Las Vegas Sphere-owner appoints legal chief from dating app Bumble

Laura Franco will also head up the legal team at Madison Square Garden Entertainment

The Las Vegas Sphere venue Shutterstock

US entertainment and venue groups Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSGE) and Sphere Entertainment have named Laura Franco as general counsel for both companies, replacing Jamal Haughton who left the role in November.

Franco joins from dating website Bumble, where she was chief legal and compliance officer, helping oversee the company’s initial public offering and managing its compliance, litigation and public policy matters, as well as advising on corporate strategy and IP issues. At MSGE and Sphere, she will oversee the entire legal function, including commercial, litigation, regulatory affairs and transaction work. 

MSGE owns New York sports and entertainment venues including Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall, among others. Sphere owns the eponymously titled venue in Las Vegas, which is known for projecting moving images across its entirely illuminated facade.

James Dolan, CEO and chairman of the two companies, said: “Laura’s background handling high-profile corporate and business legal matters at premier media companies will be a valuable addition to our legal teams, and we look forward to leveraging her expertise as both companies pursue their business strategies.”

Franco completed just over three years at Bumble having previously spent more than a quarter of a century at CBS Corporation, latterly as GC where she helped steer through the company’s merger with Viacom. She started her legal career as a corporate lawyer at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

She said: “The opportunity to take on this role with two leading entertainment companies is a significant professional milestone. I look forward to working with the management teams at both companies to ensure we continue to deliver excellence across our legal operations and help drive both MSG Entertainment and Sphere Entertainment’s growth initiatives.”

Haughton, meantime, departed MSGE for Charter Communications, just two years after joining the entertainment company. He was previously GC at Samsung Electronics America and associate GC at Cablevision Systems before that.

In January, Sphere pulled out of a plan to open a Las Vegas-style venue in London after the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan rejected planning permission, saying it would cause significant light intrusion for local residents. That came after Sphere’s chief financial officer quit in November after the Las Vegas venue reported an operating loss of almost $100m in the three months to the end of September.

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