As the industry consolidated and expanded over the past year, these top financiers, attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs forged the major game-changing deals that changed the showbiz landscape.
Partner, Chair of Internet, Digital Media & Entertainment Practice
Stubbs Alderton Markiles
Akselrud counsels actors, directors, producers, influencers, athletes, musicians and production companies on corporate deals ranging from stock buys to new technology launches. Recent matters he worked on include repping a pair of marketing agencies — Michael B. Jordan’s Obsidianworks and Endeavor’s 160over90 — in a digital joint venture; GoDigital Media Group in its acquisition of royalty financing company Sound Royalties; and Funny or Die in the sale of its branded content studio to Roku, then the sale of the entire company to Henry R. Muñoz III.
Fun deals: The attorney has been especially busy with brand deals for actors and influencers. “They’re really passionate about these brands, so it’s fun to represent them,” he says.
Founder, Chairman, CEO
Allen Media Group/Entertainment Studios
Allen’s Entertainment Studios launched three TV series in national broadcast syndication with the Weather Channel (“Highway Thru Hell,” “SOS: How to Survive” and “Top 10”), while also debuting TheGrio.TV, a broadcast network and free digital streaming app that targets African American viewers. Additionally, the company’s recent launch of Pattrn marks the first 24/7 outlet devoted to climate change and environmental sustainability in the U.S.
Acceleration: With digital content on the rise, the time is right for expansion, with Allen noting that his company is “working to achieve streaming strategies much faster than the year before.”
Alter Kendrick & Baron
From HYBE’s merger with Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings to Reservoir Media Management’s acquisition of Tommy Boy Music, Alter made more than $2 billion worth of deals in just 12 months. When Alter represented Influence Media in acquiring Julia Michaels’ catalog, the artist, manager and attorneys were all women.
Landslide: Representing Primary Wave in acquiring a stake in Stevie Nicks’ catalog was a recent highlight. “This deal was particularly noteworthy not only because it has become emblematic of the new wave of acquisitions of the rights of legacy artists … but also because of the personal resonance I have for the music of Stevie Nicks and the legendary Fleetwood Mac.”
Tom Ara, Katherine Imp, Alexander Steinberg
Ara: Co-Chair, Entertainment Transactions Practice
Imp: Associate, Entertainment Finance Practice
Steinberg: Of Counsel
Ara, Imp and Steinberg have been executing cutting-edge deals at the increasingly lucrative nexus of entertainment and tech. In 2021, the trio worked as a team advising TikTok on the launch of its first-ever NFT collection, while Ara and Steinberg repped South Korean VOD platform Coupang Play in its deal with the NFL to stream all the league’s games through 2023, as well as its pact to carry a live concert by Coldplay. Ara also led the cross-border legal team advising ZASH Global Media and Entertainment Corp. on its acquisition of social video platform Lomotif, Apple TV Plus in the expansion of its production footprint and Korean video game maker Smilegate Holdings and esports company Vindex in their respective investment and expansion initiatives.
Vast opportunities: “When we talk about the metaverse and Web3, I see that as nothing but green fields for entertainment lawyers because everything in the metaverse somebody has to create,” says Ara.
Karl Austen, Jamie Mandelbaum
Jackoway Austen Tyerman Wertheimer Mandelbaum Morris Bernstein Trattner & Klein
Austen and Mandelbaum co-manage one of the world’s largest boutique talent firms. Austen reps a wide range of multi-hyphenate talent, including Jonah Hill, Jude Law, Dave Bautista and Octavia Spencer. They recently structured a deal for “Super Pumped,” a new Showtime series from “Billions” creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien that stars client Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Mandelbaum sold Michael Patrick King’s “Sex and the City” update, “And Just Like That,” to HBO Max; got “Criminal Minds” creator Jeff Davis a two-series deal with Paramount Plus; and landed British creator Jed Mercurio (“Line of Duty”) a Disney deal to create series for the U.S. market.
Flexibility = productivity: “I don’t know any company that’s going to be rigid about how people work going forward,” Mandelbaum says. “Some people feel they’re more productive working at home. … People report that they’re working even longer hours, so they’re taking their commute time, and making that into work time.”
Paul Bernstein, Christopher O’Brien, Jim Nelson
Bernstein: Partner, Entertainment & Media Group
O’Brien: Entertainment & Media Partner; Co-Founder & Co-Chair, Blockchain & Digital Currencies Group
Nelson: Partner; Co-Chair, Technology, Media, & Commercial Group
The team at law firm Venable sees its practice as a one-stop-shop for actors, writers, producers, directors, athletes and content providers who want to expand their entrepreneurial endeavors, including NBA star Stephen Curry, whose Unanimous Media production company Bernstein and Nelson rep in corporate and intellectual property matters. The firm is also on the cutting edge with its blockchain and digital currencies practice, headed by O’Brien, which closed numerous NFT deals for talent and crypto platforms. O’Brien also repped Paradigm Talent Agency in the sale of its North American music booking business to Wasserman Media Group in March.
Personal brands: “The world is much more interesting now because people have these personal brands that can be used in all kinds of different areas,” says Bernstein, who also teamed with Nelson to handle Monty Hall Enterprises and Hatos Prods.’ sale of its iconic property “Let’s Make a Deal” to Marcus Lemonis and Nancy Glass.
Vice Chairman, Global Entertainment & Media Practice
Black’s role as an influential, go-to adviser to the upper echelon of industry leaders exemplifies what today’s consigliere must be. Entertainment and toy company Spin Master retained the attorney as lead counsel for its expansion into creating motion picture, television and digital content based on their expanding vault of IP, while Bill Gates and his Gates Ventures engaged him for expertise related to content creation. He also works with “Halo” video game developer Bungie.
A new world: “Digital platforms, both domestically and globally, are becoming more important than ever, which has called for significant shifts in dealmaking requirements, strategies and expectations,” says Black.
Gordon M. Bobb
Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano
Bobb’s clients include Ava DuVernay, David Oyelowo, Lena Waithe and a host of other creatives. He helped Waithe’s company, Hillman Grad, expand its reach with a record label deal with Def Jam Records and a book imprint deal with Zando Publishing. No matter the client, Bobb says adding platforms and verticals will help get their stories, messages and music to wider audiences.
Why it matters: “Other deals were great, but they were more traditional deals,” Bobb says. “These two [for Hillman Grad] are kind of outside my main wheelhouse, but represent a real opportunity to further impact those communities.”
Bourkoff and his boutique investment firm solidified their position as the A-list bankers for the media elite by being at the center of two of the year’s most notable M&A transactions: WarnerMedia-Discovery and Amazon-MGM. Each deal marked a milestone for the entertainment business. With AT&T’s spinoff of WarnerMedia into a joint venture with Discovery, Bourkoff had the tall order of persuading legendary investor John Malone and other longtime Discovery shareholders to clear a path for a deal by giving up their preferred voting shares. Bourkoff persuaded these barons to trade in beneficial voting rights for the sake of getting the deal done — and for giving the successor entity an easier path to a future sale. Amazon’s $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM, on the other hand, is the deal that many in Hollywood and Silicon Valley never thought they’d see. It marks the first major investment in old Hollywood studio assets by a new media giant.
Chris Brearton, Kevin Ulrich, Barclay Macon
Brearton: COO, MGM
Ulrich: CEO & Founder
Macon: Managing Director
Anchorage Capital Group
In a year of titanic deals, perhaps the one that sent the biggest shock waves through Hollywood was Amazon’s proposed $8.45 billion buy of MGM, placing the James Bond franchise and classic film properties under the tech behemoth. Brearton, the primary negotiator, was supported by chief general counsel Lesley Freeman. Ulrich and Macon participated from Anchorage, MGM’s largest shareholder. Also involved: LionTree and Morgan Stanley.
Teamwork prevails: “Concluding arrangements of this kind is challenging even in the best of times,” says Brearton. “The global pandemic has created obstacles and complexities to dealmaking unique to the present day. It was the extraordinary group at MGM, from the management team, to our incredible board, to our thoughtful financial and legal advisers, that worked tirelessly and maintained focus to make this happen. It was a team effort unlike any I have ever seen.”
