With the business facing a double whammy of soaring interest rates and economic contraction, these players know how to fight for their clients and their companies – and generate growth against the odds.
Allen Media Group
Allen continues to move steadily closer to his still far-off goal of building the biggest media company in the world. In 2022, his Allen Media Group (AMG) bought the free ad-supported streaming service HBCUGO.TV, closed deals for it to carry Southwestern Athletic and Intercollegiate Athletic Conference games, then secured a TV distribution deal with CBS owned-and-operated duopoly stations. He also bought Black News Channel for $11 million, launched the streaming service Sports.TV and added eight Asian entertainment channels to AMG’s AVOD platforms Local Now, Sports.TV and theGrio.
Ahead of the curve with AVOD: “Everybody was asking consumers to pay this, pay that [for SVOD services],” he says. “We said, ‘Look, the world’s favorite word is free.’”
Lisa Alter, Katie Baron
Alter Kendrick & Baron
Alter and Baron have handled over $3 billion in deals in the past 12 months alone. The duo repped Primary Wave Music Publishing in acquiring various interests in the music catalogs and master recordings of James Brown, Def Leppard, Stevie Nicks, Luther Vandross, Tom Whitlock, the Strokes, Regent Music Corp. and Jewel Music Publishing Co., America, Gerry Goffin, Chris Isaak, Patrick Leonard, Olivia Newton-John, Culture Club, Alice in Chains and many others.
Sound investments: “The music industry was the investment world’s best kept secret,” says Alter. “What’s changed in the past couple of years is that the mainstream investment world has caught on to the fact that this music and the income stream brought by music assets are very valuable, and that’s directly connected with the advent of streaming and the increase in streaming over the past several years.”
Partner; Chair, Internet, Digital Media & Entertainment Practice
Stubbs Alderton & Markiles
In recent months, Akselrud has handled everything from financing for podcast company Crooked Media to GoDigital Media Group’s acquisition of outdoor apparel brand Eastern Mountain Sports and retailer Bob’s Stores. He was also active in the music space, working on the team that repped the estate of Leonard Cohen in the sale of the late songwriter’s catalog to Hipgnosis in March.
Celebrity branding gold rush: “Everyone has an entrepreneurial bug,” says Akselrud, who served as corporate counsel for a $7 million Series A funding round for digital influencer Emma Chamberlain’s Chamberlain Coffee brand, led by Blazar Capital in August. “They don’t want to be just a spokesperson, they want to participate in owning a business.”
Tom Ara, David Markman, Richard Petretti, Katherine Imp
Ara: Partner; Global & US Co-Chair, Media, Sport & Entertainment
Markman: Partner & Co-Chair, Entertainment Transactions
Ara and Markman repped TikTok in March for streaming MTV original TV series “Becoming a Pop Star” with Pepsi as sponsor. Ara and Imp advised TikTok launching TikTok for Black Creatives, an incubator program with Charles King’s Macro. Ara advised an affiliate of ZASH Global Media & Entertainment acquiring digital advertising analytics outfit AdRizer in February, and Ara and Imp repped ZASH for a streaming and promotional partnership with event-promoter Insomniac for its Electric Daisy fest that included an NFT token drop. Ara repped South Korea’s Coupang Play for its streamed Tottenham Hotspur soccer match this summer and also a Coldplay streaming concert a year ago in the Asian nation. Markman advised Jeanie Buss and David McLane for all-female wrestling syndicated TV “WOW — Women of Wrestling” in August including worldwide distribution. The attorneys, based in Century City, advised Pfizer for a Marvel comics promotion to boost vaccine awareness. Petretti recently joined the team from Sidley Austin.
Tech rising: Ara notes that Hollywood is rattled by suddenly falling stock prices, crumbling earnings and business models being questioned, as tech media disrupts the content business. “The opportunity is for one or more new business models to arise, each of which, in my mind, will have a technological core component,” Ara says.
Francisco Arias, Adam Hime, Megan O’Brien, Yogita Puri
Arias: General Counsel, Head of Business & Legal Affairs
Hime: SVP, Business Affairs & Associate General Counsel, TV
O’Brien: SVP, Business Affairs & Associate General Counsel, Film
Puri: SVP, Business Affairs & Associate General Counsel, International TV
The team at Fifth Season (formerly Endeavor Content) has been busy with more than rebranding. In January, Arias led the business and legal affairs team through a six-month process selling Endeavor Content’s scripted assets to South Korea’s CJ ENM for approximately $785 million; he currently serves on the post-merger integration team. On the TV side, Hime struck network license deals for Mahershala Ali’s series “The Plot” (Hulu/Onyx), Jason Momoa’s “Chief of War” (Apple TV+) and Florence Pugh’s “East of Eden” (Netflix). On the film side, O’Brien guided sales of “80 for Brady” to Paramount Pictures and “Book Club 2: The Next Chapter” to Focus Features. O’Brien set a studio record when her deals for 10 films produced and financed this year totaled about $152 million. Puri was involved in investment and distribution deals with Fifth Season’s international production partners, Blink49 Studios, Nordic Drama Queens, the Story Collective and Dreamchaser Studios.
Personal Importance: Arias says seeing “Chief of War” get made is important to him on several levels: “It’s amazing to see a series of this scope and ambition come to life. It’s also especially important for me as an Indigenous American to see a story about native people — in this case, Native Hawaiians — being produced on this scale. It’s a huge show and I’m proud we’re producing it.”
Jeff Bernstein, Darren Trattner
Jackoway Austen Tyerman Wertheimer Mandelbaum Morris Bernstein Trattner & Klein
The duo handled deals for A-listers with the personalized touch of a boutique firm. Trattner negotiated Karen Gillan’s deals for “Jumanji” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.” He also negotiated a writer, director and producer deal for James Gray for “Armageddon Time” as well as pacts for Amber Midthunder, breakout star of “Prey.” Bernstein negotiated Margot Robbie’s acting and producing deals for Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie.” Additionally, he negotiated for Robbie’s production company, LuckyChap Entertainment, securing a new first-look feature film producing deal with Indian Paintbrush.
Streamer woes: “It’s going to be interesting to see how the economics of streamers play out over the next few years,” says Bernstein. “In the beginning of the of the evolution of the streaming world, they were overpaying to attract the very best actors, directors and writers to their platforms. But now, so many of these streamers are suffering financially, and I think there will be a market correction.”
Paul Bernstein, Ronn Davids, Max Wellman, Kristen Ruisi
Bernstein: Chair, Entertainment Transactions
Davids: Co-Chair, West Coast Corporate Transactions
This team closed numerous deals across the media landscape. Bernstein repped media investor Jon Jashni in his role with 890 Fifth Avenue Partners, the media- and tech-focused special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that acquired BuzzFeed. Bernstein and Venable partner Nick Jacobus also repped Jesse Collins Entertainment in an outside minority investment from Fulwell 73. Davids repped Night Media/the Chernin Group in the formation of a new investment company, Night Capital, to acquire established consumer-facing companies led by top talent in a deal worth $100 million. Wellman represented Top Drawer Merch, a merchandising, technology and Web3 agency in connection with branding and partnership deals with Budweiser, Goldenvoice and Riot Games. Wellman also repped London Alley, a production company specializing in music videos, commercials and brand content in connection with a joint venture with a top beverage company. Ruisi handled trademark work for Unanimous Media, the production company of NBA superstar Stephen Curry.
Storyteller supremacy: “It’s not about the story,” says Bernstein. “It’s about the storyteller. If you’ve got an alcohol and you want to attach a celebrity to it, it’s not about how the alcohol tastes. It’s about the celebrity you’re touching and you’re creating your brand based on the storyteller.”
Vice-Chairman, Global Entertainment & Media Practice
Black continued to demonstrate his dealmaking prowess in 2022: For example, Litmus Music, formed in late 2021 to acquire rights in music IP, recently completed a capital raise of $500 million with the Carlyle Group; as lead outside counsel Black is negotiating several acquisition agreements, including catalogs, masters and publishing. New client Golden State Warriors’ Golden State Entertainment, a content-creation company, retained Black as lead outside counsel to handle projects that include documentaries and music. Additionally, Steve Harvey Global retained Black as lead counsel on multiple TV and music initiatives, and toy/entertainment company Spin Master expanded Black’s role as lead outside counsel for its initiative to produce content based on its IP, which includes “Paw Patrol.” Black also negotiated employment agreements for senior media execs.
Less posturing, more deals: “During the pandemic there was this underlying sense of, let’s see if we could make a deal and let’s just focus on that,” says Black. “A lot of the posturing that used to take place is not taking place. It’s resulted in more deals being concluded.”
Gordon Bobb, Lily Tillers
Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein Lezcano Bobb & Dang
The team of Bobb and Tillers have a reputation for striking deals that elevate the status and earnings of their clients within the film and scripted TV business. Bobb negotiated overall pacts for writer-producers Monica Macer at MGM Television and Selwyn Seyfu Hinds at UCP, plus a starring role for Asante Black (“This Is Us”) in feature film “Story Ave,” directed by Aristotle Torres and produced by Jamie Foxx. Tillers built on long-time client Quinta Brunson’s (“Abbott Elementary”) recent success with an overall deal with Warner Bros. TV.
Retrenchment: “It’s a little disheartening to see … the retrenchment on some of the gains that were made in the last couple of years with respect to initiatives concerning equity and inclusion, which seem to be the first on the chopping block when the major media companies need to cut spending,” Bobb says. “That’s something we need to be cognizant of, and hold the media companies accountable for the pledges that they’ve made.”
Lauren Boglivi, Wai Choy, Robert E. Freeman
This trio frequently collaborated on matters for clients that include Warner Bros. Discovery and TMRW Sports, the shop founded by Mike McCarley, Tiger Woods and Rory MacIlroy. This year they helped TMRW launch its tech-infused golf league TGL in conjunction with the PGA Tour and prepare for its inaugural season “tee-off ” in January 2024. Individually, Boglivi helped Hearst Health’s Homecare Homebase acquire CellTrak Technologies, and aided in restructuring Magnolia Network’s joint venture with Chip and Joanna Gaines that brought legacy Discovery programming to HBO Max. Choy was part of one of the biggest media and entertainment deals to date: the $43 billion pact that united the assets of Discovery and AT&T’s WarnerMedia into Warner Bros. Discovery. Freeman, who also advised on that deal, was involved in the Big Ten Conference’s historic media rights agreements with CBS, Fox, NBC and Peacock.
New business model: “Media companies are scrambling to develop, launch and market streaming products, including both paid and advertiser-supported (or FAST) services, and competing for consumers’ attention,” Freeman says. “The challenge for those companies is replacing the declining revenues from the traditional linear side of the business and Proskauer is ‘in the room’ on some of the most important deals being cut in the industry, including for both existing and new video programming services and platforms.”
