Lions Gate Entertainment Enlists O’Melveny as New General Counsel to Strengthen Legal Team
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Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., a prominent media and entertainment company known for its blockbuster film franchises such as “The Hunger Games,” “John Wick,” and the “Twilight Saga,” is gearing up to separate its Lionsgate movie studio from its Starz pay television and streaming business. In a significant move, the company has recently hired Bruce Tobey, a veteran film industry executive and former partner at O’Melveny & Myers, to serve as its new General Counsel.

The disclosure of Tobey’s appointment came to light through an annual proxy statement filed by Lionsgate on July 20. This announcement comes in the wake of the company’s earlier securities filing, where it unveiled its plan to create two independent publicly traded entities. The much-anticipated separation of Lionsgate and Starz has been eagerly awaited in Hollywood circles and is projected to be completed by September.

Although a Lionsgate spokesperson confirmed Tobey’s hiring, no further comments were provided regarding the appointment. Bruce Tobey officially joined Lionsgate on March 27, succeeding former General Counsel Corii Berg, who stepped down from the position on December 20, 2022. The exact reasons for Berg’s departure remain undisclosed; however, it was revealed that he was granted severance compensation amounting to over $1.6 million, as per an agreement reached with the company on February 15, 2023.


See also: O’Melveny Seeks $139 Million in Legal Fees Following American Airlines Antitrust Victory

Berg’s exit package comprised accelerated vesting of Lionsgate stock and payments covering 24 months of health insurance premiums. Consequently, his total compensation for fiscal year 2023 reached more than $4.3 million, a substantial increase from the nearly $2.3 million earned in 2022. Berg had an extensive 20-year tenure at Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. before joining Lionsgate in 2018.

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In contrast, Tobey received $269,230 in compensation from Lionsgate in 2023, with a significant portion of it in the form of stock awards, as disclosed in the proxy statement. The entertainment industry has witnessed various consolidation efforts in recent years, with a growing focus on streaming assets. This has led to periodic speculation about potential takeovers involving Lionsgate.

Bruce Tobey brings a wealth of experience to his new role at Lionsgate. Before joining the company, he spent a decade at O’Melveny, where he was a partner and headed the law firm’s high-profile entertainment, sports, and media practice until early 2021. Tobey initially joined O’Melveny’s Century City, California office as senior counsel in 2012, following his previous role as the chief operating officer for CBS Films. O’Melveny had previously provided legal counsel to Lionsgate on various matters, including a takeover battle involving former shareholder Carl Icahn and a substantial $375 million film financing deal with a Chinese company.

Interestingly, this isn’t the only recent change in top legal personnel within the media industry. LionTree LLC, a boutique investment bank specializing in media, technology, and telecommunications deals, appointed Avi Sutton as its General Counsel. Sutton, a former corporate associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, also assumed the role of Chief Operating Officer at the privately held, New York-based firm. This move followed the departure of LionTree’s former top lawyer, Georg Krause-Vilmar, who left to become Chief Legal Officer at ByHeart Inc., a baby formula startup. ByHeart Inc. also recently hired former Sullivan & Cromwell associate Hannah Beard as a corporate counsel.

As Lionsgate progresses with its plans for separation and navigates the ever-evolving landscape of the entertainment industry, Tobey’s expertise and experience in the film sector are expected to be invaluable assets to the company. With the restructuring on the horizon, the entertainment community awaits further updates on Lionsgate’s strategic moves and the potential impact on the broader industry.

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