Jason Blum, Charles Layton, Chris McCumber
CEO, Founder, Blumhouse
President, Blumhouse Prods.
President, Blumhouse Television
The trio haunting the executive suites of Hollywood’s preeminent horror factory scared up some impressive deals, most notably Blumhouse’s pact with Universal and Morgan Creek Prods. to produce a trilogy of sequels to “The Exorcist,” with a reported price tag of $400 million, spearheaded by Blum and Layton. McCumber, who joined in November 2020, was instrumental in crafting an agreement with WWE to develop scripted series “The United States vs. Vince McMahon” and a deal with ITV America to produce a slate of unscripted series, including the competition shows “Escape the Maze” and “Celebrity Castle” (working titles), a reimagining of ITV’s long-running international franchise “I’m a Celebrity…GetMeOutofHere,” set in a haunted house.
Horror across genres: Blum calls the latter a “no-brainer. It takes our expertise in television and melds it with our horror movie making magic experience into the perfect Blumhouse unscripted project.”
Nancy Bruington, Kenneth Deutsch, Rick Offsay, Jonathan West
Latham & Watkins
Attorneys Bruington and Offsay advised Skydance Media closing a $1 billion credit facility. Bruington helped events organizer Crossroads Live secure loan financing. Deutsch and Bruington counseled New Republic Pictures on its Paramount film slate financing. Deutsch advised the formation of personal management company M88. Deutsch’s other clients include A24, Anonymous Content (shared with Bruington) and Revolution Studios. Offsay worked for Illumination Entertainment in co-financing/ distribution of animated Super Mario Bros. movie and Silver Lake Partners on its minority investment in Ambassador Theatre Group. West advised Scooter Braun-led Ithaca Holdings in its $1 billion sale to South Korea’s HYBE, Ryan Seacrest for his iHeart Media contract extension and the cast of “Friends” on collectible merchandise for a TV anniversary special.
Busy year: Other firm clients include Eldridge Industries, KKR and Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment, Warner Bros., Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios, Endeavor, Platform One Media and Univision.
Todd Burach, Charles Frazier, Boris Gluzberg
Burach: Senior VP, Sports & Entertainment
Frazier, Gluzberg: Senior VPs; Team Leaders, Sports & Entertainment
City National Bank
When sports and entertainment took a serious pause during the pandemic, this group was able to execute strategies that kept clients in business. Frazier secured nearly $20 million in PPP loans for clients, preserving the jobs of thousands of crewmembers and support staff in the sports, commercial production and entertainment industries. Gluzberg brought in a top business management firm to sign a deal for use of AgilLink — the cloud-based accounting and bill payment platform, resulting in $2 million in new revenue for the bank. Burach, a leading private banker in the sports arena, provides banking services to three of the top 20 picks in the 2021 NFL draft and his clients signed more than $1 billion in new contracts during the 2021 free-agency period.
Staying focused: “The pandemic brought hardship to the sports and entertainment industries so it was critical for us to maintain communication during those times,” says Frazier. “It required us to put our arms around our clients and tell them that this was temporary and we still focused on executing plans.”
Partner; Global Chair Entertainment, Sports & Media
Latham & Watkins
Calabrese advises the Intl. Olympic Committee on TV rights and sponsorship deals; South Korea’s JTBC Studios purchase of a majority of Hollywood producer Wiip; and Chris Meledandri and his animation house Illumination Entertainment for co-financing and distribution. Other clients include Warner Bros., A24 Films, Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., Skydance Media and World Surf League/Kelly Slater Wave.
Plugged in: Calabrese finds the mantra that content is king now extends worldwide, as streamers spawn non-English language hits. “It’s increasingly important to have eyes, ears and feet on the ground in international territories.”
Chatham Law Group
With deep experience in TV dealmaking, Chatham closed deals for more than 800 episodes of syndicated television produced for the 2021-22 season involving talent contract negotiations across over 300 affiliates in 220 markets for shows with an aggregate budget of more than $150 million.
Feeling good about the deal: “I come from the perspective that the other side has to feel they’ve won too,” says Chatham, who led negotiations involving FX, Netflix, Searchlight and CBS. “Otherwise, you are creating unnecessary obstacles in the future for a partnership to truly flourish and reach its potential.”
Marcie Cleary, Victoria Cook, Hayden Goldblatt, Andrew Hurwitz
Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz
Cleary repped just-retired NBA player J.J. Redick and his ThreeFourTwo productions in negotiations for podcast “The Old Man and the Three,” and Jamie Granet Bederman’s deal to become showrunner for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Cook provided legal support for documentaries “John Lewis: Good Trouble” and “All In: The Fight for Democracy,” a film about Stacey Abrams co-directed by Cook client Liz Garbus. Goldblatt, who reps producers and financiers, negotiated distribution deals worth more than $110 million in the past year, advised clients on risk management strategies during COVID-19 production delays. Hurwitz, adviser to a broad range of clients, negotiated James Gunn’s deal to write, direct and exec produce series “Peacemaker” for HBO Max and Phil Johnston’s deals for directing and showrunning on multiple series based on Roald Dahl books for Netflix.
Wider net: “Companies are looking for creators of color and women creators more now,” says Cook. “There’s real interest in their voices.”
Brad S. Cohen
Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell
In recent months, Cohen has been busy cutting eight- and nine-figure music publishing and royalty catalog deals for big-name artists totaling more than a billion dollars. Over the course of his career, the attorney has repped everyone and everything from two U.S. presidents (including Ronald Reagan) to current client Grateful Dead Prods., and offered business and tax advice for corporate transactions spanning movies, TV, media, sports and tech.
Deal complexity: “Music has the most complicated income stream, and the law is not as clear as it could or should be.”
Ginsburg Daniels Kallis
While Daniels isn’t at liberty to discuss all his accomplishments, he enjoys working on boundary-crossing deals including the one that brought digital-native talent the Try Guys to Food Network. Because Daniels under- stands the nuances and intricacies of the digital and pre-digital worlds, he’s pioneering ways that traditional and nontraditional Hollywood businesses can clear the legal hurdles involved in merging those worlds.
Graphic detail: “I describe my practice as being like a Venn diagram: I sit at the intersection of content, talent, brands, platforms and technologies,” Daniels says. “I know how to navigate all those areas in order to put together a deal that makes sense for the client.”
Robert Darwell, Aaron Campbell
Campbell: Special Counsel
Darwell and Campbell both advised for Amazon in its $8.45 billion pending MGM buy, supported Amazon Studios’ acquisition of Cannes player “Annette,” advised streamer Peacock on acquisitions, and worked for Hemisphere Media acquiring the remaining 75% of streamer Pantaya as well as its content relationships. Darwell advises Disney Television Animation, including on new series “Monsters at Work.”
Long-term relationships: Darwell sees celebrities monetizing their fame by taking equity ownership stakes as ambassadors for consumer brands instead of simply being short-term brand presenters for fixed fees. Top gigs before could involve millions of dollars in pay “but now we’re talking about the potential of making hundreds of millions of dollars,” with deeper and longer brand associations paid in company stock.
Partner, Mergers & Acquisitions
New York-based Deckelbaum advises media conglomerate Advance Publications on its major stake in Discovery that pursues its blockbuster acquisition of WarnerMedia. He also reps private equity TPG Partners restructuring its portfolio company Cirque du Soleil Entertainment. Other clients include Imagine Entertainment, Legendary Entertainment, “South Park” creators’ Park County and Canada’s Shaw Communications.
Broader strategy: While companies in other industries break up for a narrower focus, Deckelbaum notes that the opposite is trending in media/ entertainment. Players bulk up and often seek to expand into adjacent businesses in the tumult of the digital revolution. “We’re still in the sandstorm,” he says.