EVP, Entertainment Content Acquisitions
NBCUniversal Television and Streaming
Boreland brought new content to the Peacock streamer — from Lionsgate’s John Wick prequel series, “The Continental,” to an output deal allowing Universal films to stream exclusively on Peacock shortly after their theatrical releases. She also acquired six original rom-coms for E!, secured cable rights for USA to run five seasons of “9-1-1” and added several high-profile properties to Peacock.
FAST future: “People are really investing in FAST channels,” Boreland says. “It’s a linear channel experience, but in the streaming environment. Some- times people just want to lean back, put something on and let it play. And these channels are also curated … if you like wrestling, you could have a wrestling channel. We’re going to see more and more of these curated channels.”
Partner & Leader, Manatt Entertainment
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips
Working where music meets branding, Bromley helps such artists as Diplo, the estate of Pop Smoke, Jack White, the Eagles and ODESZA manage their global branding and licensing platforms. In the catalog sales arena Bromley negotiated over $2 billion in business this past year. Bromley also advised corporate clients on such deals as Francisco Partners Management on its majority stake investment in publisher Kobalt Music, and Dundee Partners in its $1.1 billion acquisition of Kobalt’s music rights portfolio.
Why he loves his job: “I get to work with some of the greatest music icons of all time as they continue to be genre pioneers,” he says.
Nancy Bruington, Kendall Johnson, Rick Offsay, Jonathan West
Partners, Entertainment, Sports & Media Practice
Latham & Watkins
A finance specialist, Bruington advised entertainment company A24 Films (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) in two transactions totaling $460 million over the summer. A year ago she assisted eOne locking down a $250 million revolving credit facility. Johnson covers sports and entertainment. She and Offsay repped MGM in its $8.45 billion sale in March and the same duo advised Silver Lake investing in physical facilities Shadowbox Studios (formerly Blackhall Studios) in March. Johnson and West advise Spotify in transactions. Representing entertainment/media corporate transactions, Offsay repped Endeavor selling an 80% stake in its scripted program business for $775 million a year ago. West handles both celebrities and companies in personal services agreements. West clients include NFL star Tom Brady and also private equity KKR buying Kobalt Capital’s music portfolio and other music transactions amounting to $1.3 billion over the past year. The four entertainment-sports-media attorneys are based in Century City.
Uncertainty reduces risk-taking: Johnson says investors piled into high-profile buys of producers last year, but now seek less-pricey assets. “We’re seeing a lot more investor interest in unscripted content, and other industry ancillary businesses and assets.” Johnson finds less appetite for risk amid climbing interest rates and economic uncertainty.
David Byrnes, Sam Fischer, David Lande, Bryan Wolf
This powerhouse team represents A-list clients across a broad range of deals. Byrnes reps Kelly Clarkson in various agreements, including co-hosting NBC’s “American Song Contest,” matters related to her “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” agreements for coaching on “The Voice” and an extension of her partnership with Wayfair for the Kelly Clarkson Home furniture line. Lande negotiated for Justin Timberlake in the sale of his music publishing catalog to Hipgnosis — for a value the media assessed to be in the range $85 million to $100 million — and in his agreement with DreamWorks to reprise his role to voice the main character and produce the music for “Trolls 3.” Fischer negotiated Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s deal with Amazon for their upcoming “Air Jordan” title and “Modern Family” creator Steve Levitan’s deal for comedy “Reboot” on Hulu. Wolf supervised deals for Media Res at Apple, Amazon and Netflix, and managed Media Res’ recapitalization and re-acquisition of the shares of its original seed investor.
Data drives dealmaking: “Although ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ demonstrates that the theatrical movie business still exists, direct-to-consumer will increasingly dominate the industry, even if some DTC platforms fail or merge,” says Wolf. “Dealmaking and celebrity/fan relationships will become increasingly data-driven.”
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips
Chatham’s clients include Dr. Phil, Heidi Klum, Phil McIntyre (of the Jonas Brothers), Stage 29 Prods., Hello Bello, producer-writer Luvh Rakhe, Chris Harrison, “Entertainment Tonight” anchor Lauren Zima and Kristen Bell’s Dunshire Prods. This past year, he closed deals collectively for more than 800 episodes of syndicated television involving more than a dozen talent contract negotiations, and, wearing his litigator hat, defended Megan Roup against a breach of contract and unfair competition lawsuit filed by Tracy Anderson in the Central District of California.
Be authentic: “Iconic talent is exploring their entrepreneurial passions just as much as their artistic aspirations,” he says. “Authentic engagement with your audience is an integral part of success.”
Shaun Clark, Linda Michaelson, Daniel Schnapp, Alexis Robinson
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton
This bicoastal Sheppard Mullin team represents major stakeholders straddling entertainment and tech, including studios, digital platforms, music publishers, sports leagues and ad agencies. In recent months, Michaelson and Clark advised Sony on its deal to acquire a controlling interest in Industrial Media, which owns a portfolio of production companies (including 19 Entertainment, B17 Entertainment and House of NonFiction) responsible for such hits as “American Idol,” “90 Day Fiancé” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” They also repped Crunchyroll, a joint venture between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Japan’s Aniplex, in its August acquisition of online anime store Right Stuf. For Spotify, Clark, Schnapp and Robinson have closed more than 200 deals, including multiple voice performer agreements (Catherine Keener, Bobby Cannavale, Sam Waterston) in connection with original podcast “The Final Chapters of Richard Brown Winters.”
The metaverse really is the future: “We have clients in the emerging tech space that have some really cool and unique technology that’s going to make that experience a lot more palatable and certainly monetizable as the market matures,” says Schnapp.
Denise Colletta, Diane Pearson, Lori Badgett
Colletta: SVP; Team Leader, Entertainment Banking
Pearson, Badgett: SVPs; Team Leaders, Entertainment Banking, Nashville
City National Bank
Working out of CNB’s Los Angeles headquarters, Colletta oversees a $2 billion portfolio of media and music and industry accounts. The three-decade banking veteran has harnessed her expertise in royalty/IP-based lending to craft financing deals for songwriters, music publishing companies, distributors and indie labels that have funded everything from studio builds to catalog acquisitions. In Nashville, Pearson and Badgett have helped grow the CNB office from a handful to two dozen. Under their leadership, Nashville’s entertainment team secured nearly 350 Paycheck Protection Program loans for their clients totaling more than $40 million during round one of the program. Coming out of the lockdown in 2022, the average deposits for CNB’s Nashville office are up 19% and loans are up 38%, year-over-year.
Cooldown in music catalog market?: “Instead of the $400 million or the $200 million deal, there are a lot of $20 million and $50 million deals still happening,” says Colletta.
Paul Danforth, Howard Nuchow, Michael Levine
Nuchow, Levine: Co-Heads
CAA Sports operates at a massive scale, with 750 employees working in 17 divisions with offices on five continents. Its growth was bolstered by the acquisition of ICM Partners that Levine, Nuchow and Danforth helped engineer, bringing ICM Stellar Sports into the fold, expanding its pro soccer clientele to more than 1,400 players, managers and coaches. The agency represents head coaches in the NBA, and it cut more than $1 billion in free agency deals for players in 2022. In the NFL, it completed nearly $1.5 billion in player contracts, including $100 million-plus deals for Josh Allen, Matthew Stafford, T.J. Watt, Denzel Ward and A.J. Brown. It closed deals with ESPN for play-by-play announcer Joe Buck, NFL reporter Adam Schefter and NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski and completed $2 billion in new sponsorship pacts for clients including Formula 1, MLB, Riot Games and the L.A. Clippers.
New arenas for athletes: “It’s evolved so greatly whether it be real estate, the metaverse, book deals or the opportunity to co-own startups,” says Nuchow.
Robert A. Darwell, Gina B. Eskigian, Aaron J. Campbell, Ramela Ohanian
Darwell: Senior Partner
Eskigian, Campbell: Special Counsel
Ohanian: Senior Associate
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton
Led by Darwell, members of the Sheppard Mullin team were key in several megadeals at the convergence of media and tech. They repped Amazon in connection with its $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM, which closed in June. They advised the online retail giant on all entertainment-related matters, most notably the studio’s 4,000-title film library, which, in addition to the James Bond series, boasts an array of exploitable franchises including “Rocky,” “Legally Blonde,” “Tomb Raider” and “The Pink Panther,” and they continue to assist with the next phase of integration of the two companies. They also served as production counsel for Amazon Studios’ series “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” negotiating agreements for more than 30 actors and all writers, department heads and VFX artists, as well as for dozens of third-party vendors. For Meta, they worked across its various platforms (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp), handling deals for talent, sponsorships and short-form content, as well as immersive storytelling and the metaverse, for projects including new series “Are We There Yet?,” starring Keke Palmer.
Metaverse-ing the marketplace: “More traditional deals that you would do for film or television now have a metaverse component to them where the talent might have to create an avatar of themselves,” Darwell says.
Thomas Dey, Richard Gray
Dey: CEO, Founder & President
Gray: Managing Director & Co-Founder
ACF Investment Bank
ACF saw its best year to date in 2022, closing more than 100 media and entertainment deals worth more than $6 billion combined since the doors opened in 2010. For Simon Cowell’s SyCo Entertainment, the firm crafted a groundbreaking $125 million deal securitizing “Got Talent” IP. It also facilitated the sale of “The Lord of the Rings” IP — one of the largest global IP portfolios — to Swedish videogame company Embracer Group.
Silver Lining “The macro economic view is there’s dark clouds out there, but I think that within the content and IP space — with all the new money from streaming platforms — there’s never been a more vibrant market,” Dey says. “But matching the vibrancy of our market with the external factors and trying to get deals done that make sense to the buyers and sellers is the key. … So I think it’s a very positive environment that we’re in.”
Global Co-Chair, Entertainment, Sports & Media Practice
Latham & Watkins
Deutsch advised entertainment company A24 (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) for a $225 million equity investment in March. Other transactions include repping Greg Silverman’s Stampede Ventures for its animated family content alliance with talent agency UTA, and the lead equity investor in Rob Reiner’s relaunched Castle Rock Entertainment late last year. The Century City-based attorney was elevated in January to lead the law firm’s entertainment-sports- media practice.
Looking abroad: Overseas producers are sought-after acquisition or joint venture partners as the streaming revolution heats up the TV program business in other territories. “A trend among many of our clients is to look to high-quality international producers to find the next ‘Squid Game,’” says Deutsch.
