Around the house: legal leaders arrive at WellPet and Millennia Housing Management

This week's collection of senior in-house hires also sees one of Australia's top start-up lawyers join a tech unicorn

Erica Hageman of WellPet (left) and Renee Weiss of Millennia Housing Management Images courtesy of WellPet and Millennia Housing Management

SafetyCulture adds start-up heavyweight in Sydney

Australian workplace health and safety tech unicorn SafetyCulture has added Peter Dunne, widely known as one of the country’s best start-up lawyers, to be its general counsel and vice-president of corporate development.

Sydney-based Dunne has spent the past 15 years at Herbert Smith Freehills, where he has built a venture practice spanning multiple states with Atlassian, Deputy, Canva and Linktree among his roster of clients. He specialises in capital raisings and M&A and supported a funding round for SafetyCulture that saw it reach a $2.2bn valuation in May.

SafteyCulture CEO Luke Anear said that “no one knows the VC world” like Dunne, adding that “he has been instrumental in some of the biggest tech deals and his contribution to the Australian technology industry is incalculable. This is a strategic move for SafetyCulture.

“Peter has been advising us for years from the outside, but as our growth has accelerated, so has our need to build out the capability of our in-house team to continue to capitalise on this success.”

At SafetyCulture, Dunne will be responsible for establishing a corporate development team and the acceleration of its growing partnership model. For the time being he will also continue to work at HSF part-time to help guide the transition to a new team leader.  

WellPet adds first general counsel

Tewkesbury, Massachusetts-based pet food company WellPet has appointed Erica Hageman as its first general counsel. She is expected to play a key role in helping the company navigate strategic growth while also overseeing all legal matters including compliance, IP, contracts, employment law and litigation.

Hageman most recently served as chief government affairs officer at property management company Aimbridge Hospitality. Prior to that she held various leadership roles at Interstate Hotels & Resorts in Virginia, including general counsel, and was a member of the team that led the sale of the company. Earlier she spent five years as a litigation associate in the Washington DC office of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott.  

"Erica will play a crucial role as our internal counsel, guiding us on all legal, compliance, and contractual matters," said Reed Howlett, CEO of WellPet. "Erica's impressive business and legal background will be vital to our company's next chapter and sustainable growth.”

"I'm excited for this new opportunity to advance WellPet's goals to grow as a leader in the premium pet food category. Coming from a background in hospitality, I'm familiar with work that centres on the wellbeing of others, and I'm looking forward to applying that to the booming pet industry," said Hageman.

Millennia Housing Management looks to its own for next GC

The Millennia Companies, a group of real estate businesses based in Cleveland, Ohio, has promoted Renee Weiss to the general counsel role at Millennia Housing Management.

Weiss will report to chief operating officer Lee Felgar and lead on all MHM's legal affairs and functions, including setting the direction of the legal department, overseeing in-house staff and managing outside counsel.

"Throughout her tenure at the company, Renee has established herself as a well-respected leader who collaborates across departments to resolve complex issues," said Frank Sinito, founder and CEO of The Millennia Companies.

Additionally, Weiss will continue to provide representation for the company and advise executive members on legal matters.

Since joining MHM three years ago, Weiss has held the roles of interim general counsel, vice president, assistant general counsel for operations and associate attorney at MHM. Before that she spent 13 years at fellow Ohio real estate outfit DDR in various legal roles, finally serving as associate general counsel. Earlier she had stints as an associate at Taft Stettinius & Hollister and BakerHostetler.

New legal eagle for Allvue

Miami-based Allvue Systems, an alternative investment tech provider that manages more than $2.5trn in assets on its platform, has made Deborah Mason chief legal officer and a member of the executive leadership team.

Mason will oversee the firm’s legal team and be responsible for supporting the firm’s corporate activity and managing risk exposure, reporting directly to CEO Mark Heimbouch. She will also work closely with the leadership team to grow the business and optimise Allvue’s legal, compliance and business contracting practices.

Heimbouch pointed to Mason’s experience consulting on risk and compliance matters as well as corporate strategy, which he said will “provide critical support as we continue to scale our business and bolster our offering to meet the evolving needs of our clients.”

Mason most recently held the role of general counsel North America for data analytics business NielsenIQ following its separation from The Nielsen Company, where she spent four years in various senior legal roles. At NielsenIQ, she managed a legal support team in the US and Canada and provided counsel on commercial and strategic matters including M&A, commercial transactions, product development, litigation, integrity and corporate compliance, privacy and data security.

Prior to that she had a three-year stint in the New York office of German market research company GfK, serving latterly as VP and associate general counsel, and earlier worked as an associate at Ropes & Gray, also in New York.  

Mason’s hire follows on from Allvue adding Paul Wasinger as chief financial officer and James Black as chief operating officer in February; the firm also established an APAC presence with the opening of a Singapore office in May.

Bridgepoint promotion after listing

Private equity firm Bridgepoint, whose investments include UK restaurant chain Itsu, Burger King's France and UK branches and Wiggle, has promoted one its own to the top legal spot after its London listing.

Rachel Thompson has taken over as group general counsel from veteran Charlie Barter, who became the firm’s first GC in 13 years ago. According to Bridgepoint’s website he remains at the firm as a partner.

Thompson joined Bridgepoint in 2010 and spent 11 years as assistant general counsel before her promotion. In her now role, she will be responsible for the company’s legal, regulatory and compliance functions as a member of its executive committee. Prior to Bridgepoint, Thompson spent nearly five years as an associate Clifford Chance in its private equity team.

AstraZeneca veteran for Aeglea BioTherapeutics

Nasdaq-listed Aeglea BioTherapeutics, has appointed of Jim Kastenmayer as general counsel. The Austin-based clinical-stage biotechnology company develops human enzyme therapeutics to treat rare metabolic diseases.

"With his broad experience at both big pharma and emerging biotech and a strong intellectual property background, Jim brings a depth of experience that will be valuable as we advance our two clinical programs and evolve to a commercial-stage company," said Anthony Quinn, president and CEO of Aeglea.

Kastenmayer joins Aeglea from the GC role at Viela Bio, where he advised on matters including FDA approval and the company's acquisition by Horizon Therapeutics. Prior that, he spent eight years at AstraZeneca in roles including global legal director, where he advised on commercialisation and market access strategies, collaboration agreements and handled legal proceedings, as well as senior patent director, accountable for delivering global IP estates for small and large molecule therapies.

Earlier in his career, Kastenmayer served as IP counsel at MedImmune in Gaithersburg, Maryland and as an associate at IP boutique Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner.  

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