Chris DeWolfe, Josh Yguado, Jae Yu, Rob Zakari
DeWolfe: Founder, CEO
Yguado: Co-Founder, COO
Zakari: Exec VP, Corporate Development & General Counsel
A series of strategic deals helped Jam City surpass $3 billion in all-time gross revenue, including a $350 million fundraise — Jam City’s largest to date — and the $165 million acquisition of Quebec-based mobile gaming studio Ludia from Fremantle, adding about 400 more employees to Jam City’s family, which now spans 10 offices in five countries. While titles cannot yet be announced, Zakari says in the next two years the company plans to release four new games tied to major IP, including some that originated with Ludia.
Decisive move: “[The Ludia acquisition] showed that the momentum and continued growth of our industry — gaming, and mobile gaming specifically — didn’t slow down,” Zakari says. “Where there was a lot of uncertainty, Jam City moved forward, very decisively with the fundraising round.”
Thomas Dey, Richard Gray
Dey: Founder, CEO
Gray: Managing Director
ACF Investment Bank
Having been colleagues for about 20 years, Dey and Gray are behind many of the biggest deals involving TV company acquisitions. This year, Gray served as investment banker for Tribeca Enterprises and Lupa Systems’ acquisition of M ss ng P eces, while the duo collaborated on Left/ Right Prods.’ renewal deal with Red Arrow Studios and oversaw the sale of 12 Nordic Entertainment Group companies to Fremantle.
International appeal: Dey says the pandemic spurred unprecedented audience interest in international programs. “ ‘Squid Games’ is a good example of that, how its popularity has kind of gone right around the planet for a Korean producer. I feel the same about a lot of European content. Now people are watching shows quite happily with subtitles, and they’re happy to see something where they don’t really know what’s going to happen next.”
E. Brian Dobbins
Dobbins, a manager/literary manager for more than two decades, has an impressive talent roster that includes Anthony Anderson, Kenya Barris, John M. Chu, Niecy Nash, Tracy Oliver and Tracee Ellis Ross. His executive producer credits include “Black-ish,” and he recently helped secure a deal for Barris to write, direct and produce a Richard Pryor biopic for MGM.
Leadership: “My job as a manager is to have a connection to my clients that is unique and distinctive from their agents,” Dobbins says.
Los Angeles Media Fund
LAMF functions as Jeffrey Soros’ family office for media, entertainment and sports investments, with Earnest working closely with co-CEOs Jeffrey Soros and Simon Horsman. The org’s investments include projects for feature films, scripted television, documentaries/docuseries, Broadway productions and live events. Earnest oversees those investments while also managing operations, finance and strategy.
Engagement above all: The ongoing effects of COVID have altered the way Earnest conducts business: “The pandemic forced companies to innovate, and accelerated the adoption of e-commerce in order to build direct relationships with consumers,” he says. “That shift currently manifests in the increasing importance of subscriber growth and each platform’s ability to engage and retain those subscribers.”
David Eisman, Glen Mastroberte
Eisman: Partner, Global Head of Entertainment Group
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
While Eisman is global head of Skadden’s entertainment group and co-heads the firm’s L.A. corporate practice, Mastroberte serves as senior entertainment counsel. Together they make buzzworthy high-stakes deals for clients in music, film and television, including deals that promote diverse content and support minority-led productions, like director-producer Kenya Barris’ agreement to form a new BET-branded
production studio with ViacomCBS.
Music to their ears: “Music label and catalog deals have been very active during the past year, driven in part by continued strong streaming demand and high trading multiples of major labels such as Warner and Universal,” Eisman says. “Our representation of Alamo Records in its sale to Sony Music, and Shamrock Capital in the purchase of rights to Taylor Swift’s music catalog, were examples of both strategy and private equity taking bets that the market will continue to grow.”
Craig Emanuel, David Hernand, Erik Hyman, Mickey Mayerson, Susan Williams
Emanuel: Partner; Chair, Entertainment & Media (Global)
Hyman: Partner; Chair, Entertainment & Media (Century City)
Mayerson, Williams: Partners; Co-Chairs, Entertainment & Media Finance
Attorney Emanuel advises Ryan Murphy on his ongoing Netflix deal; Anthony Bregman and Likely Story for theatrical “In the Heights” simultaneously on HBO Max; and Susan Montford, Don Murphy and Angry Films for Legendary Television’s adaptation of “Buck Rogers.” Hernand worked for advisers in MGM’s proposed sale to Amazon, South Korea’s HYBE taking a major stake in Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings and Celebrands raising $120 million. Hyman counsels multihyphenate Jac Schaeffer in her three-year deal with Marvel Studios/Fox, actor Anthony Ramos for an upcoming “Transformers” from Paramount and financier-producer New Slate Ventures (Magic Johnson doc series). Mayerson advises SpottedRisk in designing landmark COVID insurance policy and also an investor alleging securities fraud over movies claim- ing to have distribution contracts. Williams advises Comerica Bank in Hollywood lending, MidCap Financial for Chicken Soup financing an acquisition and Vine Alternative Investments getting a EuropaCorp majority stake and a film library transaction.
Protecting the backend: Hyman says movie talent deserves bonuses for success, so employment contracts need to address any potential switcheroo from theatrical to streaming. “You have to make sure your clients are getting paid properly however the movie is released, no matter what the studio promises.”
Willkie Farr & Gallagher
Epstein was a busy dealmaker even before departing Venable to help launch Willkie’s L.A. office. He handles confidential transactional and tax matters for corporate clients and talent. Among deals he can disclose: repping Spyglass Media Group in selling 200-plus feature film titles to Lionsgate, and handling the sale of Ryan Reynolds’ Maximum Effort Marketing to Mountain Digital.
Remotely frustrating: “There is huge value to being in the room, where you can look opposing counsel in the eye and read the pulse of the situation more accurately. I also missed the human interactions with my colleagues and the many friends in the industry with whom I work regularly.”
Matt Galsor, Sally James, Ryan Webb, Brandon Milostan
Galsor: Partner, Head of Entertainment
Webb, Milostan: Associates
Galsor advised the Russo brothers on their big-budget Netflix movie “The Gray Man” and separately on Universal’s “The Electric State.” The attorney’s other clients include Vin Diesel for a multipronged video game deal, James Cameron and David Fincher. James worked for Chris Hemsworth on his Hugo Boss clothing line and a fitness app; Larry Kasdan for remaking/re-imagining “The Bodyguard”; and XR Studios producing extended-reality content for Billie Eilish’s streamed concert. Webb advises Michael Mendelsohn’s Patriot Pictures (Nicolas Cage in “Prisoners of the Ghostland”), Marc Butan selling film drama “Worth” to Netflix and Barstool Sports’ reality TV series starring Deion Sanders.
Milostan counseled Univision launching its AVOD platform Toric Films on slate funding and, with Galsor, Tom Cruise for deals for future “Mission: Impossible” movies.
Schism to bridge: Galsor notes that Hollywood talent and employers no longer share common financial interest on film collaborations. Holly- wood companies owning streaming platforms alone benefit from sub- scriber growth and follow-on impact on stock price. That “creates a lot of serious issues that are difficult to ‘contract’ around, at least right now,” he says, though he expects some new formula to eventually emerge.
Michael Gendler, Kevin Kelly
Gendler & Kelly
Gendler & Kelly negotiated a five-year deal extension for Shonda Rhimes at Netflix and a four-year extension at CBS-Viacom for Alex Kurtzman. They also handled Miles Millar and Alfred Gough’s creation and showrunning pact for MGM/ Netflix series “Wednesday Addams,” and repped showrunner John Hoffman, who co-created client Steve Martin’s new hit Hulu series “Only Murders in the Building.” Business remained robust and “not a single employee was laid off, suspended or had their hours reduced during the pandemic,” says Kelly.
Maximizing talent leverage: In 2021, “consolidation at the studio, exhibition and distribution level translated into fewer buyers, less competition and the conglomerates comparing and then aligning deal parameters,” says Gendler. “It’s critical in this market for talent representatives to thoughtfully strategize and plan how to maximize leverage in order to secure the best creative and financial terms.”