Scott Edel, Arash Khalili
Edel: Chair, Entertainment
Khalili: Co-Chair, Capital Markets & Corporate; Co-Chair, Sports
Loeb & Loeb
With Edel’s experience in IP-driven commercial transactions and a long history of getting movies and TV series made, and Khalili’s transactional experience in the M&A space, these two make a killer team. Edel says representing Nexon Studios in its $400 million investment in Anthony and Joe Russo’s production company AGBO is a true convergence of the videogame, film and TV mediums into a new type of entertainment. Khalili oversaw the sale of Ingenuity Studios to Streamline Media, and believes the name-image-licensing deal he crafted for the NBA’s second draft pick Chet Holmgren may well become a template how NIL deals are made in the future.
Art of war: “There was a period of time where there used to be a need to create as much content as possible,” Khalili says. “Now, I think the arms race is heading towards more premium content in the fight among platforms to compete for consumers and subscriptions.”
David C. Eisman, Glen Mastroberte
Eisman: Partner, Entertainment Group; leader, M&A/Corporate Group, Los Angeles office
Glen Mastroberte: Partner, Entertainment Group
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
Eisman and Mastroberte advised videogame conglomerate Embracer Group, which was purchasing worldwide rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s intellectual property (“The Lord of the Rings”) in April. The Los Angeles-based duo repped talent agency UTA selling a significant minority stake to private equity EQT in July and acquiring Lon- don-based literary/talent agency Curtis Brown Group in June. They repped the Russo brothers’ producer AGBO selling a significant stake to Japanese vidgamer Nexon in January and a second round of financing in July, valuing AGBO at more than $1.1 billion. They also advised hip-hop record label 300 Entertainment’s sale to Warner Music, which concluded in December.
Ripe and ready: Eisman expects lively dealmaking in the music sector, driven by growing music-streaming revenue, and also the talent agency/ talent management sector in the coming months. Talent agencies, he says, are looking at diversifying to adjacent businesses and also the fragmented management sector is ripe for consolidation. “They have already seen private equity firms make money investing in the talent agency sector,” Eisman says.
Alan Epstein, Sidney (Sid) Fohrman, Steven Hurdle, Shane Nix
Epstein: Partner; Chair, Entertainment Transactions Group
Fohrman: Partner; Chair, Music & Digital Media Practice
Hurdle: Partner, Entertainment Transactions
Nix: Partner, Tax Dept. & Entertainment Transactions Group
Willkie Farr & Gallagher
Since opening in September 2021, Willkie’s L.A. office has grown to more than 65 attorneys, building out an entertainment practice involved in everything from emerging opportunities to liquidity transactions. In recent months, Epstein advised on Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s acquisition of virtual fantasy league SimWim Sports and (with Nix) fellow NBA legend Tracy McGrady’s formation of the Ones Basketball League. Hurdle repped popular YouTube creators Benny and Rafi Fine in the sale of their company React Media to Electric Monster Media and “Cash Cab” creator Tony Tackaberry’s Station 6 Prods. in its deal with Blue Ant Studios. Fohrman handled music catalog acquisitions for BMG Rights Management and Shamrock Capital’s investments in media companies, including its $50 million Series B round with the Religion of Sports, founded by Gotham Chopra, Tom Brady and Michael Strahan. Nix advised on several eight- and nine-figure music catalog sales, as well as the sale of a well-known game show by two TV production companies.
High interest impact: “Of course, it makes it more expensive for companies that are producing content with debt-financed credit facilities,” Epstein says. “And the overall recessionary trends do impact the industry, but I don’t think it’s as bad as many are fearing. Our clients are the top creators and they’re still finding lots of buyers.”
Live Nation Urban
Gee has incubated and created nearly a dozen music festivals, including Mary J. Blige’s Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit. He facilitated a deal with Jesse Collins Entertainment for “Juneteenth: A Global Celebration of Freedom” at the Hollywood Bowl and sold broadcast rights to CNN. The longtime manager of the Roots also oversees Questlove and Black Thought’s Two One Five Entertainment, which produced Questlove’s Oscar-winning directorial debut “Summer of Soul” and future film projects such as Sam Pollard’s “The League.”
The mission: “I approached Michael Rapino and said, ‘You do a great job of building Black superstar touring artists, but there’s a lot more that could be done within Black culture,’ ” Gee says. “Now I’m able to provide platforms and opportunities for artists, future executives and entrepreneurs.”
Yorn Levine Barnes Krintzman Rubenstein Kohner Endlich & Gellman
Gellman negotiated a new deal for Kenya Barris with ViacomCBS that gives the “Black-ish” creator an equity stake in the new venture, and set “The Farewell” director Lulu Wang to write, exec produce and direct the Amazon series “The Expats.” Along with partners Kevin Yorn and Jared Levine, he also repped Hwang Dong-hyuk and Kim Ji-yeon, creator and executive producer, respectively, of “Squid Game,” in their new Netflix deal.
Hello streaming wars, goodbye deficit financing: “Today, you have these television cost-plus models,” he says. “Basically, you’re guaranteed to get [production costs] back, plus a premium on top, so it’s a far safer business model, which in theory will create new, interesting, more entrepreneurial business structures for our clients.”
Michael S. Gendler, Kevin M. Kelly, Sarah M. Cunningham
Gendler & Kelly
This busy team negotiated a multiyear extension of showrunner supreme Shonda Rhimes’ agreement with Netflix; secured an extension of Alex Kurtzman’s and Secret Hideout’s ViacomCBS agreement; handled a multi-year overall agreement for Courtney Kemp and End of Episode for series and features for Netflix, and also worked on Kemp’s deal with Lionsgate for continued involvement with her “Power Universe” series; repped John Hoffman in a deal with Disney following his success as creator of “Only Murders in the Building”; completed multiple deals for uber-producer David E. Kelley (“Nine Perfect Strangers”); pacted with Amazon on behalf of Jenny Han (“The Summer I Turned Pretty”); and negotiated Chris Pine’s directing, producing and co-writing agreements for feature film “Poolman” plus his “Dungeons & Dragons” acting agreement.
By the numbers: “You’re not talking about 22-episode shows anymore,” says Cunningham on how backend deals are now structured. “It’s just a completely different way of financially measuring success on shows. You’re looking at maybe six, eight or 10 episodes with a limited series. It’s just a different set of considerations that have to inform your dealmaking from the outset, whether or not you’re even negotiating with the streamer. It’s a huge change and our clients are dealing with that on a day-to-day basis.”
Lev Ginsburg, Grace Kallis
Ginsburg Daniels Kallis
Ginsburg’s client Timothée Chalamet has had a stellar 2022. His projects include the Venice-premiering “Bones and All,” where helmer Luca Guadagnino won the director prize. As has been reported, Chalamet filmed the first movie in Warners’ new “Wonka” franchise and is currently in production on “Dune 2” at several international locations. LaKeith Stanfield, repped by Ginsburg and Kallis, is said to have finished principal photography as the lead in Disney’s new “Haunted Mansion” franchise this year, directed by Justin Simien, alongside Tiffany Haddish. Ginsburg client Colin Trevorrow, who wrote, directed, and produced “Jurassic World: Dominion,” is riding high as the film reportedly crosses $1 billion worldwide. Other firm clients include Stefani Robinson (“Chevalier”), showrunner Nick Antosca and Clea DuVall — all reported as attached to major film and TV projects.
Eternal optimist: “It’s not all doom-and-gloom earnings reports and media business volatility out there,” says Ginsburg. “There’s a lot to be excited about and hopeful for in 2023!”
Jim Gosnell, Jim Osborne
Amid retrenchment across the talent agency business, Gosnell and Osborne were buyers rather than downsizers, picking up 28 senior executives from larger rivals and adding 300 clients — which is expected to increase top-line revenue by eight figures. Among events roiling the sector: a merger disbanding a larger rival. New APA film and TV clients include Michael Cera, Nathalie Emmanuel, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Ken Jeong, Mark Maron and Michael Rainey Jr. Joining in music/ comedy are Martin Lawrence, Jon Bel- lion, Belinda Carlisle, Robert Glasper, the Go-Go’s, JAX, Musiq Soulchild and Kamasi Washington. Also, 50 alternative TV producers/production companies boarded the agency. Led by the Beverly Hills-based duo, APA bulked up as the fourth-largest talent house.
Local to Global: “Never before could artists be global brands leveraged in international productions and premium TV,” says Osborne. “What before would have been seemingly localized stories can become global events.” He points to British spy drama “Slow Horses,” starring client Gary Oldman, becoming worldwide success via Apple TV+.
Damien Granderson, André Des Rochers, Elizabeth Moody, Josh Sandler
Granderson: Founding Partner; Chair, Music Group
Rochers: Founding Partner
Moody: Partner; Chair, New Media Group
Granderson Des Rochers
Granderson’s top clients include Nicki Minaj, J Balvin, A$AP Rocky, J. Cole, Ne-Yo, Snoh Aalegra and Queen Naija. He handled Minaj’s partnerships with Amazon to bring her Queen Radio to the streamer’s new Amp app, and worked on Cole’s recently announced collaborative agreement with NBA 2k. Des Rochers handled Zendaya’s deal to star in and produce the MGM film “Challengers,” and represented “King Richard” director Reinaldo Marcus Green in his deal to direct the upcoming Bob Marley biopic for Paramount. Moody is a pioneer in the lucrative digital media world and has been spearheading digital music and video initiatives since the post-Napster era, both as outside counsel, and as business executive in-house at companies including YouTube and Pandora. She also serves as music counsel for gaming company Roblox. Sandler has carved a niche in the comedy space with longtime clients like Pete Davidson, Janelle James, Marc Maron, Phoebe Robinson, Ziwe and Lauren Ashley Smith.
Company mission: “Our goal was to build a law firm focusing on incredibly talented clients we admire, providing them with a better perspective in helping them to achieve their long-term life objectives, founded on their creative dreams,” says Granderson.
Matt Galsor, Alla Savranskaia, Mark Muir, Sally James
Matt Galsor, Alla Savranskaia, Mark Muir, Sally James
Galsor views Greenberg Glusker as a bespoke shop, not a legal assembly line, but his team still managed to produce a large volume of big transactions in recent months. For Galsor, it included deals for actors Tom Cruise (“Mission: Impossible” sequels), Vin Diesel (“Fast & Furious” franchise, Universal overall deal) and Chris Hemsworth (“Extraction 2”), producer-directors James Cameron (“Avatar” sequels, “True Lies” series), David Fincher (“The Killer,” Netflix overall deal) and Joe and Anthony Russo (“The Electric State”), video game maker Ubisoft (adaptations for Netflix and Apple TV+) and the J.R.R. Tolkien estate (Amazon’s “The Rings of Power”). Savranskaia repped four-time Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood, documentary director Alison Ellwood and the Ray Bradbury estate. Muir handled deals for producers Marc Evans (“The Mother”) and Dan Farah, writer-director Mohamed Diab (“Moon Knight”), Sergio Pablos and SPA Studios and Amuse Group USA. James worked on numerous high-level corporate financing transactions, including HighPost Capital’s $200 million acquisition of Hemsworth’s Centr fitness app.
