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Shaping the Media Landscape One Deal at a Time: Legal Minds Behind Mergers in Showbiz

Leading legal minds driving significant mergers and acquisitions across diverse industries, showcasing adaptability and innovative solutions.
It's A Deal A close-up of two men shaking hands, circa 1948 | Getty Images | Photo by FPG
It's A Deal A close-up of two men shaking hands, circa 1948 | Getty Images | Photo by FPG

The dealmakers behind mergers and arrangments in showbiz

Accomplished partners and legal experts have played pivotal roles in some of the most significant mergers and acquisitions across various industries. Their dedication and expertise have been instrumental in navigating complex deals, addressing regulatory challenges, and finding innovative solutions.

Aryeh B. Bourkoff attends Tribeca X - 2021 Tribeca Festival at Spring Studios | Getty Images | Photo by Dia Dipasupil
Aryeh B. Bourkoff attends Tribeca X - 2021 Tribeca Festival at Spring Studios | Getty Images | Photo by Dia Dipasupil

In a dynamic and ever-evolving business landscape, these professionals have contributed to shaping the future of their respective sectors.

1. Rob Freeman

Rob Freeman, a partner at Proskauer Rose, serves as co-head of the Technology, Media, and Telecom group, playing a key role in shaping consumer content consumption through strategic agreements. Freeman's involvement in the Warner Bros. Discovery deal primarily centered on reviewing network distribution contracts, a complex task requiring a delicate balance between identifying and addressing issues while aligning them with broader business objectives. Freeman anticipates continued consolidation within the media industry, particularly in the realm of streaming services. His impressive portfolio includes advising Misfits Gaming on the sale of its European League of Legends franchise to Team Heretics, facilitating ForgeLight's acquisition of Univision, and assisting TMRW Sports in launching TGL, a technology-infused golf league. Among his notable clients are Hulu, Cox Communications, NBA Media, and NFL Media.

2. Jonathan Levitsky & Sue Meng

Jonathan Levitsky and Sue Meng, partners at Debevoise & Plimpton, played a pivotal role in their long-standing client, Discovery's monumental deal. Despite numerous challenges, including discussions with major shareholders and intricate financings, the Debevoise and Discovery teams sealed the deal within 14 days, a testament to their efficiency and ability to thrive under pressure. Levitsky emphasizes that maintaining composure during intense moments is crucial, and he anticipates an improved M&A market as uncertainties clear out, defining the economic cycle. Among other accomplishments, Meng advised Providence Equity Partners on its minority investment in The North Road Company, a multi-genre studio formed by Peter Chernin.

3. Andrew Elken

Andrew Elken, a Former partner at Cravath Swaine & Moore and currently Partner at Latham & Watkins LLP, led a team that provided crucial counsel to Amazon in a significant deal. Their expertise was instrumental in helping the tech giant navigate the complexities related to the acquisition, particularly focusing on regulatory and intellectual property challenges. Elken views dealmaking as a process of comprehending each party's goals and limitations, and then crafting customized, innovative solutions for intricate issues. He anticipates a shift towards stock-for-stock deals, joint ventures, and financing solutions that are less reliant on cash. In addition to the Amazon deal, Elken's portfolio includes work with clients such as Anheuser‑Busch, Barnes & Noble, Lazard, and Moelis.

4. Kendall Johnson & Rick Offsay

Kendall Johnson and Rick Offsay, partners at Latham & Watkins, leveraged their extensive experience with MGM to navigate a unique deal. Johnson emphasized their suitability for the task, given their long-standing association with MGM. But the deal's novelty stemmed from its execution during the pandemic. The round-the-clock negotiation, traditionally an in-person conference room affair, was transformed into a remote process conducted entirely via Zoom due to COVID-19. Both Johnson and Offsay have an impressive portfolio of notable work, including advising on acquisitions, content deals, fundraising, and pivotal sales like Endeavor Content to CJ ENM.

5. Jeff Marell & Cullen Sinclair

Jeff Marell and Cullen Sinclair, representing Paul Weiss, used their expertise as advisors to MGM to address intricate regulatory and ownership concerns regarding the vast intellectual property portfolio involved in the deal. The challenge lay in ensuring Amazon's IP protection while remaining compliant with antitrust laws and MGM's business strategy. In addition to their impressive work on the Amazon-MGM deal, Marell advised Hemisphere Media on the acquisition of Pantaya, a Spanish-language streaming service, and its subsequent sale to TelevisaUnivision, while Sinclair provided counsel in the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger.

6. Michael Davis

Michael Davis, a partner at Davis Polk, was the lead counsel for ICM in their deal with CAA, which involved a detailed review by regulators due to the antitrust aspects. He anticipates that robust potential buyers with solid balance sheets will continue engaging in deals, albeit possibly more opportunistically and at reduced volumes. Davis' notable work includes representing Industrial Media in its majority stake sale to Sony, valued at $350 million, and collaborating with Penguin Random House on their $2.17 billion bid for Simon & Schuster.

7. Adam Emmerich & John Robinson

Adam Emmerich and John Robinson, partners at Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, adopted a taskforce approach in advising CAA on their merger with ICM, a partnership that has been going strong since 1995. The resulting combined agency now spans 3,200 employees across 25 countries. In addition to that, Emmerich was involved in the $20.8 billion merger of Shaw Communications and Rogers Communications, representing shareholders in Vice Media, while both Emmerich and Robinson participated in Vivendi's spin-off of Universal Music Group in the US.

8. Sonia Nijjar

Sonia Nijjar, a partner at Skadden, played a key role in facilitating Elon Musk's attempt to purchase Twitter. Besides drafting the merger agreement and crafting the equity and debt financing structures, Nijjar successfully tackled the challenge of navigating rapidly changing developments, sometimes occurring every hour. She described it as one of the most captivating deals due to its fast-paced and dynamic nature. Nijjar also led the $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft, a deal that remains the largest pact in tech and gaming.

9. Aryeh Bourkoff

LionTree CEO Aryeh Bourkoff attends the 2022 Apollo Theater Spring Benefit | Arturo Holmes Getty Images | Photo by
LionTree CEO Aryeh Bourkoff attends the 2022 Apollo Theater Spring Benefit | Arturo Holmes Getty Images | Photo by

Aryeh Bourkoff, the co-founder and CEO of boutique investment bank LionTree, has made a significant impact in the M&A sector, earning the trust of top executives like Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav. He remains influential even after representing AT&T on the opposing side of a merger. LionTree has also advised Take-Two Interactive on its $12.7 billion Zynga acquisition, assisted Apollo with its Yahoo! acquisition and investment in Legendary Entertainment, and supported The Chernin Group's investment in Funko.

10. Erik Hodge,efforts%20in%20Entertainment%20and%20Content.,efforts%20in%20Entertainment%20and%20Content.

Erik Hodge, a partner at Raine, has significant achievements such as facilitating the sale of the Roald Dahl Story Company to Netflix and orchestrating Pixomondo's acquisition by Sony. Hodge anticipates that companies will adopt more adaptable dealmaking approaches in response to growing economic pressures. While serving prominent Hollywood clients, he is also establishing a presence in the digital realm, with a focus on companies like ATTN: and Vice Media.