Lev Ginsburg, Grace Kallis
Ginsburg Daniels Kallis
Ginsburg works closely with “Dune” star Timothée Chalamet, who has a supporting roles in Adam McKay’s Netflix comedy “Don’t Look Up,” and Luca Guadagnino’s new romantic horror film, “Bones and All.” As a team, Ginsburg and Kallis co-represent Oscar-nominee LaKeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) and renegotiated his contract on FX series “Atlanta.”
Transition to streaming: The changing film landscape has played a big part in their recent business. “A number of us worked through some challenging issues in 2021, including talent compensation for movies that ended up with day and date releases,” says Ginsburg. “There’s more work to be done, but we’re ending the year with fewer questions than when it started.”
André Des Rochers, Damien Granderson, Elizabeth Moody, Josh Sandler
Des Rochers, Granderson: Founding Partners
Moody: Senior Partner/Chair of New Media Practice
Granderson Des Rochers
Although each partner of this law firm has a specialty and separate client roster, they also form a powerful team. Des Rochers handles film and TV deals, Granderson reps music talent, Moody specializes in the new media and tech, while Sandler focuses on comedy. Des Rochers singled out his directing deals for Reinaldo Marcus Green (“King Richard”) and lucrative first-look deal for Barry Jenkins’ “Pastel” with HBO and A24 as highlights of the past year; Granderson — who reps H.E.R., Nicki Minaj and Kanye West, among others — handled numerous producer and side artist agreements to license West’s album “DONDA;” Moody struck a partnership for electronic dance music NFT platform RCRDSHP and a licensing deal between Triller and the National Music Publishers Assn.; Sandler cemented a deal to adapt Phoebe Robinson’s book “Everything’s Trash” into as series she’ll executive produce and star in.
Dream team: “I was on a call with a live-streaming partner that’s really doing some cool and innovative things and connected him with a company Damien’s been working with,” Moody says. “It’s fun for us to connect clients together.”
Partner; Vice Chair Entertainment, Sports & Media Industry Group
Latham & Watkins
For Endeavor, Hamill worked the $1.2 billion acquisition of OpenBet, and buyout of minority partners in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The attorney advised private-equity Silver Lake investing in analytics Pro Football Focus and Ambassador Theatre Group. In music, Hamill advised private-equity KKR purchasing $1 billion-plus in music assets from Kobalt Capital, investing in the OneRepublic music catalog for $200 million and creating a BMG joint venture.
New participants: “Opportunities to build scale and roll up a series of adjacent businesses are attractive to investors,” he says.
Briana Hill, Simon Pulman
Partners; Entertainment Group Co-Chairs
Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard
Despite working on opposite coasts, Hill and Pulman are a true team. Both are fascinated by how rapidly technology is changing the entertainment industry and creating new opportunities to merge video games and podcasts with more traditional media. Hill brokered deals with Lena Waithe and Gillian Flynn for Molly Stern’s new publishing company, Zando, while Pulman negotiated multiple rights deals for Blumhouse’s “The Battersea Poltergeist” podcast.
Future proofing: “You can’t just be a film lawyer or TV lawyer or video game lawyer anymore,” Hill says. “There’s a lot of overlap between industries, so the ability to be aware of how things are changing, and of the possible pitfalls and benefits, is really important.”
Covington & Burling
Hill spends considerable time advising sports leagues and networks about COVID-19’s impact on media rights and distribution deals, while also representing the Chicago Cubs, the Portland Trailblazers and the PGA, among others. He says representing the NFL in media distribution agreements with Amazon, CBS, ESPN/ ABC, Fox and NBC proved to be his biggest deal across all metrics.
Ballers: “The NFL does not renew its media deals very often and when it does you know they’re going to be really important deals that will help steer the future of the television and now streaming industries. It was incredibly rewarding to be a part of it.”
Founder & CEO
Hallwood Media and The Music Acquisition Corporation
For Jacobson’s newly founded Hallwood Media — a management company repping songwriters and music producers — recent highlights include David Stewart co-writing and producing “Dynamite” for BTS, which the company packaged. The former president of Geffen Records also founded The Music Acquisition Corporation (TMAC), a public SPAC with so much investor interest the IPO was oversubscribed at $230 million.
What art is: “You have to directly connect with your tribe,” Jacobson says of the new media landscape for musicians. “That comes down to interactivity, it comes down to being compelling and inspiring. Art is a reflection of inspiration and it’s the whole point of this in the first place.”
General Counsel; Exec VP; Head of Business & Legal Affairs
Upon joining ICM Partners in January, Johnson dove right into negotiating high-profile deals, most notably the yet-to-be-finalized mega-merger between ICM and CAA, news of which never leaked before it was officially announced. Johnson helped expand ICM Partners’ concerts division and played a key role ICM’s acquisition of Select Sports Group.
Mega-merger: “We reached a deal by focusing on how we could deliver as much value to our clients as possible — as we always do. The team was, and remains, committed to professionally tackling the task at hand with a focused discipline to get across the finish line.”
Jason Karlov, Carolyn Hunt, Rebekah Prince, Bryan Thompson
Karlov: Chair, Entertainment, Media and Sports Practice
Hunt, Prince, Thompson: Partners
Barnes & Thornburg
Karlov reps Bob Dylan for music and his branded bourbon, and T Bone Burnett, John Fogerty and Rufus Wainwright for their business and personal legal matters. The attorney also advises the Grateful Dead Music Publishing and the NFL in music activities such as half-time shows. Hunt focuses on entertainment capital, production financing and film/TV distribution. She advises City National Bank, East West Bank, Bank Hapoalim, MUFG Bank and Natixis Coficiné. Other clients include Bay Point Capital and Convergent Media Capital, with colleague Stephen Weizenecker. Handling celebrity endorsements, athletes, media, fitness/hospitality and licensing deals, Prince advises basketball’s Russell Westbrook in IP matters, including his Nike/Jordan co-branded apparel and equity investment/services deals; WNBA star/broadcaster Candace Parker in IP and corporate matters; and No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft Jalen Green. Working content deals for digital and traditional media, Thompson represents Yahoo, Fox, Twitch, boxing’s Top Rank and footballer Peyton Manning’s Omaha Prods.
Indie power: While major players attract most attention in the music investment boom, Karlov roots for the indies to get their share because they have always “done the things that grew the industry, drive the art,” and spark creativity.
Pocket.watch is the kids and family entertainment company behind some of the biggest YouTube creator-led franchises, including “Ryan’s World” and “Love, Diana.” The company’s content is seen in more than 80 territories and syndicated across 41 platforms, including OTT outlets Hulu, Amazon Prime, Paramount Plus and Peacock. Kaufman has negotiated agreements on behalf of the Internet’s most influential creators for young consumers while also delivering diverse programming that helps to amplify Black voices.
Spreading inclusiveness: “This past year, we worked closely with Google in licensing ‘Onyx Family Dinner’ to YouTube Originals, in support of the #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund,” says Kaufman.
Allison Kaye, Jennifer McDaniels
Kaye: Partner and President
McDaniels: General Manager
Scooter Braun Projects
Over the past 18 months, Kaye and McDaniels made deals that pushed Scooter Braun Projects forward despite pandemic challenges. Kaye was the architect behind Justin Bieber and the Kid Laroi’s hit song “Stay,” which has exceeded well over 800 million streams. Kaye and McDaniels have been instrumental in the success of SB Projects, which sold to Koreas HYBE in April for over $1 billion.
Win-win: “I think a great deal is where everyone wins,” says McDaniels. “We’re family with so many teams that we partner with, which makes those conversations constructive to the creativity and to the business.”
Arash Khalili, Steve Hurdle
Khalili: Co-Chair, Capital Markets & Corporate; Co-Chair, Sports
Hurdle: Deputy Chair, Capital Markets & Corporate
Loeb & Loeb
Khalili advised Netflix acquiring Night School Studio to enter the video games sector. Khalili’s other clients include gamer-influencer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Annapurna Pictures/ Annapurna Games, Carrie Underwood in her sports-drink Bodyarmor equity partnership and Dwyane Wade buying a Utah Jazz minority stake. Hurdle advised Element Partners’ $105 million buy of World Poker Tour, branding agency M ss ng P eces in its Tribeca Enterprises sale, content producer Sister (Elisabeth Murdoch, Jane Featherstone and Stacey Snider) and SuperDraft receiving a Caesars Entertainment investment.
