, Kickstarter says pledges of $42 million went to film/video projects and $22 million to music. B-movie comedy TV series “MST3K,” licensed by Netflix, raised $5.7 million. Docs about Frank Zappa and Curious George received funding. “The mentality of empire building has swept the internet,” says Strickler, “but if you are trying to be everything to everybody, you end up being nothing to nobody.”
Co-founder of the Century Office and Co-Leader of Media/Entertainment Group, Sidley Austin
The planets remain aligned for further Hollywood mergers & acquisitions, Thompson says. Capital is available for mergers; there’s more money to build out businesses; in-industry acquirers want to get larger and vertically integrated; and Hollywood’s business fundamentals remain strong. “Consolidation in the media industry will continue,” he concludes. Thompson handles corporate transactions involving content, including client Entertainment One buying control of reality producer Renegade83, its equity investment in Sierra Pictures and another in Amblin Partners; and also Pilgrim Studios’ nine-figure transaction. His advice to other execs: “Throughout my career I’ve lived by the words of my Army Special Forces father. And that is, ‘Stop whining.’”
President and CEO, Goldenvoice
For Tollett, launching the audacious “destination” music festival Desert Trip in October boiled down to availability of performers and gauging consumer demand for tickets. He already knew the booking fees for the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Paul McCartney as promoter of the established Coachella music fest. Desert Trip grossed an estimated $160 million, including parking and shuttle passes, over two weekends, selling 150,000 tickets starting at $199. In 1991, Tollett and a partner bought Goldenvoice, which concert giant AEG acquired in 2001. While a chemical engineering major at Cal Poly Pomona, Tollett began his music career promoting local bands.
Co-Chair of Media, Entertainment and Technology Practice Group, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
Chinese investors immerse themselves reviewing marketing plans, seemingly innocuous profit participation statements, and other Hollywood fundamentals they are eager to learn from their transactions of buying companies, funding slates, and project financing. “Even more so than prior waves of investors, the Chinese seem particularly interested in educating themselves about Hollywood,” Tsoneff says. “These investments get them in the room to participate in discussions.” He repped Universal Pictures receiving slate financing from China’s Perfect World Pictures, Paramount Pictures extending Skydance co-finance/co-production, and 20th Century Fox for various transactions. You can’t be too careful, he believes. “Commas matter. Imagine a litigator picking apart your contract. So draft accordingly.”
For talent building consumer brands around their personas, Yorn starts by fashioning products, valuing brands or brand companies, and hiring executive teams. For raising funding, there’s a fork in the road for either “strategic partners who fund alongside us, or raising money through venture capital or angel investors,” he says. His talent practice reps Ellen DeGeneres, Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, Ansel Elgort, Anthony Zuiker, producing team Craig Zadan-Neil Meron, and Marlene King. Yorn has a lyrical side: “When it comes to business or life, I would ignore what the philosophers say. Instead, listen to the great poets likes Keats … in the end, it’s all about love.”
Senior Vice President, Mergers
and Acquisitions, Time Warner
Big Hulu and AT&T deals “accelerate many of the things we were trying to do on our own” to connect directly to consumers, Dogra says. Such relationships make innovating easier, improve monetization, and can shape the consumer experience, she says. HBO Now is an inhouse example. Dogra worked on the pending $85.4 billion merger with AT&T, buying 10% of streamer Hulu for $583 million, purchasing multi-channel Machinima outright, and acquiring streamer DramaFever. The death of traditional media companies is overstated. “Companies with powerful brands and content can forge real consumer connections that give them strong monetization options.”