Around the house: Crypto giant Binance promotes Ex-Skadden lawyer to GC, Marlboro-maker names new GC

This week’s roundup of top in-house moves also includes appointments at Grupo Dia, Tejon Ranch, SATO Corporation and SmartRoof AI

Binance names new GC after previous legal head quits Iryna Budanova / Shutterstock

Binance names new GC after senior executive exodus

The world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange Binance has named Eleanor Hughes as its new general counsel after its former GC Hon Ng quit along with two other senior executives including its vice president of compliance.

Hughes first joined the firm in 2021 from Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, where she was a litigation and contentious matters lawyer based in Singapore and Hong Kong. She initially joined as senior legal counsel and head of regulatory before becoming head of legal for the Asia Pacific and Middle East and North Africa regions in July last year.

Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao took to Twitter to label speculation about the trio of departures as “FUD” (fear, uncertainty and doubt), saying “As markets and the global environment for crypto changes, as our organisation evolves, and as personal situations change, there is turnover at every company.”

He called their replacements, including Hughes, “truly high calibre”. Hughes spent seven years at Skadden, having joined from WilmerHale in London. She started her career as a trainee solicitor at Eversheds back in 2008.

Ng, meantime, exits Binance after just under three years. He was previously a legal director at Uber, leading its Asia Pacific legal team for just over five years before becoming director for business development. He also worked in private practice at Latham & Watkins and White & Case, having trained at Herbert Smith Freehills in London. He is a legal committee member of the Hong Kong Football Association, the East Asian Football Federation and the Asian Football Confederation.

Marlboro-maker Philip Morris promotes long-time counsel to GC

Global tobacco giant Philip Morris International has promoted Yann Guérin to general counsel, replacing Suzanne Rich Folsom who stepped down at the start of this month.

Guérin has been with Philip Morris for more than 17 years working in a number of roles, most recently as associate GC for corporate based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

He wrote on LinkedIn: “I am honoured (and frankly, humbled) to share that I’ve been appointed senior vice-president and general counsel of Philip Morris International. The unmatched strength of our leadership team and board of directors, coupled with the talented legal and compliance team, is what excites me the most as we look to continue advancing our bold mission and vision for the future of our company.”

Prior to his career at Philip Morris, Guérin was an M&A associate at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom. He joined the company in 2006 as counsel for Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, later becoming assistant GC for the same region and then South and Southern Asia, among other roles.

Rich Folsom originally joined Philip Morris in 2020 from Manatt Phelps & Phillips, where she was a partner. She is relocating to Washington DC and will become a senior strategic advisor to the company on a consulting basis.

Spanish supermarket group appoints new GC

Spanish supermarket chain Grupo Dia has appointed Patricio Morenés as its new general counsel, replacing Sagrario Fernández who is leaving the company.

Morenés has been with the group since 2020, most recently as deputy GC. He specialises in corporate, M&A and commercial law and will also join the group’s management committee. 
The company said the appointment is a sign of its commitment to promoting internal talent and advancing the company’s strategy.

Morenés joined Grupo Dia from KPMG Law in Madrid, where he was a senior lawyer covering corporate, M&A and real estate. He also previously worked at UK Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy, Prosegur and Deloitte, all in Madrid.

Fernández had been with Grupo Dia since 2019, joining from gaming and sports betting company Codere, where she was GC and compliance officer. Like Morenés, she also previously worked at Prosegur, where she was GC and board secretary. She had other in-house roles at IECISA and Iberbanda (as chief of legal) and Indra (as manager of the corporate legal department), having started her career in private practice at Spanish law firm Garrigues.

Californian land developer Tejon Ranch reappoints GC

US-listed land development and agribusiness Tejon Ranch has rehired Michael Houston as general counsel. He is returning after around two years at the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).

Houston previously spent almost five years at Tejon Ranch, as senior vice president, GC and corporate secretary. At SCAG – the largest metropolitan planning agency in the US – Houston served as chief counsel and director of legal services. He brings with him extensive experience in corporate governance, public agency law, real estate development, land use and environmental issues, and will rejoin Tejon Ranch on August 21.

Gregory Bielli, president and CEO of Tejon Ranch, said: “We are very excited to welcome Michael Houston back to our executive management team. He made significant contributions in the almost five years he was with us previously. We’re confident he will continue to further our company’s mission for both our shareholders and the communities we are so proud to be involved with in creating housing, environmental advancements and employment efforts for Californians.”

Prior to his first stint at Tejon Ranch, Houston was an attorney for the City of Anaheim.

He said: “The company has made tremendous progress in its real estate entitlement, development and environmental efforts and is well-positioned for significant growth in the future. Tejon Ranch has an incredible mission to create value for the shareholders and provide California with enormous opportunities to house and employ California’s citizens.”

Finland’s SATO replaces retiring GC

Finnish rental housing provider SATO Corporation has named Leena Rentola as its next general counsel, replacing Katri Innanen who is retiring at the end of August.

Rentola is joining from Finnish construction company Citycon Group, where she was senior legal counsel overseeing its governance and compliance matters. At SATO, Rentola will be responsible for all legal matters.

Antti Aarnio, SATO’s president and CEO, said: “Leena’s versatile expertise of the real estate sector is much appreciated here at SATO, since we both own and rent as well as build homes. Even though we wouldn’t want to let Katri go, we are certain that Leena’s leadership will boost our legal team to continue their stellar work.”

Prior to working at Citycon, Rentola was senior legal counsel for real estate and construction at Nordic legal services business Fondia. She was also legal counsel at real estate investment company Sponda and started her career at Nordic law firm Hannes Snellman Attorneys.

She said: “SATO’s values – human to human, sustainability and desire to succeed together – made a strong impression on me. I am extremely excited to be involved in implementing the company’s strategy in cooperation with SATO’s personnel, customers and partners.”

Innanen is retiring after her second stint at SATO, having rejoined the company in 2016 from construction business SRV. She was previously GC at SATO between 1999 and 2008, having joined as legal counsel in 1998. She also spent 11 years as corporate legal counsel at legacy Finnish construction business Lemminkäinen (which merged with YIT in 2018).

Proptech roofing business names new GC

US proptech business SmartRoof AI has appointed Nick Schanbaum as its general counsel, a newly created position.

Schanbaum brings around 13 years of in-house legal experience, most recently as GC and chief of staff at parking tech company ParkHub. At SmartRoof, he will also serve as head of business development. SmartRoof AI says it uses tech including AI and drones to help property owners better maintain their rooftops.

Nathan Mathews, CEO of SmartRoof AI, said: “[Schanbaum’s] extensive experience in the proptech industry, coupled with his proven track record of driving growth and providing legal guidance, makes him a valuable addition to the team. Nick’s expertise will play a vital role in accelerating our growth and expanding our market presence.”

Prior to his five years at ParkHub, Schanbaum spent almost seven years at tax services and software provider Ryan in a number of roles, including senior corporate counsel. He started his career in private practice at Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell. He has also held a number of other investment and strategy-related roles, including the North Texas Angel Network (where he is currently a board member) and previously as chief strategy officer and investor at Kairos IoT, a water-focused proptech company serving the commercial real estate market.

Schanbaum said: “I am incredibly excited to lead the sales charge at SmartRoof and take ownership of our B2B growth. It’s a responsibility I embrace wholeheartedly and feel the pressure to deliver outstanding results.”

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