Upheaval: Per Hurdle, “The pandemic accelerated the embrace of online gaming instead of lottery tickets and brick-and-mortar casinos,” whose declines crimped government tax revenues. Adds Khalili: “As a result of the evolving regulatory landscape, we are seeing more adaptation of media content for the creation platforms for gambling and head-to-head game play.”
Steve H. Kram, Steven E. Blume, John M. Mass
Kram: Co-Founder, CEO
Blume: Co-Founder, Chief Operations Officer, CFO
Content Partners is a leading independent owner of major films, TV shows, music and other entertainment IP, but it doesn’t develop, produce or distribute anything. Instead, it acquires cash flows and copyrights from writers, producers, directors, actors and other profit participants. The company was founded in 2005 by Kram and Blume, who had been CFOs of William Morris and Brillstein-Grey Management, respectively. Mass, co-founder of personal management company Oasis Media Group, joined in 2015. The firm manages more than a billion dollars’ worth of assets, including Revolution Studios and the CSI franchise, which it co-owns with CBS. In June, the company purchased a controlling interest in a 127-title film library, and two months later it acquired 27 titles with a cumulative worldwide box office take of more than $2.9 billion.
Growing expectations: When the company was founded, “I thought it would be unbelievable if we ever spend $50 million buying these things,” Kram says.
Linda Lichter, James Feldman
Lichter: Founding Partner
Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler Feldman & Clark
There’s a simple reason for the steady stream of deals coming out Lichter and Feldman’s West Hollywood boutique law firm. A longtime champion of female and indie filmmakers, Lichter has a roster that includes directors Niki Caro, Chloé Zhao, Marc Forster, Miguel Arteta, DGA president Lesli Glatter and Rebecca Chaiklin (Netflix’s “Tiger King”), along with “Big Bang Theory” co-creator Bill Prady, and writer-producers Andrew Miller and Terri Miller (CBS’ “The Equalizer”). Feldman’s clients include director Steven Soderbergh, who helmed two films during the pandemic (HBO Max’s “No Sudden Move” and “Kimi”), and produced the Oscar telecast under strict COVID-19 protocols. Other clients include director Barry Jenkins (Disney’s “The Lion King” prequel), Viola Davis (Sony’s upcoming “The Woman King”), Dev Patel (produced-director-star of Netflix’s “Monkey Man”) and actors Kiefer Sutherland, Dax Shepard, Lily-Rose Depp and “Saturday Night Live” cast member Chloe Fineman.
Demand for excellence: “As long as you have good clients who make good content, someone’s going to want what they’re making,” says Feldman.
Matthew Loeb, Mike Miller, Carol Lombardini, Peter Rice, Ken Ziffren
Loeb: Intl. President, IATSE
Miller: Member, Executive Board, IATSE
Lombardini: President, AMPTP
Rice: Chairman, Disney General Entertainment Content
Ziffren: Partner, Ziffren Brittenham
With his unit on track to produce an unprecedented volume of TV content in the coming years, Rice knew that contract negotiations between IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers were not going well. He also knew that no one in top management at the conglomerates that make up the AMPTP was paying any attention. On the other side of the table, IATSE leaders Loeb and Miller knew the 2021 round of negotiations would be tough given the changes in the industry. For legal assistance, they reached out to éminence grise of industry dealmakers Ziffren. As Rice began to engage with AMPTP president Lombardini on IATSE, Ziffren was a welcome liaison who helped the sides communicate effectively and focus on key pressure points.
Eyes on the prize: Even as the public rhetoric began to heat up and a strike deadline loomed, the core group never lost confidence that an agreement was in reach. The work that kept Hollywood from going on strike was achieved with a series of phone calls that moved the sides ever closer to compromise.
President, Programming & Original Content
Magnus closed an impressive number of rights deals over the past 12 months, including a 10-year agreement with the Southeastern Conference for football and men’s basketball for ESPN and ABC, a 12-year agreement to continue ESPN’s exclusive coverage of Wimbledon from 2024 through 2035, an extension of ESPN’s deal with Major League Baseball, plus a long-term pact with the NFL that put ESPN/ABC back in the rotation of networks that carry the Super Bowl and extended ESPN’s deal to carry “Monday Night Football” through 2033.
Efficiency: “We renewed ‘Monday Night Football’ during COVID with a grand total of one in-person meeting, which was astounding when you consider how complicated that deal is,” he says.
Partner; Global Co-Head of Mergers & Acquisitions
New York-based Marell is lead counsel to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in its $8.45 billion pending sale to Amazon. He advised music company Reservoir Holdings and bowling centers operator Bowlero becoming publicly traded through mergers. Marell also repped Hemisphere Media in acquiring the remaining 75% stake in its Pantaya venture for $124 million.
It’s an M&A world: Regarding the current mergers & acquisitions boom, he sees “continued strong activity into 2022.” The driving forces are easy credit, the streaming revolution, the overall post-COVID economic rebound and strong balance sheets of strategic buyers.
Kevin Masuda, Ben Ross
Partners; Co-Chairs, Media, Entertainment & Technology Practice
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
This deal-sealing duo complement each other well and collaborate in planning the strategic direction of the media, entertainment & technology practice group. While Ross worked on high-profile deals for Universal Pictures and WndrCo and helped Screenshop acquire Snapchat, Masuda repped Square in its $297 million acquisition of a majority stake in Jay-Z’s Tidal platform and advised the sale of LeBron James and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Ladder to technology fitness platform Openfit.
Big deal for deals: On representing Blackstone and Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs’ newly formed media company in acquiring Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, Ross says: “A challenge in these kinds of transactions involves balancing the celebrity’s continuing relationship with the company, including defining the included — and excluded — activities and services, and creating aligned interests and meaningful incentives, while protecting the celebrity’s brand, vision and independence.”
Eric McCrath, Tessa Schwartz, Justin Haan
McCrath: M&A Partner; Co-Chair, Global Corporate Department
Schwartz: Managing Partner
Haan: Corporate Partner
Morrison & Foerster
This trio helped engineer the recent proposed acquisition of Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital visual effects powerhouse by Unity, a leading platform for creating and operating interactive real-time 3D content. The transaction, seen as a major move in the burgeoning area of virtual production, would transfer to Unity Weta’s talent pool of 275 engineers, dozens of cutting-edge digital tools and a library of digital assets. Per the agreement, Unity will pay $1.625 billion for the package. Merchant bank the Raine Group served as exclusive financial adviser to Weta Digital.
Eye-popping visuals: “This was a special deal to work on,” says McCrath. “The transaction paves the way for Unity to integrate Weta Digital tools onto their platform so that more creators have access to Weta’s industry-defining technology and can leverage these tools to create stunning new content.”
Geragos & Geragos
Meiselas went from working as a civil-rights attorney fighting for victims of police brutality to repping quarterback Colin Kaepernick in his grievance suit against the NFL for allegedly blackballing him. That led him to his becoming the general counsel for Kaepernick Endeavors. In recent months, he’s handled Kaepernick’s pact with Netflix for “Colin in Black & White,” his first-look deal with Disney/ESPN and his children’s book publishing contract with Scholastic, as well as the creation of his publicly traded SPAC that raised $350 million.
Overlapping issues: Working with Kaepernick on these deals “has created awareness around some of those same issues I was fighting for as a litigator,” says Meiselas.
Linda Michaelson, Shaun Clark
Michaelson: Partner; Leader of Corporate & Securities Practice Group
Michaelson and Clark both advised Lionsgate purchasing a majority stake in the Spyglass Media film library with a multiyear, first-look deal and Sony Pictures Entertainment acquiring family/faith streamer Pure Flix. Meanwhile, Clark reps Spotify’s podcast business, the Rare Beauty management team partnering with Selena Gomez for her cosmetics line and Wevr for a virtual reality experience based on Jon Favreau’s “Gnomes & Goblins.”