The crystal ball on consolidation: “I think people who own these conglomerates think that they’re still not big enough,” says Galsor of Comcast, Par- amount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery. “Unless that thinking changes, at some point there will be only two or even one of those three.”
Riding high on the huge success of “Dune,” which garnered six Oscar noms and grossed $400 million globally despite a simultaneous streaming release on HBO Max, Grode helped guide the January deal in which Apollo Private Equity Funds invested $760 million for a minority stake in Legendary. Additionally, as part of Legendary TV’s global expansion, Grode closed a deal with Germany’s Tobis to create a joint venture to develop and produce German-language projects.
Streaming backend? “Everyone is trying to figure out what the new financial model is going to be. If we can start to develop a model that moves away from buyouts and moves towards profit participation based on success that extends to the streaming business, I think it will be the start of another content boom for our business.”
Partner; Global Co-Chair, Mergers & Acquisitions Practice
Latham & Watkins
New York-based Hamill advised $50 billion worth of deals over two years. He repped Endeavor selling an 80% stake for $775 million in its U.S. scripted content business a year ago. Working for private-equity financiers, he counseled Silver Lake investing $500 million in facilities company Shadowbox Studios (formerly Blackhall Studios) in June, and separately KKR for its part buying music publisher Kobalt Capital for $1.1 billion a year ago.
Getting physical: Hamill sees the boom in building and upgrading physical production infrastructure having legs. “I think there are more investments and acquisitions to come for physical production facilities,” he says.
Ellie Heisler, Carron Mitchell, Christina Chang, Farrah Usmani
Heisler: Partner; Entertainment Team Lead
Chang, Usmani: Counsel
The team recently worked with Addison Rae — who has more than 88 million followers on TikTok and is ranked as the fourth-most-followed individual and one of the highest-earning personalities on the platform — to negotiate the contract for her Samsung commercial and the deal for her next big studio film, Paramount Players’ “Fashionista.” They also worked on Rae’s deal with Pandora, the jewelry brand, for her role as ambassador for the Me collection alongside singer-songwriter Charli XCX. For Juno Marketing, they negotiated and drafted all talent and vendor agreements for the award-winning multicultural advertising agency to deploy various experiential campaigns on behalf of AT&T and VRBO Expedia Group. On behalf of AT&T Black Future Makers 2022, the firm created talent templates and form agreements to engage talent for various services; licensee IP; and negotiate talent agreements for Tobe and Martica Nwigwe, Meagan Good, Zerina Akers, Devale Ellis, J. Bolin, Kirk Franklin, Vincint, Terrell, Georgie Nakima and Ne-Yo.
Covering clients 360: “We really pride ourselves on having big-firm resources but boutique-level service,” says Chang. “Our clients come to us with everything from managing a PR crisis to buying a house or starting a trust. It’s really full-scale protection, and a relationship to boot.”
David Hernand, Mickey Mayerson, Susan Williams, Sean Monroe
Hernand: Partner; Chair, Century City Office
Mayerson: Partner; Co-chair, Global Entertainment & Media Finance
Williams: Partner; Co-Chair, Entertainment & Media Finance
Monroe: Partner, Entertainment & Media Practice
Paul Hastings’ Century City office is led by Hernand, a top M&A and investment attorney who repped MGM’s financial advisers Morgan Stanley and LionTree in the studio’s $8.45 billion acquisition by Amazon, which closed in March. His partners were also at the center of significant deals, including four-decade-plus vet Mayerson, who repped Indian Paintbrush in its sale of two upcoming Wes Anderson movies, “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and “Asteroid City,” starring Tom Hanks, to Netflix and Focus Features, respectively; and Nashville-based film and TV producer PZAJ in its first-look joint venture with 101 Studios (“Yellowstone”). Monroe repped AT&T and WarnerMedia in its $50 million sale of TMZ to Fox Corp., and with Hernand advised Paramount Global, Warner Bros. Discovery and the CW Network in their deal, which closed in October, to sell a 75% ownership interest in the CW to Nexstar Media Group. Williams repped Fox Entertainment in its acquisition of MarVista Entertainment in December 2021 and 777 Partners in its financing of Najafi Companies’ acquisition of STX Entertainment, in April.
Size Matters: “MGM wasn’t quite big enough to survive on its own and Amazon needed a library, so that acquisition happened,” says Monroe. “Now, Amazon might be too big to gobble up.”
The Raine Group
Hodge has been a key dealmaker liaison for the creative community for years through his perch at the merchant bank. He and the Raine team are known for working closely as advisers with longtime clients, providing management advice and strategic counsel for such industry heavyweights as Endeavor and Imagine Entertainment. Hodge has had a busy year with a burst of post-pandemic M&A activity for Fifth Season, Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs’ Candle Media, Animal Logic, Pixomondo and the Roald Dahl Story Co. In the coming year, as big-ticket M&A hits a bipartisan speedbump in Washington, Hodge may well be advising C-suiters more about what they should sell than what to buy.
Shifting business models: “We think that Asian, European and private equity-backed independent content companies will continue to be aggressive in the year ahead as traditional media companies and streamers deal with significant changes to their business models,” says Hodge.
Andrew Hurwitz, Marcie Cleary
Hurwitz: Partner; Co-Chair of the Entertainment Group
Cleary: Partner, Entertainment Group
Los Angeles-based Hurwitz repped Rob Siegel as creator-showrunner for Hulu’s “Pam & Tommy” and “Welcome to Chippendales,” and his 20th Tele- vision overall deal at midyear. Other Hurwitz clients active this year include James Gunn writing-directing HBO Max’s “Peacemaker,” WEP auctioning Voltron toy property rights to Amazon for features and Dan Futterman scripting “The Bruce Lee Story,” directed by Ang Lee. New York-based Cleary negotiated a seven-figure deal in February for Mandii B and Bridget Kelly’s podcast “See, the Thing Is” with Gumball. Cleary advised ThreeFourTwo Prods. for basketballers J.J. Redick and Tommy Alter’s podcast at Wondery, and also Warner Music’s podcaster Interval Presents for a multiyear iHeart Media distribution deal.
Podcasts as IP: Celebrities and athletes still get big paydays for podcasts, “but with the current shift in the economy we have seen distributors adjust their focus to podcasts that can serve as underlying IP for film and TV series” adaptations, Cleary says.
Brittany Hveem, Graham Ballou, Jennifer Zayas, Raymond Chick
Hveem: SVP, Business Affairs, Series Originals
Ballou, Zayas, Chick: VPs, Business Affairs, Series Originals
Hulu has been riding high with the Emmy-winning success of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Only Murders in the Building,” and the Hulu Originals business affairs team has been helping position the platform to build on that success. In 2022, it closed deals for the Machine Gun Kelly documentary “Life in Pink” and executed the buyout of Paramount and subsequent ABC production deal for the series adaptation of Erik Larson’s historical novel “Devil in the White City,” a serial killer thriller set against the backdrop of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. It also worked on showrunner Bruce Miller’s overall deal to continue “The Handmaid’s Tale” and develop an adaptation of writer Margaret Atwood’s sequel “The Testaments.”
Content for a crowded Mouse House: Since Disney became the majority owner of Hulu with the Fox merger in 2019, it’s become increasingly important for the streamer to draw from and feed the studio’s vast ecosystem. “We have to be prepared to be able to exploit on Hulu domestically, on our international platform, on any linear channels that we have, and be mindful of the theme park and consumer products,” says Hveem.
Erik Hyman, Craig Emanuel, Scott Oranburg
Hyman: Partner; Global Chair, Entertainment & Media Group
Emanuel: Partner; Chair, Entertainment & Media Practice
Oranburg: Associate, Entertainment & Media Finance
Paul Hastings is a 71-year-old firm with offices around the globe, and the entertainment and media practice in Los Angeles is appropriately big in scope. It’s headed by Hyman, who recently cut deals for Chris Storer (creator of FX/Hulu’s “The Bear”), “WandaVision” creator Jac Schaeffer (overall pact with Marvel Studios and 20th Television), Jason Beghe (return to “Chicago PD”) and Danielle Brooks (starring in Warner Bros.’ “The Color Purple” musical). He took over the post in February from Emanuel, who keeps busy servicing client Ryan Murphy’s $300 million deal with Netflix, along with his ongoing projects for FX, including “Feud: Capote’s Women.” Emanuel also reps MSG Entertainment in connection with its MSG Sphere venue in Las Vegas, Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s Playtone, “Andor” showrunner Tony Gilroy and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (Netflix’s “Spy Kids” reboot). The team also includes associate Oranburg, whose clients include social-media influencer Christina “Tinx” Najjar (broadcast deal with Sirius XM) and Full Send Entertainment.
Joy of the breakout client: “When you work with someone over the course of a long time and you see them finally get wealthy, famous and have creative satisfaction in their work life, it’s like, a-ha, the rest of the world knows now what I’ve known for years,” says Hyman.
Jason Karlov, Carolyn Hunt, Bryan Thompson, Amanda Taber
Karlov: Chair, Entertainment, Sports & Media Practice Group
Hunt, Thompson: Partners
Barnes & Thornburg
Each member of Barnes & Thornburg’s Los Angeles team specializes in a different tentpole — Hunt oversees film, Thompson heads up television, Karlov specializes in music and live events, and Taber is the utility player — yet they collaborate on certain deals. Karlov handles all legal matters for Bob Dylan and does outside legal work on strategic partnerships for the NFL; collectively, Hunt’s clients include Lionsgate Entertainment, Powderhound Pictures, Convergent Media Capital and Peak Distribution Partners; Thompson served as legal counsel on “Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down” and as entertainment counsel to Peyton Manning and Omaha Prods. Taber, who’s on the partnership track, has clients of her own and assisted Karlov on several confidential deals.
Digital consolidation: “Time will tell who wins that game. You have to assume Apple and Amazon will be part of it, but not if their models aren’t working, they’re losing money and the numbers aren’t right,” says Karlov. The way to avoid such a pitfall is by “being aware of that and having the people [with expertise] who can service those deals — in our case, mergers and acquisitions, along with film and television.”
CEO & President, International Markets, Global Consumer Products & Experiences
Kaufman has led a number of groundbreaking deals and partnerships that cover international business across six continents. She oversees the global multibillion-dollar consumer products and experiences org, representing well over $5.5 billion in worldwide retail revenue, as well as experiences that include gaming, Broadway, VidCon and live tours. Kaufman played a key role in the deal announced last August whereby Paramount+ would be bundled with the Walmart+ membership program, a deal that granted Walmart+ members access to the broad Para- mount+ content library.
