Lawyer salary

Disney’s top lawyer is up for grabs as longtime frontman leaves

The Walt Disney Co. has yet to appoint a new chief legal officer, with longtime general counsel Alan Braverman due to retire in two weeks.

Braverman, who is one of the highest-paid legal department heads in the United States annually, will leave after nearly two decades at the iconic, publicly traded company. Disney, grappling with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, is also refocusing its business strategy under new CEO Robert Chapek.

Disney could look outside for Braverman’s successor or promote him within the House of Mouse. The company employs a small army of in-house attorneys across its various business units and subsidiaries, including ABC Inc., ESPN Inc., Fox Networks Group Inc., Lucasfilm Ltd., Marvel Entertainment Inc., and Pixar Inc.

Linda Bagley, a veteran Disney attorney and current assistant general counsel for the company’s media and entertainment distribution business, is considered a top candidate to succeed Braverman, five sources familiar with the matter said.

Braverman and Disney announced in July that he would step down once his employment contract expired at the end of the year. He currently owns about $16.6 million in Disney stock, according to Bloomberg data.

Disney made several personnel announcements this month, including the appointment of a new chief counsel for sports media giant ESPN, but as of mid-December had yet to publicly reveal its chief’s successor. legal for nearly 19 years.

A total of 10 former Disney in-house attorneys, some of whom later served as outside advisers to the Burbank, Calif.-based media conglomerate, have spoken in interviews about the company’s plans to appoint Braverman’s replacement. All have requested anonymity to discuss Disney matters in order to preserve personal relationships, nondisclosure agreements and customer confidentiality.

The consensus was that Disney’s next chief legal officer is either a closely guarded secret or has yet to be chosen. Of the many names mentioned as potential Braverman successors, one stood above the rest: Bagley, who held various key legal positions during his two decades in-house at Disney.

Three people who have worked closely with Bagley in the past called her a driven leader who wanted to eventually rise to the chairmanship of general counsel. Bagley joined Disney in 2001 after working briefly at Rivio Inc. She began her career working in business and litigation at Latham & Watkins and O’Melveny & Myers.

First candidate

Bagley’s resume shows she is legal for several prominent Disney businesses.

She is currently Assistant General Counsel for Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, a direct-to-consumer and international portfolio that includes ESPN and streaming services Disney+ and Hulu. Bagley also served as Chief International Advisor, a job that exposed her to issues related to broadcasting, labor relations, merchandising, production and real estate.

Her professional expertise is coupled with personal experience that Bagley, a Hispanic Harvard Law School graduate, spoke about in a video on Disney’s website describing her experience as a “lesbian Latina.” Bagley has been a proponent of diversity in the workplace, which could benefit her potential candidacy to take over Braverman’s job, three sources who have worked with her previously said.

Many large corporations are now looking to become more inclusive in their boardrooms and C-suites. Earlier this month, Disney tapped Susan Arnold, former executive of Procter & Gamble Co. and Carlyle Group Inc., to succeed its former CEO Robert Iger as Chairman of the Board. Chapek replaced Iger as CEO in early 2020.

Disney, Bagley and Braverman did not respond to requests for comment.

Change of CEO, Pivots

Disney’s legal department, which has hundreds of attorneys, provides a wide range of other top executives who could be promoted to replace Braverman.

The outgoing general counsel earned his evening law degree at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh before working at a Wilmer Cutler predecessor Pickering Hale and Dorr. Braverman also previously served as assistant general counsel for Disney and top counsel for ABC, a television network he acquired in 1995.

Braverman was named Disney’s general counsel in early 2003 upon the retirement of Louis Meisinger, who in turn took over from former chief legal officer Sanford Litvack in 1998. Litvack was later promoted to executive vice president of Disney before stepping down. company in 2000 and to resume a career in private practice.

Perhaps the most important criteria in selecting a new legal chief will be that individual’s relationship with relatively new Disney CEO Chapek, who took charge just before a Covid-19 outbreak began. which became a global pandemic and largely shut down the business theme. parks, theatres, hotels and cruise lines.

Chapek, who once ran Disney’s theme park operations, has been a controversial leader as he has sought to reposition the company over the past two years into new areas of business. Chapek’s desire to focus on streaming led him to work closely with Bagley in his role dealing with legal distribution, two sources said.

Disney, under Chapek, was stunned over the summer when actress Scarlett Johansson sued the company over its decision to simulcast the movie “Black Widow” and show it in theaters. The payment dispute was quickly settled on undisclosed terms and both parties said they would continue to work together.

Disney’s ABC is also dealing with allegations of sexual assault and harassment involving former employees, which allegedly kept Braverman busy during his final months as general counsel.

Chapek, Iger and other senior Disney executives, including Braverman, have all received substantial cuts to their total compensation as part of the pandemic cuts. Braverman’s salary package was initially cut by more than a third from the roughly $14 million he earned in 2019, according to the company’s annual proxy statements.