Good deals for celebs: Clark finds that celebrity presenter pacts these days can pay in equity that’s “beyond your typical cash-and-carry endorsement deal” of the past, adding that the partner product/service wants a grant of name/likeness; long-term and deep celebrity involvement in the brand; and often vests the equity compensation over time or when goals are achieved.
Darrell D. Miller
Partner, Founding Chair, Entertainment & Sports Dept.
Repping A-listers including Angela Bassett, Courtney B. Vance and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Miller leverages his clients’ reach across many different platforms to generate opportunities. He recently repped the NAACP in a multiyear deal with CBS Television Studios to develop content from Black creators and artists.
Multitasking: “If you look at the paths of the most successful artists, they’re not just living off of one check or speaking to one audience,” says Miller.
Schuyler “Sky” Moore, Alla Savranskaia, Mark Muir
Moore advised Cross Creek Pictures for big-budget animated film “Ladybug” at Netflix. He also repped sellers in separate sales of digital distributor Vertical Entertainment and also Vancouver-based Johnson Production Group, and owners of VOD platform Gravitas Ventures. With a talent-centric practice, Muir advised producer Marc Evans for his Netflix superhero sequel “The Old Guard 2” and thriller “The Mother”; filmmaker Paul Schrader; Amuse Group USA bringing Japanese IP to Hollywood; and talent agreements for YouTube channel Donut Media. Muir worked Tom Cruise’s deals for the next two “Mission: Impossible” movies and Chris Hemsworth film gigs, with colleague Matt Galsor. Savranskaia’s clients include Univision launching its streaming service, James Cameron for two NatGeo documentaries, sci-fi novelist Ray Bradbury’s estate for film/ TV projects and Alexander Tsekalo/Sreda Global on various matters.
Futurevision: Moore sees tectonic shifts ahead for Hollywood with “expansion of entertainment through a ‘metaverse’ where people interact wearing VR goggles, online gaming and theaters converting to location-base VR centers. But the biggest shift, which will turn Hollywood upside down, will be the ground-up creation of entire films using artificial intelligence, which is coming sooner than you think.”
President, Global Business & Legal Affairs
Oh has been an essential dealmaker at David Ellison’s Skydance Media since joining in 2018, working now across all company units, including film, TV, interactive, animation and new media. In the past year, Oh brokered with Amazon the streaming release of “The Tomorrow War,” starring Chris Pratt, as well as the film’s Chinese release. Other recent projects: a multiyear partnership between with Apple that includes Skydance Animation’s first two feature films, “Luck” and “Spellbound,” plus a slate of animated TV series; and pact to grow the company’s deal with Concord by teaming with Jennifer Lopez to adapt IP based on Concord’s catalog of musicals, including works of Broadway’s Rodgers & Hammerstein.
What comes next? “We’ve seen an unprecedented migration of top-level talent (both in front and behind the camera) to streaming platforms across both TV and feature-length productions,” says Oh. “It will be interesting to see if this momentum continues in a post pandemic industry.”
Partner; Co-Chair, Music Industry Practice Group
Covington & Burling
From content distribution and marketing to monetization, data collection, and licensing, Perry’s deals reshape the future for power-player clients in sports, film, music and TV. He’s closed numerous mega-million-dollar deals, and especially enjoyed helping Bing Crosby’s heirs sell specific music, film and TV rights to Primary Wave, and creating an NFT collectible platform for Fox’s “The Masked Singer,” MaskVerse.
NFT innovations: “Trying to ensure the legal frameworks we put in place [for MaskVerse] could account both for where things are, and where things might go, presented some interesting, but fun, challenges for our team. It required us to be creative, balancing practical and legal considerations.”
Elsa Ramo, Michelle Chang, Chad Russo, Zev Raben
Ramo: Founder & Managing Partner
Russo, Raben: Senior Associates
This team had a huge year during uncertain times, making, among others, deals for STX football drama “National Champions” and the John Travolta-Bruce Willis action-thriller “Paradise City.” Ramo works with the Jim Henson Co., Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment and Kevin Hart’s HartBeat Prods., while Russo is at the forefront of first-time deals for emerging media and podcasts. Chang works with Boardwalk Pictures (“Chef ’s Table,” “Cheer”) and Scout Prods. (“Queer Eye”), and independent producers such as Yale Entertainment. Raben takes the lead on major financing deals, including $60 million for Bondit Media Capital and over $80 million worth of independent film financing projects.
Realistic attitude: “Our innovative approach to representation ensures that our clients not only produce their content, but do it in a deal structure that makes sense,” says Ramo, during a time when “COVID risks cannot be completely mitigated.”
Alexis Robinson, Daniel Schnapp
Partners, Entertainment, Technology & Advertising Practice
Robinson and Schnapp advised client News Corp. on getting paid globally by Google for its digital content, and also client Spotify on 200 licensing and talent agreements in the past year. Other clients include Peloton for licensing music, ASCAP on its Songview venture, esports infrastructure software provider Vindex, Swedish music rights collective STIM and Async Art for its NFT platform.
Brand engagement: Robinson says mainstream brands are piling into entertainment and sports with sponsorships, events, experiential activities and products/services tailored to specific demographics. “There’s no longer a one-size-fits-all media strategy.”
Shareholder & Co-Chair, Atlanta Entertainment & Media Practice
“I always feel the need to be available,” says jazz-guitar enthusiast Rosen, who, during the pandemic, negotiated more than 175 deals. The attorney has served as Kenny Chesney’s exclusive dealmaker for more than 20 years, with recent highlights including the negotiation of a 2022 stadium tour agreement and renewal of No Shoes Radio on Sirius XM. Other clients include Koe Wetzel and Kolby Cooper.
Opportunities galore: “Since the shutdown, there’s been increased activity with catalog and content sales, between royalty streams, masters and compositions,” Rosen says. “There’s a wealth of new buyers in a target-rich environment.”
Chairman, Global Entertainment & Media Practice
Rosenbloum oversees global content deals and provides strategic counseling for Bytedance, the fastest-growing internet company in China, and its ultra-popular TikTok app. He worked with digital payments company Square on the acquisition of Tidal, and with Meta (né Facebook) on its strategic relationships with the recorded music industry.
Year of growth: “There’s been a tremendous explosion of virtual reality, live stream and video streaming content over the last year, with concert events making a comeback,” says Rosenbloum. “It’s been one of our top years for growth and new business, and we hired a significant number of new attorneys.”
Joe Russo, Anthony Russo, Mike Larocca, Jason Bergsman
Russo brothers: Founders
Over the course of a 12-month period starting in 2021, AGBO will be in production on nearly $1 billion worth of net production budgets. Projects include the “The Gray Man,” with Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, which represents Netflix’s most significant financial commitment to date for a new original movie, and global spy thriller series “Citadel,” which stands as one of Amazon’s most ambitious TV productions. Coming up: “Extraction 2,” the sequel to Netflix’s most-watched original movie, and perhaps the biggest theatrical greenlight in recent years, Universal’s “The Electric State.”
World-spanning projects: “The internationalization of IP has significantly increased viewership and attention,” says Larocca. “This trend has been a focus of AGBO since inception. We’ve seen a bigger appetite from studios, networks and streaming platforms for ‘universe’ projects, which we define as those with a rich, expansive mythology that can engage audiences over many years through multiple installments of film, TV and interactive/ digital productions.”
Partner; Vice Chair, Entertainment, Sports & Media Industry Group
Latham & Watkins
When her client London-based Moonbug Entertainment sold to Kevin Mayer/Tom Staggs/Blackstone in November, Savill took pride in the deal. She advised the kids’ content outfit that is reportedly valued at $3 billion in that deal; and also for earlier acquisitions and financings. London-based Savill also repped KKR buying music publishing/recording assets for $1.1 billion from Kobalt Capital; and stage events Crossroads Live in international acquisitions, a joint venture and financing.
Private equity steps in: While the financiers in media and entertainment used to be niche players, Savill observes that now the biggest private equity outfits have arrived: “Entertainment companies are recognized as investment vehicles in a way they have not been previously.”