Multitudes: “There are 160 million people that walk through a Walmart every single week. You cannot replace that kind of exposure and marketing.”
Steven H. Kram, Steven E. Blume, John M. Mass
Kram: Co-Founder, CEO
Blume: Co-Founder, COO, CFO
The finance outfit led by Kram, Blume and Mass invested more than $1.5 billion in upfront payments to purchase cash flow streams, royalties and copyrights to film, TV programs, music and other entertainment intellectual property from investors, estates and Hollywood talent. In the past year, deals include purchasing a controlling interest in a library of over 100 films representing more than $7 billion in worldwide box office. A half ownership in the “CSI” series franchise (the other half at CBS Television) includes “CSI: Vegas.” A partnership with producer Eli Roth and Cream Prods. yielded the “Urban Legend” series based on company IP for Discovery+. Its portfolio includes interests in 500 studio-released films and more than 3,000 hours of television.
Expanding frontiers: Mass says over- seas business is being explored. “Like the U.S., investors, talent and other participants have been compensated with some sort of profit participation for years and we help them unlock that value.”
Abel M. Lezcano, Ethan J. Cohan
Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein Lezcano Bobb & Dang
Lezcano and Cohan excel at landing seven-figure organizational deals — especially for such clients as Major League Soccer, the National Football League, Ample Entertainment and Vox Media Studios. Their recent standouts include handling the NFL’s Paramount film deal for the comedy “80 for Brady,” and structuring the deal that landed Vox Media’s upcoming PGA Tour docuseries on Netflix. Along with their sports and entertainment practice, Lezcano leads Del Shaw’s Latin/international practice and Cohan heads the revised unscripted and nonfiction group.
The Jenga Law: “When you’re representing a large company, there are multiple interests to consider,” Cohan says. “You may be working with one person, and there may be five people above them, there’s five more people above them … so everything you do has the potential to have a massive domino effect. Ideally, it’s a positive domino effect, but one wrong move could have an avalanche effect, which you don’t want to be at the bottom of.”
Yorn Levine Barnes Krintzman Rubenstein Kohner Endlich & Gellman
Levine has been busy servicing the overall deals for Bill Lawrence (“Ted Lasso”) with Warner Bros., Jordan Peele (“Nope”) with Universal for TV and features and Graham Yost (“Slow Horses”) with Apple TV+. In 2022, he inked a deal for Steph Curry’s Unanimous Media with Universal Television, negotiated a contract extension for Colin Jost on “SNL,” and worked with partners Greg Gellman and Kevin Yorn to negotiate a new Netlfix deal for Hwang Dong-hyuk and Kim Ji-yeon, creator and executive producer, respectively, of “Squid Game.”
Streaming war fatigue: “Studios are very concerned about budgets and that might result in less content being produced or at least content being produced for lesser budgets,” he says.
Charlie Lexton, Ryan McWhinnie, Shrina Patel, Katie Eckett
McWhinnie: Senior Director, Business & Legal Affairs
Patel: Director, Business & Legal Affairs
Eckett: Manager, Business & Legal Affairs
In 2022, the business and legal affairs team at Merlin helped close deals that will generate more than $1.5 billion in revenue. The independent music-rights organization represents over 20,000 labels, which equates to 15% of the global market share. In January, Mer- lin confirmed a multiyear with Lickd, a platform that provides video creators access to pre-cleared music. Merlin announced a Twitch partnership the following month that will allow both organizations to expand their audience bases, including mutually beneficial marketing opportunities. Merlin’s global vision resulted in an April deal with one of the leading South Korean streaming services, FLO. This came on the heels of a December 2021 agreement with African streamer Boomplay, which reaches more than 60 million monthly active users. While some deals remain embargoed, Merlin recently shared news of its Pinterest partnership that will bring Merlin’s hundreds of thousands of artists to the platform.
Not a zero sum game: “The narrative going back to the transformation to digital has been that downloads replaced CDs, then streaming replaced downloads,” says Lexton. “There was a sense that if someone built a business on the basis of downloads, streaming was going to cannibalize that. But Pinterest and the metaverse are opening up new terrain that’s not coming at the expense of anything else. It’s additive.”
Linda Lichter, Jamie Feldman
Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler Feldman & Clark
Longevity is important to Lichter and Feldman’s continued success. Both enjoy seeing clients’ careers progress, including Feldman landing a deal at HBO and A24 for the Safdie brothers, whom he’s known since they were indie filmmakers; Lichter is negotiating the re-purchase of domestic rights and a franchise project for something she represented 35 years ago. Their combined client lists include prominent players such as Marc Forster, Chloé Zhao, Viola Davis and Barry Jenkins. As important as legacy clients are to Lichter and Feldmen, they also serve a broad diversity of new ones, especially women and those from underrepresented communities — including talent that’s new to the industry.
Broadcast isn’t dead: “We’re all very focused on the streamers because they’ve been taking care of our clients now for a number of years, but the number of people who watch a network show still dwarfs what any show does on the streamers,” Lichter says. “There’s still lots of vitality in the broadcast world.”
SVP, Original Content & ESPN Films
Lockhart has been bringing impactful programming to ESPN and ESPN+. This includes Spike Lee’s doc “Da Saga of Colin Kaepernick,” and “Fifty/50,” a $5.8 million cross-platform initiative marking the 50th anniversary of the passage of civil rights law Title IX. He also closed deals for “The Captain,” about baseball Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, and “Man in the Arena – Tom Brady,” a 10-part, $14.4 million series that streamed on Disney+ and Hulu, as well as ESPN+.
It’s all about multiple platforms: “Depending on the project, we can come up with a bespoke solution for not only the story, but something that might appeal to a partner or storyteller or director,” Lockhart says.
Kevin Masuda, Benyamin “Ben” Ross, Ari Lanin
Masuda, Ross: Partners; Co-Chairs, Media, Entertainment & Technology Practice Group
Lanin: Partner; Co-Chair, Private Equity Practice Group
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
The Los Angeles-based trio’s law practice spans mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures in entertainment. Late last year, Masuda advised LeBron James’ SpringHill Entertainment selling a minority stake at a $725 million valuation, the LeBron James Family Foundation in an NFT merchandise partnership and Michael Eisner’s Tornante Co. selling Topps trading cards for roughly $500 million. Ross advised Kevin Mayer/Tom Staggs-led Candle Media for recent investments in Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, reportedly at an $800 million valuation; progressive video media reportedly for $100 million; and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook. Ross also advised Marc Geiger-led SaveLive raising $135 million in April for investing in small-capacity concert venues. Lanin repped the Chernin Group buying a one-quarter stake for $263 million in pop-culture lifestyle brand Funko in May, and Chernin creating the North Road Co. venture in July, which absorbs unscripted giant Red Arrow Studios Intl., bought earlier for $200 million.
Celeb biz evolution: Ross observes three phases in the celebrity-centered business phenomenon. “We first were seeing celebrities bootstrapping their own brands and simply receiving cash payment for endorsements,” he says. In version 2.0, talent built permanent companies. For 3.0, financiers partnered, enlarging those talent businesses and broadening organizational savvy.
Kevin Mayer, Tom Staggs
West Los Angeles-based Mayer and Staggs made a splash buying Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, reportedly for $800 million valuation, and kids programmer Moonbug for upward of $3 billion a little over a year ago. In the past year, they acquired or invested in Will Smith’s Westbrook, producer Faraway Road Prods., lifestyle brand the Home Edit, preschool franchise Little Angel, purpose-driven storyteller Spanish-language Exile Content Studio, producer One Animation, NFT franchise Lil’ Heroes and web producer/community builder Notables. The duo is piecing together an operating company through acquisitions, partnering with the largest private equity firm, Blackstone.
Free agents: Mayer observes that the independent film and TV sector shrinks as “Hollywood has become completely vertically integrated between studios selling to their owned streaming services.” In that environment in which free-agent suppliers are dwindling, Staggs points out that “independent content becomes more valuable because it is even more sought-after.”
Kenny Meiselas, David Jacobs
Meiselas: Partner; Head, Music Department
Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
Jacobs, whose clients include country king Zach Bryan, neo-soul siren Kali Uchis and bidding-war subject RealestK, led the high-powered firm’s negotiations for Lil Nas X’s 2022 tour, as well as the artist’s brand affiliations with the likes of M&Ms, Taco Bell and Coach. Meiselas did the ink for arena tours by Lizzo and Chris Brown (the former with fellow partner Grace Kim), Usher’s Vegas residency and stadium tours by Lady Gaga and the Weeknd. He also paved the way for the Weeknd’s HBO series “The Idol,” for which the artist holds multiple roles teaming up with his film partner Reza Fahim and Sam Levinson. Meiselas negotiated publishing terms and soundtrack rights for the Weeknd’s XO label.
Expanding careers: “It used to be that a music superstar might act in a film or two for fun and a quick paycheck,” says Meiselas. “Now as we see with Abel [Tesfaye, aka the Weeknd], and with several of our other clients — including Lizzo, who executive produced and won an Emmy for her Amazon show ‘Big Grrrls’ — music stars are creating, producing, writing and developing content for film and television with a passion that matches their dedication to their music careers.”
Alex Michael, James Lindsay
Michael: Co-head, Growth; Head, Sports
Lindsay: Co-head, Growth
Based in New York, Michael advised Vox Media in its Group Nine merger and separately the Athletic on its $550 million sale to the New York Times, both in February. He also repped Monumental Sports & Entertainment acquiring regional sports network NBC Sports Washington. Based in London, Lindsay handled record label 300 Entertainment on its sale to Warner Music in December 2021, reportedly for $400 million, and also Highsnobiety on its sale. They advised sports video/ analytics outfit Pixellot raising $161 million in June.
Sports ascension: Michael predicts a boom in emerging sports because digital media aggregates fragmented audiences for the likes of pickleball, drone racing, youth/amateur, women’s athletics and soccer. Social media, YouTube and Twitch are the glue. “You’re seeing properties that wouldn’t be economically viable before that now can be commercially vibrant,” Michael says. “They have an ability to find and monetize audiences like never before.”
Founding Partner, Entertainment & Sports Dept.
Miller negotiated a record-setting payday for superstar Angela Bassett for the fifth season of Fox’s hit drama “9-1-1,” making her the highest-paid Black woman in the history of television. Miller also negotiated for Bassett to star in Netflix’s upcoming feature film “Damsel,” opposite Millie Bobby Brown. The attorney worked on Courtney B. Vance’s deal to star in and executive produce AMC’s critically acclaimed “61st Street,” which premiered in April, among many other deals for various clients.
