04 Nov 2021

SXSW taps Heineken USA legal leader as new general counsel

J. Carlos Kuri joins the Texas festival's legal team as it seeks to return to in-person events in 2022

South by Southwest 2020 conference and festival banner in the Austin sky

SXSW, the company behind the annual South by Southwest music and media festival, has hired Heineken USA’s chief legal officer J. Carlos Kuri to be its new general counsel. 

He succeeds the Texas-based company’s previous legal leader Heather VanDyke, who announced she would be stepping down in August to start a family. VanDyke is to remain with the company in a legal advisory role until March to oversee the transition, according to her departure post on Linkedin. 

Kuri brings with him more than a decade of in-house experience, having spent the majority of his legal career in a number of in-house roles at Red Bull, including three years as the first general counsel of the drink company’s New York franchise and just over six years managing a 28-strong legal team as general counsel and senior vice president in Santa Monica. 

He joined Heineken’s US arm in late 2019 a few months after longtime general counsel Julie Kinch vacated the position.

Prior to going in-house, Kuri served as an associate in private practice at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom and O’Melveny & Myers, according to his Linkedin profile.

Founded in 1987, SXSW’s South by Southwest festival is known for showcasing professionals and artists in the film, tech, music, education and culture sectors. The next event is set to be held in Austin in March as the first installment of the festival to take place in-person since the onset of the pandemic. 

The legal shake-up comes just a few months after SXSW agreed to sell a 50% stake to P-MRC Holdings, an affiliate of Penske Media, a media company that owns entertainment and music publications including Billboard, Rolling Stone and Variety. 

In a statement released following the deal, SXSW chief executive and co-founder Roland Swenson described P-MRC’s investment as a “true lifeline” for the company after it struggled to cope with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced the festival to cancel its 2020 conference and move the 2021 event to a digital format.