13 May 2021

Around the house: former GC for The New Yorker moves to Ballard Spahr

This week's round of in-house appointments also sees ride-hailing giant Grab name a Skadden partner GC as it gears up for a record-setting SPAC merger

By Victoria Basham

Lynn Oberlander has joined Ballard Spahr's media practice as of counsel Image courtesy of Ballard Spahr

Former First Look Media GC joins Ballard Spahr 

Noted First Amendment attorney Lynn Oberlander, whose CV includes the GC spot at The New Yorker and First Look Media, has begun a role as of counsel in the New York office of Am Law 100 firm Ballard Spahr

Oberlander has joined the firm’s media practice and will provide it with broad media counsel, including general counsel services, newsgathering and newsroom policies, counsel on Freedom of Information Act requests, copyright and content litigation and all types of media-related contract negotiation, drafting and review. She will also become an active member of the firm’s team of defence counsel in defamation and privacy litigation for newsrooms.

As well as her roles at The New Yorker and First Look Media, Oberlander has held senior in-house roles at Univision, Forbes and NBC and spent two and a half years as EVP and GC at Gizmodo Media Group directly prior to joining Ballard Spahr. 

Ballard Spahr's media and entertainment law practice leader Charles Tobin noted the firm’s First Amendment attorneys have a longstanding working relationship with Oberlander, adding that she is a leader of the media law community nationwide and especially well-respected in the New York bar.  

Oberlander described Ballard Spahr as an “excellent fit” for her practice and that she looks forward to “harnessing the resources of a national firm to further freedom of the press.”

Grab nabs Skadden partner for SPAC merger  

A corporate partner in the Hong Kong office of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom has joined Grab, one of the firm’s clients, as general counsel. 

Christopher Betts has moved to the Singapore-based food delivery and ride-hailing giant after nine years as a partner at Skadden in Hong Kong. The University of Melbourne graduate, who according to his LinkedIn profile speaks fluent Mandarin, began his legal career as an associate at Freshfields Burckhaus Deringer. He also had stints as associate general counsel at McKinsey and as of counsel and partner at Paul Hastings. 

Grab announced plans last month to go public in the US via a record-setting SPAC merger with Altimeter Growth, valued at nearly $40bn. The deal will provide Grab with roughly $4.5bn in cash proceeds, with the combined company’s securities set to trade on Nasdaq in the coming months.

Reuters reported that Skadden and Hughes Hubbard & Reed are advising Grab in the merger, while Ropes & Gray is acting for Altimeter and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr is representing Altimeter Capital Management and Altimeter Capital Markets.

From Coca-Cola to cannabis giant 

Coca-Cola veteran Dara Redler has been announced as the new interim chief legal officer for Nasdaq-listed Tilray, the world’s largest legal cannabis operation by revenue. 

Redler served as Tilray’s general counsel prior to its $3.8bn acquisition of fellow Canadian cannabis company Aphria, which was completed at the beginning of May. The combined company will use the Tilray name, with Redler serving as its corporate secretary as well as its interim legal chief. 

Redler began her legal career as an associate at Alston & Bird in Atlanta before joining travel services outfit Travelport as senior counsel. She then spent 17 years at Coca-Cola, during which she served in a variety of senior in-house rolesserving finally as senior counsel for worldwide marketing and growth. The beverages giant recently reshuffled its own legal leadership after its general counsel Bradley Gayton stepped after less than a year

Redler joined Tilray in Seattle as its general counsel at the beginning of 2019 and according to her LinkedIn profile helped to build “a global legal function, a compliance function and foundational elements for operational excellence.” She also provided strategic support for the company as it expanded globally through M&A.

Redler said on LinkedIn that she was “proud to be part of the "new" Tilray - leading the way in global cannabis!

Tilray’s new board of directors consists of seven former Aphria directors including chairman Irwin Simon, who held the positions of chairman and CEO at Aphria, and two former Tilray directors, including founder and former CEO Brendan Kennedy.   

New legal leader for Musk-backed AI lab 

Jason Kwon has become the general counsel at OpenAI, a San Francisco-based AI research laboratory that counts Elon Musk and Samuel Altman, former CEO of start-up accelerator Y Combinator, among its co-founders. 

Kwon has taken over in the role from David Lansky, who began his stint as GC in April 2017 directly from a position as a senior attorney at Am Law 100 firm Arnold & Porter. At the same time, he became GC for Bay Area non-profit research lab Open Research, which was formerly known as YC Research and undertook OpenAI as its first project. According to Lansky’s LinkedIn profile he still holds this position. 

Kwon is himself a former general counsel for Y Combinator’s YC Continuity investment fund who prior to starting his new role spent 18 months as GC and chief sales officer at real estate start-up ZeroDown. The former Goodwin Procter associate also had a stint in-house at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Khosla Ventures. 

OpenAI announced in early 2018 that Musk was stepping down from its board, citing potential conflicts of interest with Tesla as the electric car company became more focused on AI, but noted that he would remain a donor and adviser.   

OpenAI did not respond to a request for comment on the moves.

Pharma experience for LogicBio 

Nasdaq-listed clinical-stage genetic medicine company LogicBio Therapeutics has named Andrea Paul as its new general counsel and corporate secretary, effective 17 May.

Paul will take over from Bryan Yoon, who has left his role as LogicBio’s chief administrative officer, general counsel and secretary after 18 months to be GC and COO at Terns Pharmaceuticals.  

Paul will join LogicBio in Lexington, Massachusetts from fellow biopharma business Akebia Therapeutics, where she currently serves as vice president of legal. She first joined the company in 2017 as senior corporate and securities counsel and acted as a key legal adviser on its 2018 merger with Keryx Biopharmaceuticals

Prior to Akebia she had a stint as senior corporate counsel at Momenta Pharmaceuticals and was earlier an associate at Mintz Levin in Boston and in the London office of Sullivan & Cromwell. 

Janice Olson has also been announced as the LogicBio’s’s new senior vice president of strategy and portfolio management. Commenting on the appointments, president and CEO Frederic Chereau said that Paul’s and Olson’s industry experience is “instrumental” to the company as it looks to expand the reach of its platforms after its recent collaborations with Daiichi Sankyo and CANbridge Pharmaceuticals.

Smooth transition for EVO Payments

Kelli Sterrett is set to take over from Steven de Groot as EVP, GC and company secretary of Atlanta-based EVO Payments after he transitions to become special counsel to CEO James Kelly, effective 1 October. 

de Groot joined the Nasdaq-listed payments tech and services provider after 23 years in private practice, including as a partner at King & Spalding. Kelly commented that he has been an integral part of virtually all strategic initiatives during his tenure as general counsel, guiding the company in nearly 30 acquisitions and numerous financing transactions, including our initial public offering in May 2018.  

Sterrett has served as SVP and deputy general counsel of EVO since joining the company at the end of 2018. Directly prior to that she had a nearly 10-year stint at Scientific Games, the last five of which she served as vice president and deputy general counsel, and earlier had a career as a corporate lawyer at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in New York.

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