Balancing the pay scale: “It was a great honor to be part of [the record-setting payday] for Angela” Bassett, Miller says. “And it’s a real honor to move the needle for a lot of voices or a group of people who have been doing extraordinary things but not getting equal pay.”
Sky Moore, Ryan Webb, Brandon Milostan
The Greenberg Glusker team covers everything from traditional talent deals to cutting-edge Web3 matters. Four-decade veteran Moore handled big transactions involving several independent distributors, including ProSiebenSat.1’s sale of Gravitas Ventures to Anthem Media, valued at $73 million, and the sell side of separate $40 million deals for Vertical Entertainment and Johnson Production Group. Webb advised Ubisoft Entertainment on adaptations of several of its video games, including a Netflix “Splinter Cell” series, and provided financial counsel for Mad River Pictures and film producer Marc Butan on their upcoming film “Plane,” starring Gerard Butler. He also negotiated Jaume Collet-Serra’s deal to direct “Black Adam,” James Cameron’s pact with MasterClass and Tony Danza’s deal to co-star in the Disney+/Hulu feature “Darby and the Dead.” Milostan reps NFT studios Cool Cats and Matthew Lillard’s and Bill Whirity’s Midnite Movie Club and he worked with Webb on Televisa Univision’s content deals for their VIX+ SVOD service, and with Greenberg Glusker partner Matt Galsor on matters involving Tom Cruise, Chris Hemsworth and Joe and Anthony Russo.
Effects of high interest rates: “It’s becoming cost-prohibitive to invest in independent films and the larger studios and streamers are watching closely what they’re spending, probably more than they have in recent years,” says Webb.
President, Global Business & Legal Affairs
From a multiyear live-action film deal with Apple and numerous picture deals at Netflix, Amazon and Paramount, Skydance is everywhere these days. On the TV side, “Reacher” remains the most-watched series in Prime Video’s history, and Oh has two new series coming up, “The Big Door Prize” (AppleTV+) and “FUBAR” (Netflix), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in his first TV series.
Plugging Away: “It’s been a bit ironic, with the financial trouble the world is under and everyone has been bracing for the ramifications of that,” says Oh. “But for us it’s kind of just been full speed ahead … [although] dealmaking has become a little more difficult as buyers are tightening their belts.”
Travis Page, Asa Suehira
Suehira: Chief Content Officer
Page and Suehira have brokered significant deals to elevate Crunchyroll to a top position in both streaming and anime/fandom. Page’s noteworthy agreements include Crunchyroll’s acquisition by Sony Pictures Entertainment for $1.175 billion. In the year since Crunchyroll was acquired, it merged with Funimation. Page also brokered a partnership deal with Google and its multiple platforms alongside the acquisition of Right Stuf, an online anime retailer. Suehira has led his team to secure a massive slate including “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero,” “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” and “Suzume.”
Collectible culture: “The anime fan will buy if you make some really cool products,” says Page. “If you make a DVD with a booklet and some fan stuff, they’ll buy it.”
Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman
Passman works with big names at the confluence of music and television. He negotiated the record-breaking “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: The Final Elton John Performances and the Years That Made His Legend” documentary deal with Disney+. It was reported to be at more than $30 million. He also negotiated Camila Cabello’s deal for “Cinderella” on Amazon, as well as her pact for “The Voice.”
Marching toward multihyphenates: “There’s a lot more integration of the various fields of the industry,” says Passman. “I’m seeing more musicians cross over into acting, producing and documentary. I’m seeing scripted filmmakers dabble in documentary. I’m seeing documentary become more front and center and I’m seeing more of a desire to be a multihyphenate.”
Partner; Co-Chair, Music Industry Practice Group
Covington & Burling
While much of Perry’s focus is forward-facing, as his practice area finds him engaging the metaverse, NFTs and Web3, he also strives to find new opportunities for existing IP, such as the Bing Crosby catalog. In March, Perry represented A+E Networks in its strategic partnership with Range Media Partners, which elevated Range’s valuation into nine figures. He later worked with Jake Paul and Joey Levy as Betr, their direct-to-consumer sports micro-betting company, raised $50 million.
Traveling assets: “A key component for the next iteration of the internet to explode will be the ability to take a digital asset you bought on platform A to platform B, in the same way you travel from country to country in the real world,” Perry says.
Elsa Ramo, Michelle Chang
The duo work to help their clients maximize opportunities in a shifting business landscape. Ramo repped Imagine Entertainment in a podcast division negotiation for a slate deal with iHeartMedia a well as in the sales of “Lucy & Desi” to Amazon and “Downfall: The Case Against Boeing” to Netflix. She also worked on the sale of Amazon original “Something From Tiffany’s.” Chang provided representation for 2022 Tribeca selections “Broadway Rising” (Boardwalk Pictures), “God Save the Queens,” (GSTQ Film ) and “Rudy! A Documusical.” She also repped the Solution Entertainment Group’s “Blacklight,” starring Liam Neeson, as well as the production company behind 2022 Sundance Special Jury Award-winner “Descendant” and selections “TikTok, Boom” (Campfire), “Watcher” (Image Nation) and “We Need to Talk About Cosby” (Boardwalk Pictures).
New landscape, new choices: “We’re seeing a market correction from our studios and our production companies that have the capital where they hibernate and hoard their content,” says Ramo. “So, there’s a bit of an exchange where content creators wonder whether they should do work for hire for a streamer or self-finance a project.”
Leron Rogers, John Rose
Hip-hop mogul Rick Ross alone keeps the attorneys busy, extending his admin deal with Sony Music Publishing, facilitating the artist’s launch of his Car and Bike Show event, and maximizing Ross’ affiliation with Sovereign Brands when wine and spirits giant Pernod Ricard took an ownership stake. The firm also represented Abou “Bu” Thiam when Columbia’s new exec VP of A&R launched joint-venture label Bu Vision, as well as negotiating the Black Promoters Collective’s tour deal with Mary J. Blige. Plus, it hooked up a bunch of big contracts for such artists as Rican Da Menace (Columbia), KayCyy (Bu Vision), Citi Limits (Republic) and Def Jam deals for Muni Long, YBN Nahmir and Coco Jones.
Beyond the music: “I try to … diversify my clients’ revenue streams, to use their celebrity to not only get a check, but hopefully to get equity in companies for their brand ambassadorships and other marketing services,” says Rogers. “You really create wealth from using your celebrity to leverage equity in businesses that can scale.”
Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light
The always-busy attorney’s recent feats include negotiations placing Michelle Jubelirer and Tunji Balogun as CEOs of, respectively, Capitol Music Group and Def Jam, plus deals surrounding Justin Bieber’s stadium tour, re-launch of the Mercury label by Republic, Ariana Grande’s role in the film “Wicked” and the multimillion-dollar catalog deal for Rosenberg’s first client, John Legend.
Catalog by the numbers: “Whenever an artist enters into selling a portion of the catalog, you take a look at the history of the earnings of the songs, what the likely future earnings are, and then you work backwards from that to see if the purchase price makes sense,” he says. You decide if “the artist is smart enough to take the proceeds and invest them so that the money ends up working better than if it was still parked in catalog ownership.”
Joe Russo, Anthony Russo, Mike Larocca, Angela Russo-Otstot
Larocca: Co-Founder/Vice Chairman
AGBO is best known for the record smashing tentpole features churned out by Joe and Anthony Russo, the sibling producer-director-writers who lead the company. In recent months they’ve enjoyed success with Netflix’s “The Gray Man,” which they directed, as well as the sleeper hit they produced, “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which became distributor A24’s highest-grossing film ever, with more than $100 million in global ticket sales. They also have Amazon series “Citadel” in post, along with a Netflix feature set for 2023 release (“Extraction 2”) and another in production (“The Electric State”). But ABGO’s most significant deal is the $400 million minority investment they secured from Nexon in January, giving the video game maker a 38% stake in the company. The infusion of cash gives AGBO — which has a campus in Downtown Los Angeles, staffed by approximately 30 people, with in-house post-production facilities — a $1.1 billion valuation, along with the opportunity to develop their IP in the gaming space, adapt Nexon IP for film and TV projects, and ramp up acquisition and development of outside IP.
Platform agnosticism: “We continue to believe strongly in the theatrical model as well as the streaming model, as well as any potential hybrid that may emerge in the next few years,” says Larocca.
J. Eugene (Gene) Salomon, Jr., Ethan Schiffres, Donald S. Passman
Salomon, Jr.: Managing Partner
Schiffres, Passman: Partners
Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman
Salomon, Schiffres and Passman lead a music group that works with a celebrated roster of clients, including Elton John, Quincy Jones, Taylor Swift and Adele. When live touring resumed following the COVID pause, the team negotiated the terms of Green Day’s Hella Mega Tour, which grossed more than $65 million at stadiums. They represented Camila Cabello as she secured deals for her feature film debut in Disney’s live-action “Cinderella,” her L’Oreal endorsement/ make-up line and her role as a judge on “The Voice.” They also assisted Neil Diamond with the sale of his publishing and master recordings catalog to Universal Music Group, and with the contracts that led to “A Beautiful Noise,” the Broadway musical based on his life. Their film and TV work included composer Ludwig Goransson’s agreements for Disney+’s “The Mandalorian,” as well as Pixar’s “Turning Red” and “Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
Catalog metrics: “In a low-interest-rate environment where people were struggling for yield, catalogs represented a safe asset class that could generate good returns,” says Salomon. “Then the market improved, streaming started booming and there was a gold rush. Now that interest rates are going up, valuations are starting to come down a little bit; however the premier catalogs will always trade at above market multiples.”
Partner; Global Co-Chair, Entertainment, Sports & Media Industry Group
Latham & Watkins
London-based Savill advises Middle East media company SRMG launching a regional free-to-airTVchannel (with Warner Bros. Discovery partnering for content). She repped KKR joint venture Chord Music Partners on entertainment aspects of a $723 million music-royalties securitization in February and Blackstone’s music performing rights organization Sesac in its $335 million securitization in June. She also advised London-based investor Centricus acquiring a majority stake in SK Global Entertainment (“Crazy Rich Asians”).
Rough patch: “We’re in a state of flux because of geopolitical instability that will have an impact on the media/entertainment industry,” Savill says, adding that private equity buyers find that the debt financing necessary for their deals is harder to obtain, which perhaps opens the door wider for strategic buyers to pursue consolidation.
