Cerence hires Lenovo's global litigation head as next GC as part of wider leadership shake-up

AI software developer for the car industry secures 'lawyer by trade', 'strategist at heart' for top legal role

AI software company Cerence, which develops voice-powered digital assistants for the car industry, has hired Lenovo’s litigation head as its next general counsel. 

Jennifer Salinas joins the Nasdaq-listed, Burlington, Massachusetts-based company as it undergoes a wider leadership shake-up after CEO Sanjay Dhawan left last December to lead California enterprise firm SymphonyAI.

Salinas, who will report to new CEO Stefan Ortmanns, is replacing Leanne Fitzgerald, who according to a public filing handed in her resignation last month to ‘pursue another opportunity’. The company has also appointed a new CFO.

Salinas will take up her new post on 4 April; her appointment comes a month after a class action lawsuit against Cerence was lodged in Massachusetts federal court over claims it misled investors about how a global semiconductor shortage would impact demand for its products.

Ortmanns referred to Salinas as “an excellent, key addition to my leadership team as we work hard to scale the business, drive a high-performance culture and achieve greater results for the company and our stakeholders”. 

An intellectual property and patent litigation specialist by trade, Salinas spent two years at Troutman Sanders in California before departing for Lenovo’s US headquarters in North Carolina. She began her career in private practice at Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth in 1998 and later joined Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton in 2008, where she focused on IP litigation. 

Salinas, who described herself as a “lawyer by trade” and a “strategist at heart”, spent just over four years at Lenovo. She joined the tech giant to lead its global litigation department in 2018 and was later appointed as general counsel of the company’s infrastructure solutions group in 2020. 

At Lenovo, Salinas was responsible for overseeing joint ventures, M&A opportunities, strategic partnerships, brand protection, compliance and securities law disclosure documents, among other matters. 

Fitzgerald, meanwhile, had led Cerence’s legal function as general counsel since she joined from local rival Nuance Communications when it was founded in 2019. On her resignation, she agreed to stay until the end of the company's financial year to assist with the transition of her responsibilities.

Earlier this month, Tesla appointed its head of compliance as acting head of legal and corporate secretary, the third person to lead the electric car giant’s legal team in the past two years.


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