David Sands, Aerin Snow
Sands and Snow advised ICM Partners on its sale to CAA, ICM acquiring London-based sports agency Stellar Group and also acquiring Select Sports, which reps NFL players and execs. The duo also work for Doman Capital, the multi-strategy fund that buys royalty streams. Meanwhile, Sands advised Spotter, which licenses YouTube videos, on recent financing, and also numerous executive employment contracts, including Ravi Ahuja for Sony Pictures Television.
Dollar destination: Sands says cyber- space videomakers raising production quality and enlarging their staff will soon take center stage: “This creator economy will probably be one of the top-three destinations for investors and advertising dollars in the next three years.” Viewership and advertising spending growth is already eye-popping.
Partner & Co-Chair, Entertainment Dept.
Twice elected to the Board of Governors of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Rubin’s clients include actor Martin Sheen (“Grace and Frankie”), and Scripps Network in its IP transfer of “Big Nate” to Nickelodeon as an animated series.
Value of experience: “Young social-media influencers are realizing that they need entertainment lawyers, and they want young and inexpensive. Often they don’t understand the full value of the veteran’s mindset when it comes to dealmaking.”
Robert B. Schumer
Partner; Former Chair, Corporate Department
Schumer represents Advance Publications that is a stakeholder in the proposed merger of Discovery, in which Advance is the largest shareholder, with WarnerMedia. He also repped producer Wiip in its sale of a majority stake in itself. The New York-based attorney also counts ViacomCBS among his clients.
Size matters: In the consolidation wave, Schumer says “size seems to make a difference” as buyers seek large scale to achieve economies in program pricing.
Tara Senior, Todd Weinstein
Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano
Despite working on opposite coasts, Senior and Weinstein make a formidable team. Along with co-heading the firm’s Alternative Practice Group, Senior and Weinstein represent production companies, individuals, influencers and creators, and currently oversee $200 million-plus in production deals. They believe their job goes beyond striking advantageous deals to ensuring even the tiniest of details in those deals are properly executed, and agree that the biggest deal they experienced over the past year or so was that none of their clients went out of business due to pandemic shut downs.
Teaser: “There’s a deal we’re working on right now that we can’t cite,” Weinstein says. “It could potentially be one of the biggest in TV history — if we can close it.”
David Shaheen, Reggie Lang, Jeff Bazoian, Darian Singer
Shaheen: Head, Entertainment Industries & West Region
Lang, Bazoian, Singer: Managing Directors
J.P. Morgan’s L.A.-based entertainment team has been consistently busy, structuring, negotiating and arranging financing for film, television, music, digital media and video game companies, but the nature of their work has morphed over the course of the pandemic. Over the past year they have arranged revolving credit facilities for Amblin Partners ($650 million), song fund Hipgnosis ($600 million), Skydance Media ($500 million), Endeavor Content ($430 million), Scopely ($200 million) and United Talent Agency ($100 million), and led IPOs for Applovin Corp. ($2 billion) and Believe ($339.7 million). They were also sole adviser on Hasbro’s $385 million sale of Entertainment One Music and HYBE’s acquisition of Ithaca Holdings for $994 million.
Market shifts: “For the bulk of 2020, it was mostly capital markets and emergency liquidity facilities and raising capital to help companies get through the pandemic and the business disruption,” says Shaheen. “Then, in 2021, we saw a lot more M&A action and you were able to find capital both in the debt and equity markets.”
Partner & Leader, Digital & Technology Transactions
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips
With a robust client list that includes digital influencers such as Disguised Toast and Nickmercs, and gaming and esports culture and lifestyle companies XSET, Subnation and Loud Team, Sherman has established himself as the premium advisor for companies and talent in the rapidly shifting esports industry. Sherman also repped leading independent podcast network Kast Media on outside general counsel matters, including corporate structuring and its series-A financing.
Showbiz revolution: “The massive growth of the creator economy, with new business models, tech tools and solutions, is changing Hollywood, media and entertainment as we know it,” he says.
Co-Chair, Entertainment Finance Practice
Sherman has been facilitating big-ticket purchases of music rights and the companies that own them, most notably repping Concord Music in multiple nine- and 10-figure financings, as well its acquisition of Downtown Music, and HarbourView Equity Partners, a newly formed company with a billion dollars in funding to spend on music copyrights and related assets.
Pushing values up: Sherman attributes the rising value of music rights to a multitude of factors, many of them streaming-related, including the maturation of social-media and gaming platforms (TikTok, Twitch, Roblox), as well as “overseas markets that historically were not reliable [that] are now actually contributing to the overall music revenue stream.”
Chairman, New Media, Motion Picture, Television, Theater & Sports Group
Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
Shire’s theater clients include a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cinderella,” which opens in 2022; the “Music Man,” starring Hugh Jackman, another 2022 opener; and two already playing productions, “Springsteen on Broadway” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” featuring Jeff Daniels. Shire also works with LeBron James on all his deals, including ultra-high-dollar pact with Nike; Gayle King on her all her deals; Spike Lee on all his endeavors, including the HBO special “NYC Epicenters.”
Fighting for clients: “We try to be collaborative and do things in a collegial manner, but people know we’re tough and we’re going to get our clients the best deal possible.”
Marc H. Simon
Partner; Founding Chair, Entertainment & Sports Dept.
Simon has given legal advice to Higher Ground Prods., Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, in connection with agreements with Netflix and Spotify, and repped Bil Nye “The Science Guy” in his negotiations for episodic series “The End Is Nye.”
In with the new: “The podcast deals I’m doing, the influencer deals, all of the original unscripted episodic deals, all of these were not routine agreements as recently as five years ago,” says Simon. “Now these are deals that I’m handling on a weekly basis. Entertainment law is always exciting and evolving.”
Amy Siegel, Lindsay Conner, Bruce Tobey, Silvia Vannini
Siegel: Partner; Co-Head, Entertainment, Sports & Media
Conner, Tobey, Vannini: Partners, Entertainment, Sports & Media
O’Melveny & Myers
Siegel advised designer-businessman Henry R. Muñoz III acquiring Will Ferrell’s Funny or Die, Genius Sports becoming wagering data provider to NFL and tech start-up Looped in agreements with major media partners. Conner, who recently joined the firm, in the past advised Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1 in selling its VOD platform Gravitas Ventures as well as China-based Perfect World Pictures’ refinancing its 50-film slate funding. At O’Melveny he repped the Tom Clancy literary estate in film/TV rights and New Republic Pictures in a film financing. Per Conner, “Entertainment companies, private equity and high-net-worth worth individuals are anxious to acquire content and the companies that make it.” Tobey advised WarnerMedia on the TMZ sale; CAA acquiring marketing agency Tandem and selling its majority stake in producer Wiip; and Starz’s output deal for Universal live-action movies. Vannini counseled ViacomCBS Networks Intl. buying a majority stake in Spanish-language content producer Fox TeleColombia & Estudios TeleMexico; with Tobey, Lionsgate selling its controlling interest in vid-streamer Pantaya; and with Siegel advising South Korea’s CJ ENM on buying an 80% stake in Endeavor Content.
Navigating the new: Siegel says things now get really interesting as the metaverse, NFTs and new digital interactive platforms sprout. “As technologies and use of content in our industry evolve,” she says, “we’ll be helping clients navigate copyright and IP issues along the way.”
Chris Spicer, Marissa Roman Griffith, Alissa Miller, Vanessa Roman
Spicer: Partner, Entertainment & Media Practice Head
Griffith, Miller, Roman: Partners
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Miller is the lead lawyer for MUFG Bank in a revolving credit facility for Neon for films such as “Pig” and “Parasite.” Roman advised Comerica Bank in a $172 million loan to JW4 Prods. in connection with “John Wick: Chapter 4,” and East West Bank in a series of financing deals for various TV and film projects. Griffith is lead lawyer for Hello Sunshine, an affiliate of Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine lifestyle company, in obtaining a new multimillion-dollar revolving loan facility, and for J.P. Morgan Chase in the refinancing of Amblin Partners’ credit facility in connection with the renewed partnership with Universal. Over the past year Spicer repped clients in deals totaling over $1 billion, including Comerica Bank in multiple loans and MUFG Bank as lender and agent on a $125 million secured revolving credit facility to NRP Film Investments II, a subsidiary of New Republic Pictures.