Robert B. Schumer, Ariel J. Deckelbaum, Michael Vogel, Jeffrey D. Marell
Schumer, Deckelbaum, Vogel: Corporate Partners
Marell: Corporate Partner; Global Co-Head of Mergers & Acquisitions Practice
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
Schumer and Deckelbaum repped media conglomerate Advance for its stake in Discovery in the April megamerger with Warner Bros. Schumer and Vogel advised the trustee selling producer with following the CAA/Writers Guild settlement. Marell advised Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in its $8.45 billion sale in March, and also Spanish-language media company Hemisphere Media Group in a series of transactions. Marell and Vogel advised private equity giant Carlyle investing in Hollywood royalties-aggregator Con- tent Partners in June. Marell advised independent music publisher Reservoir Media in ongoing corporate matters after working its going public via a SPAC transaction last year. Deckelbaum and Vogel assisted Legendary Entertainment selling a $760 million minority stake to Apollo Global Management affiliates. The four are based in New York.
Mind the gap: Marell sees a fall-out from the gyrations this year in the investment landscape. In mergers-and-acquisition negotiations, buyers tend to be pessimistic in valuations while sellers are optimistic, creating a disconnect. “While the dealmaking environment in the near term is no doubt challenged, the interest in content assets remains high,” Marell says. He sees video streamers continuing to bulk up on content, and industry particularly bullish on libraries whose valuations are more predictable than new productions.
Stephen Sessa, Stacy Marcus, Ed Shapiro, Christian Simonds
Sessa: Co-Chair & Partner, Entertainment & Media Group
Marcus, Shapiro, Simonds: Partners, Entertainment & Media Group
Reed Smith’s entertainment team — led by Marcus, Sessa, Shapiro and Simonds — is known for brokering major deals. Marcus is the first woman and youngest person ever to serve as chief negotiator for the joint policy committee, and has led talks for multibillion-dollar commercials bargaining agreements with SAG-AFTRA and the American Federation of Musicians; Sessa specializes in the music industry, specifically catalog acquisitions and copyright law; Shapiro handles music, media and sports; and Simonds focuses on film, TV and new media. Together, they have the sector knowledge and relationships of a boutique firm with the power of a full-service international platform. Sessa says representing Concord in acquiring the music catalogs of Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford was a highlight of the year.
Constant evolution: “Law firms that aren’t educated on the metaverse, Web3, blockchain technologies and token-based economics will be at a great disadvantage” in the near future, Sessa says. “Reed Smith has published the Guide to the Metaverse, which is in its second edition, and it’s the most-read white paper in the history of our firm.”
David Shaheen, Reggie Lang, Tina Reddy
Shaheen: Head of Entertainment Industries & West Region
Lang: Managing Director
J.P. Morgan Corporate Client Banking
The trio led Concord Music’s acquisition financing in September, repped Content Partners on its $580 million revolving credit facility in August and Wasserman Music for a $390 million debt financing in November. Shaheen, Lang and Reddy worked financings and advisory assignments involving intellectual property and content production and distribution businesses globally. Among their other transactions are Lionsgate Entertainment for its $1.4 billion interest rate swap in May, two financings totaling $300 million for UTA in the past year and a $65 million revolving credit facility for Blumhouse in July.
Taking care of business: Shaheen observes that inflation shock, recession jitters and the pandemic hangover disrupted the capital-raising markets. But he feels it’s a good omen that players in the video world were able to pull off some big-ticket transactions amid market turmoil, including by clients Wasserman and Content Partners. “It’s a bright spot and speaks well of the staying power and longevity of the content sector,” he says, adding that he also expects consolidation to continue.
Ghazi Shami, Nima Etminan, Tina Davis, Mike Gallegus
Shami: CEO & Founder
Davis: SVP, A&R
Gallegus: VP, Business & Legal Affairs
The fast-growing indie label, distributor and publisher beefed up its assets last year by partnering with Blackground, the label of late R&B star Aaliyah. The deal prompted the re-issue of “One in a Million” on the 20th anniversary of her death, reaching No. 10 on the Billboard 200, a higher peak than the album’s first release, while an ad for the campaign won Empire a Clio. The company secured a placement on the soundtrack of blockbuster EA game Madden NFL 23 for the track “No Limit” by Money Man, Key Glock, BLEU and featuring Babyface Ray. A partnership with Red Bull garnered promotion for Empire artists through the energy drink’s SoundClash campaign, setting up a showcase for Detroit artist Babyface Ray in his hometown and one in San Francisco for Bay Area rapper Larry June. Amplifying Empire’s strong position in Africa, deals with several of the continent’s artists led to the compilation “Where We Come From.” Asake, Tiwa Savage, Kizz Daniel and Olamide are among the acts on the album.
Be nimble: “As a wholly independent record label we have the flexibility to ideate and execute deals that are tailored to our partners’ goals,” says Gallegus. “Whether it’s an artist, tech or global brand deal, we’re looking to maximize the cultural footprint.”
Robert J. Sherman
Partner; Co-Chair, Entertainment Finance Practice
Sherman’s wide-ranging practice encompasses financings, acquisitions and strategic transactions across media industries. He recently assisted longtime client Concord Music as it purchased the publishing and recorded music catalogs of Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford. Sherman also represented HarbourView Equity Partners, which he helped launch just over a year ago, as it closed a number of deals that carried an aggregate value in excess of $350 million.
New class of investors: “There have been many more sophisticated parties investing in music industry and music rights over the last five years,” Sherman says. “It’s been a huge influx. It’s been really exciting being part of this wave of sophisticated capital coming into this marketplace.”
Managing Partner; Head, Motion Picture, Television, Theatre, Publishing, New Media & Sports Practice Group
Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
Running his sprawling practice group keeps Shire busy. He negotiated Chris Licht’s deal to become the worldwide head of CNN; represented LeBron James in his entertainment, endorsement and entrepreneur work; and negotiated the New England Patriots’ agreement with Apple and Imagine Films for a 10-part docuseries on the team.
Jigsaw law: “It’s fitting everything together like a jigsaw puzzle so there’s no overlap of exclusivity in any area,” says Shire of the balancing act he adeptly performs. “You have to carve out things from years ago to make sure it doesn’t conflict with anything that you’re doing in a new deal … I like that part of it, the jigsaw puzzle part, but mostly, I just love my job. Other than playing shortstop for the Yankees, it’s probably the best job I could have.”
Chief Strategy Officer & Chief Business Development Officer, Streaming
Shultz’s mission is to grow Paramount+ and Pluto TV. He closed the deal bundling Paramount+ with Walmart+ memberships, and cultivated partnerships with Samsung, Vizio, LG, Amazon and others, to integrate Pluto into their devices. Mission accomplished: Pluto has 72 million users, and Paramount+ has 46 million subscribers.
Ad streaming: Eyebrows rose when Viacom spent $300 million on Pluto TV. “It’s now a billion-dollar revenue business,” says Shultz. “They recognized the growth opportunity of both the free and ad-supported models. Paramount+ has been a hybrid model all along … when we launched the service, Netflix said something to the effect of ‘no way, no advertising ever.’ It’s satisfying to see the rest of the market coming to where we started with the benefits of a hybrid model.”
Amy Siegel, Lindsay Conner, Bruce Tobey, Silvia Vannini
Siegel: Partner; Co-Chair, Entertainment, Sports & Media Group
Conner, Tobey, Vannini: Partners
O’Melveny & Myers
Despite their individual areas of specialty, Conner, Siegel, Tobey and Vannini work closely to ensure all O’Melveny & Myers’ clients benefit from their collective skills. For instance, Conner and Siegel recently represented Disney and Marvel Studios in a long-term licensing contract allowing Disney/Marvel to use the late Stan Lee’s name and likeness in conjunction with film, television and digital content as well as in theme parks, while Tobey and Vannini headed a team representing global streaming platform Starz in selling a majority stake in Starzplay Arabia to an Abu Dhabi-based consortium. The partners understand the nuances of the rapidly evolving international entertainment market — evidenced not only by the Starz accord and Vannini’s role in a cross-border deal representing Australian animation studio Animal Logic during its acquisition by Netflix — but also in advising Korean entertainment company CJ ENM in acquiring an 80% stake in the scripted business of Endeavor Content (now Fifth Season) for an enterprise valuation of $850 million.
Uncertain future: “Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges for our industry in the next year or two directionally will likely be the uncertainty in the broader economy and specifically the inability to reliably model entertainment assets,” according to Vannini. “More endogenous issues like the looming work stoppage with the Writers Guild of America will only compound the market murkiness,” she adds.
Marc H. Simon
Chair, Entertainment & Sports Department
Simon reps Academy Award-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy in all film and entertainment matters, including deals for her first two major studio feature directing opportunities with Paramount Pictures and Lucasfilm. Simon also repped Nook House Prods. and producers Emily Wachtel, Adam Gibbs and Lisa Long Adler on their January, multimillion-dollar license agreement for the critically acclaimed Ethan Hawke-directed HBO Max multipart film “The Last Movie Stars,” and he represents Joanne Woodward, on behalf of herself and late husband Paul Newman, regarding publication of a photo- graphic memoir.
Profit-sharing prognosis: “Right now, there’s uncertainty in terms of the content-buying landscape generally, and there’s a lack of continuity in the definition of backend for these content buyers who are streamers and premium channels,” says Simon.
Warner Bros. Discovery
As one of the highest-ranking female executives at Warner Bros. Discovery, Sims oversees the global media company’s legal teams, managing lawyers and all legal issues in nearly 20 offices worldwide. She sat at the helm of deal-planning for Discovery’s $43 billion acquisition of WarnerMedia from AT&T to form Warner Bros. Discovery. The deal closed in April.
Trends validate windows: “There’s been a shift away from the industrywide push for streaming subscriber growth at any cost,” she says. “I think we’re returning to a balanced approach that rejects the collapse of all windows and embraces the power of theatrical, linear and other delineated pay windows.”
VP, Corporate Development
Spence has executed a series of strategic deals to grow Spotify beyond its core music services. She led acquisitions of Podsights, Chartable and Whooshkaa, which added an array advertising measurement, analytics and workflow tools to its arsenal, along with AI voice platform Sonantic, music trivia game Heardle and Findaway.
Does the world need more podcasts?: “The relative consumption of a podcast per capita is still relatively low, so there’s room for more.”
Chris Spicer, Marissa Román Griffith, Alissa Miller, Vanessa Roman
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Century City-based lawyers Spicer, Griffith, Miller and Roman handled $3.5 billion in transactions for lenders, investors and producers in all aspects of media over the past year. They repped HPS Investment Partners in connection with a multi-tranche $550 million credit facility to Kobalt Music Group in February; Media Rights Capital for production (including Apple TV+’s “Shining Girls”) and refinancing a revolving loan; and MUFG bank for a $100 million revolving credit facility to indie financier TPC in March and a revolving credit facility for an affiliate of 2.0 Entertainment. For client Bank of America, the four attorneys worked a $100 million credit facility in May for Dean Devlin’s Electric Entertainment and P&A financing for Blumhouse. For Comerica Bank, they advised on a production loan to “The Hunger Games” prequel. For East West Bank, they worked multiple loans through July for various Tyler Perry productions. For Bank of Montreal, they advised on production loans.
Beautiful friendship: After video streaming and cinema seemed pitted against each other, Miller says “various stakeholders are trying to figure out if they’re going to have a symbiotic relationship, which is happening. Hopefully, this is the dawn of new era of streaming and theatrical cooperation.”
Matthew C. Thompson, Stephen M. Fronk, Russell (Rusty) G. Weiss
Thompson: Co-Leader, Global Entertainment, Sports & Media group
Fronk, Weiss: Partners
The headline for Sidley Austin’s entertainment, sports and media group is the $1 billion worth of music-related acquisitions Thompson closed in the past year, including Warner Music Group’s $400 million December 2021 purchase of record label 300 Entertainment (Megan Thee Stallion, Young Thug, Mary J. Blige). He also repped Conan O’Brien in SiriusXM’s May nine-figure acquisition of his podcast business and Dwayne Johnson in his Teremana tequila launch. Overall, the firm handled tens of billions of dollars of media and entertainment financing, representing both lenders and borrowers, including City National Bank’s $87.5 million syndicated secured credit facility for a private fund investing in music copyrights. Fronk and Weiss worked at the convergence of entertainment and tech, with the former advising long-time client Amazon in its partnership with Disney to introduce the Hey, Disney! custom voice assistant for Alexa, while the latter repped a mobile phone carrier on a time-sensitive multibillion-dollar distribution agreement with a major entertainment studio.
Expanding music rights: Investors are going beyond publishing catalogs and buying up artist and producers’ interests in master recordings. “The problem with producer deals is they basically have no leverage to control the exploitation, so that has a downward impact on the value and, usually, it’s a pretty tiny sliver [of the profits],” says Thompson.
Leah Weil, Erik Moreno, John Fukunaga, Maria Anguelova
Weil: Senior EVP & General Counsel
Moreno: EVP, Corporate Development & M&A
Fukunaga: EVP, Corporate Legal & Deputy General Counsel
Anguelova: EVP, Corporate Development, M&A, & Strategy
Sony Pictures Entertainment
The SPE team executed two major M&A deals in the past year. The first was Sony Pictures Networks India’s $1.5 billion merger with Mumbai-based Zee Entertainment Enterprises, combining the two entities’ linear networks, digital assets, production operations and program libraries. The deal, announced in December 2021, is still subject to regulatory approval. It should expand SPE’s position in one of the world’s fastest-growing markets and help it compete with other large platforms in the region. Three months later, they handled the $350 acquisition of with Industrial Media, a leading independent producer of nonfiction TV comprising multiple production shingles (including 19 Entertainment, B17 Entertainment and House of NonFiction) that make shows such as “American Idol,” “So You Think You Can Dance” and “90 Day Fiancé.” As part of the deal, Industrial Media CEO Eli Holzman and president Aaron Saidman will serve as president and co-president, respectively, of the newly created Sony Pictures Television Nonfiction division.
When a plan comes together: “For years, SPE’s growth strategies have focused on leaning into areas of strength and opportunity,” says Weill. “Our Industrial Media and Zee deals exemplify this strategy.”
Verve Talent & Literary Agency
Weinstein negotiated — and renegotiated — a pair of massive eight-figure deals for his clients, including the biggest open writing assignment of all time, which secured J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay as showrunners of “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” He also renegotiated “House of the Dragon” scribe and EP Sara Hess’ contract for the series’ second season, making her the highest-paid No. 2 in television history.
Hess’ herstory: “The whole show is built on the premise that the patriarchy would rather destroy itself than have a female on the Iron Throne, than have a female empowered,” Weinstein says. “[Hess] brought that voice to the show.”
Partner, Manatt Entertainment
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips
A prolific dealmaker who works with high-impact clients, Yen recently led the team that advised HartBeat, Kevin Hart’s multiplatform media company, and represented HartBeat in its $100 million capital raise by private equity firm Abry Partners. She also represents FilmRise, the largest independently owned AVOD streaming network, in upsizing and renewing its current working capital facility to a low-nine-figure commitment, which consisted of two closings in August and September.
What’s old is new: “Deal flow is still steady, but the marketplace seems prepared for a contraction in the industry,” says Yen. “And as usual, everything old is new again, such as the proliferation of FAST channels, which is essentially the distribution of content on a linear basis supported by advertising.”
Yorn Levine Barnes Krintzman Rubenstein Kohner Endlich & Gellman
Yorn is building out his firm’s Century City offices to create a Soho House-style meeting space, opening next year, where business and creative types can mingle. In the meantime, he continues to cut big deals for clients including Scarlett Johannsson (Apple TV+ feature “Project Artemis”), Jason Sudeikis (Apple TV+ overall) and Zoe Saldaña (Paramount+ series “Lioness”). He also reps Matthew McConaughey, Ellen DeGeneres, Gisele Bundchen, Anthony Zuicker, Jaume Colett-Serra and Jonah Hill.
Web3 future of tentpoles: “There are people who will invest in and then tokenize the entire IP and it’ll be on the blockchain and then folks will be able to be paid forever on every derivative of it,” he says.
Jeremy Zimmer, David Kramer
Zimmer and Kramer shepherded an investment by EQT Private Equity, which became the talent agency’s largest outside shareholder. Under Zimmer and Kramer, UTA became one of the big-three talent agencies with 2,000 employees. A 30-year veteran of the company, Kramer was elevated to sole president in September.
Small world, big world: Kramer finds the world is getting both smaller via globalization but also larger via businesses overlapping. Navigating the churning landscape requires being “aggressive and thoughtful, while keeping in mind the fundamentals and leaning into the future,” he says.
Ann Chen - UpNext
Loeb & Loeb
Chen assists clients with mergers and acquisitions, private equity, joint ventures and corporate issues. She reps production and post-production studios, book publishers, gaming companies, athletes, authors, singers, social media influencers and celebrities as part of the firm’s work for the following clients: Netflix in its acquisition of game shop Night School Studio; VFX house Ingenuity Studios in becoming part of Streamland Media’s post-production offerings; Voxovation, which brought the Eurovision Song Contest to the U.S.; Select Management Group; ZAG America; sports fantasy outfit SuperDraft; country star Morgan Wallen; and Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, one of the highest viewed gamers and social-media influencers.
Brandon Cherry - UpNext
Loeb & Loeb
Cherry works with independent production companies in all aspects of business and legal affairs, while also representing leading financial institutions, equity funds and high-net-worth individuals in a wide range of financing transactions involving film and television content. In the past year, he repped Alcon Entertainment in connection with the upcoming animated motion picture “Garfield,” starring Chris Pratt and Samuel L. Jackson; Black Label Media in connection with “Devotion,” a Korean War drama starring Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell; and Moto Pictures in connection with “Ferrari,” a live-action biopic based upon the life of Enzo Ferrari, directed by Michael Mann.
Michael Hartman - UpNext
Hartman reps up-and-coming and established actors, writers, directors, producers and athletes across all types of entertainment and media deals, from talent and rights acquisition, to licensing, endorsement and podcast agreements. Recent deals include Skydance Media’s first-look deal with Apple for live-action features, including multiple license agreements, and its financing/producing deal on “Air Jordan” for Amazon; Macro’s first-look deal with Amazon, plus multiple producing/executive producing deals for film and television projects; and rights acquisition and producing deals for Scholastic Entertainment in connection with major franchises, including the new “Goosebumps” live-action series for Disney+, “Magic School Bus” and “39 Clues.”
Joseph A. Ireland - UpNext
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton
Ireland represents studios, major brands, producers, financiers, advertising agencies and other entertainment and media companies in a variety of business transactions. His activities on their behalf cover acquisition, development, financing, production, licensing, distribution and exploitation of content in television, film, podcasting, sports and branded entertainment. Recent accomplishments include advising Lionsgate in connection with its acquisition of the majority of Spyglass Media Group’s feature film library of approximately 200 titles, and serving as a key member of the team that represented Sony Pictures Television in its high-profile acquisition of a controlling interest in Industrial Media (“American Idol,” “90 Day Fiancé”).
Adam Judd - UpNext
Managing Director & Head of Crypto
Over the course of this year, Judd and his team have collaborated on billions of dollars in transactions in addition to raising funds for companies across myriad industries, including media, fintech, sports, audio, retail and Web3. Activities include serving as financial adviser to the Chernin Group on its $263 million investment in toy and lifestyle company Funko; Vox Media in its merger with Group Nine; the Athletic in its $550 million cash sale to the New York Times; 300 Entertainment in its sale to Warner Music Group; and Liberty Latin America in its joint venture with America Movil’s operations in Chile.
Juliana Lubin - UpNext
Ashland Hill Media Finance
Working at a company that specializes in debt, gap and bridge financing, Lubin was part of the closing for Rupert Sanders’ big-budget reboot of “The Crow,” starring Bill Skarsgård, FKA Twigs and Danny Huston; on the team financing Phillip Noyce’s action thriller “Fast Charlie,” starring Pierce Brosnan, Morena Baccarin and James Caan; tech thriller “57 Seconds,” directed by Rusty Cundieff, starring Josh Hutcherson and Morgan Freeman; and Marcus Adams’ shark thriller “Deep Fear,” starring Madalina Ghenea and Ed Westwick. Ashland Hill has deployed more than $60 million across eight films since its launch in May, with three more films expected to close this calendar year. Before transitioning to finance, Lubin spent more than a decade as an indie film and TV exec.
Eve Nguyen - UpNext
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton
Nguyen provides counsel to her film and television studio clients at every stage of production, from development through distribution. She has served as production counsel on multiple projects for Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and Apple TV+ — most recently being credited on the much-loved Netflix docuseries “Dogs.” Additionally, Nguyen played a key role advising Amazon on the development and production of Lizzo’s Emmy-winning competition series “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” and “Expats,” a series starring Nicole Kidman and based on Janice Y.K. Lee’s novel.
Cullen Sinclair -UpNext
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
Sinclair has been involved in some transformational media and entertainment deals. These include repping MGM in its sale to Amazon for $8.45 billion, a milestone in the tech world’s embrace of entertainment. He also represented Advance, the New York-based media conglomerate and founder/major shareholder of Discovery in the multibillion-dollar transaction that combined AT&T’s WarnerMedia business with Discovery, creating one of the deepest entertainment libraries and widespread distribution networks in the world, controlling such outlets as HBO, Warner Bros., Discovery, CNN, Cartoon Network, HGTV, Food Network, TNT, TBS and Animal Planet.