Wide shot: “You have to focus on the big picture and your clients’ needs,” says Miller. “We do a good job at that.”
Brian Stearns, Michael Grimes, Ari Emanuel, Patrick Whitesell
Stearns, Grimes: Managing Directors, Morgan Stanley
Whitesell: Executive Chairman
Stearns and Grimes of Morgan Stanley launched several notable transactions that gave a sense of the Hollywood to come. In a seismic move for the agency world, the pair helped Endeavor bring a public offering in April — a stock that continues to outperform expectations, especially for an entity built on the back of a talent agency. Endeavor’s Emanuel and Whitesell were heavily involved in the initiative. And the Endeavor IPO came only months after a similar deal that Stearns and Grimes had performed for Israeli mobile gaming company Playtika, ushering in a reported $15 billion valuation. But their most game-changing deal, arguably, was Amazon’s proposed $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM because it symbolized a new era in entertainment by moving a legacy premium film and TV operation that owns a prestigious library into a future-facing streaming giant still assembling its creative identity.
Partner & Co-Chair, Entertainment Dept.
After joining the firm in fall 2020, Stone, a 30-year Los Angeles Kings fan, has become a key member of the company as a transactional attorney, representing actors, writers, and directors. Notable clients include Daniel Craig, for whom he just negotiated a deal on the “Knives Out” franchise, and producer Dean Devlin’s company, Electric Entertainment, which just launched big-budget TV series “Leverage: Redemption” on IMDBtv.
Change breeds action: In a year that included societal and industry-specific challenges, Stone remained busy, crediting that to the “continued vertical integration of the production, distribution and exploitation of film and television content.”
Partner, Global Chair, Media & Entertainment Group
Hughes Hubbard & Reed
Over the past year, Syrkin led major deals including Roku’s acquisition of Nielsen’s advanced video advertising business and integration of Nielsen’s TV measurement services into the Roku platform. He also handled the launch of HBO Max in Latin America, its first international market, acting as primary outside counsel and leading the network through negotiations crucial to the launch.
Lightning in a bottle: “Social media drives the discussion [about content],” Syrkin says. “It’s all inter-connected. A well-managed, global promotion that’s grass-roots driven will make something catch on like wildfire and the distribution of the content is the last mile of what you’re doing.”
Matthew C. Thompson, Stephen Fronk, Richard Petretti, Rusty Weiss
Thompson: Partner; Leader, Media and Entertainment
Fronk, Petretti, Weiss: Partners
Thompson advised major record labels acquiring more than $1.5 billion in music assets over the past 12 months; and MGM’s largest individual shareholders Mark Burnett/Roma Downey in the pending studio sale. Thompson also assisted Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia buying XFL football, and their Teremana tequila startup. Fronk focuses on digital media and technology, including digital content distribution. He advised longtime client Amazon in a strategic transaction with Disney creating the custom Alexa digital assistant Hey, Disney for use at Walt Disney World Resort and at home. Financial transactions maven Petretti handled more than $1.5 billion in Hollywood-focused credit deals in the past year, repping lenders and financiers. Weiss works the intersection of entertainment and technology, representing IMAX in a tech joint venture and soccer org Concacaf licensing popular music for big matches. Weiss also provides support on intellectual-property financial transactions across the firm. Thompson, Petretti and Weiss are based in Century City; Fronk in San Francisco.
Yesterday’s bargains: Thompson sees the ongoing M&A boom across Hollywood and music driven by ample capital, buyers aggregating content to feed their direct-to-consumer media platforms and escalating values, making last year’s pricey acquisitions seem like bargains this year. “There are billions upon billions of dollars looking for a home,” he says.
In April, Wasserman finalized the acquisition that saw Paradigm sell off its music operation, reportedly worth $150 million-$200 million, amid the hardships imposed by COVID. The newly spawned entity, Wasserman Music, provides business development as well as operational and marketing support for top-tier clients who include Kenny Chesney, Coldplay, Billie Eilish, Imagine Dragons, Dave Matthews Band, Janelle Monáe, Phish and Ed Sheeran.
Incremental growth: Wasserman sees his mission as maintaining “a focus on our people and culture after a year that saw systemic challenges in the industry … and adding a new and dynamic vertical to our business.”
Leah Weil, Erik Moreno, John Fukunaga, Maria Anguelova
Weil: Senior Exec VP & General Counsel
Moreno: Exec VP, Mergers & Acquisitions and Corporate Development
Fukunaga: Exec VP, Deputy General Counsel
Anguelova: Senior VP, Corporate Development
Sony Pictures Entertainment
The four Culver City-based execs carry out the movie studio’s expansion strategy when acquisitions are involved. They worked buying anime streamer Crunchyroll for $1.2 billion, the $1 billion sale of digital GSN Games, the merger of studio assets in India with Zee Entertainment with a $7.5 billion total value, acquiring faith & family-content streamer Pure Flix and entering the kids animation programming arena by buying Silvergate. Weil, the studio’s most senior legal executive, also oversees compliance, labor relations, global policy, external affairs and the social responsibility group. Moreno works strategy, executing on acquisitions/ divestures, interfacing with the parent in Japan and integration of acquisitions. Fukunaga serves as the corporate lawyer overseeing seven offices around the world. Anguelova is chief deal negotiator, including working some late-night marathon bargaining sessions.
Fearless expansion: Aiming not to spread its resources thinly across the broad media and entertainment landscape, the studio is picking spots where it can dominate and achieve breakthroughs. This go-large philosophy is demonstrated by deals to plant larger footprints in the anime genre with Crunchyroll and in India connecting with Zee. “You invest fearlessly where you have strategic strength,” says Moreno. “That’s our mantra.”
Stephen Weizenecker, Joel Katz, Andrew Velcoff
Katz: Senior Counsel
Barnes & Thornburg
An authority on tax incentives, Weizenecker advises MGM, Viacom Intl., Fox’s Bento Box Entertainment, Bounce Media, TV One and U.K.’s Ingenious Media. His finance clients include Bay Point Capital, City National Bank, Convergent Media Capital and Natixis Coficine (colleague Carolyn Hunt handles their production financing). With a music-centric practice, Katz repped the Country Music Assn. for a four- year extension to TV rights for CMA’s awards show with ABC Television, Hulu and Disney-Plus. Katz also negotiates executive employment contracts, including Steve Carless at Warner Records. Katz recently joined the law firm. Velcoff, who arrived in summer, focuses on distribution for film/TV content; and intellectual property. Velcoff ’s clients include Disney, Discovery, Turner Broadcasting, and New Line. The trio is based in Atlanta where film, TV and video game production booms from generous state and other subsidies.
Atlanta rising: Weizenecker says the law firm’s entertainment and media headcount in Atlanta has grown from two to 10 since 2008 as content-industry spending in the area soared to $4 billion annually today. “You have the right environment” with talent and geography, the attorney says. He expects more growth as the industry builds out technology capabilities on top of its production foundation.
Vice Chair, Music Industry
Loeb & Loeb
White repped long-time client South Korea’s BTS/HYBE on a deal with the Universal Music Group for global record distribution, a talent deal for the “BTS Meal” and its Korean dipping sauces to McDonald’s locations worldwide, and agreements for hit single “Butter” and its Megan Thee Stallion Remix. The New York-based attorney advised Christina Aguilera on her Spanish-language album and Nintendo endorsement deal. White handles music licensing and talent deals for Citibank and Uber; TV production/music deals for Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine; Don Omar’s recording pact with Saban Music Group; and a foreign sub-publishing deal and star-studded artist album for Diane Warren.
Publishing prowess: White also advises Kobalt Publishing and Primary Wave separately on various music publishing acquisitions.