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Disney Hires Spotify’s Top Lawyer Gutierrez as Legal Chief (2)

Dec. 22, 2021, 6:50 PMUpdated: Dec. 22, 2021, 11:03 PM

Walt Disney Co. said Wednesday it hired Horacio Gutierrez, who spent nearly the last six years as Spotify Technology SA‘s top lawyer, as its new general counsel.

Gutierrez, who has also previously served as general counsel for Microsoft Corp., will take over Feb. 1 from longtime general counsel Alan Braverman, who is retiring after nearly two decades as Disney’s law department leader.

Gutierrez brings “needed expertise in a rapidly changing industry,” said Sheri Michaels, a partner at legal consulting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa. His skills aid Disney “in its next chapter, which is media streaming platforms and services.”

The change comes as Disney CEO Robert Chapek ushers in a new era at the company, which is poised to see its longtime former CEO Robert Iger step down as chairman at month’s end, Bloomberg News reported this week.

Disney under Chapek’s leadership has doubled down on its own media streaming platforms and services. The company is increasingly in competition with many of the same Big Tech adversaries as those Gutierrez faced at Spotify, including Apple Inc. and streaming giants such as Netflix Inc.

Gutierrez “has an extensive understanding of the complex legal questions that come with technological disruption and rapid industry change,” Chapek said in a statement.

‘Humbled’

Gutierrez will oversee Disney’s legal affairs around the world, including those of its various business units and subsidiaries such as ABC Inc., ESPN Inc., Fox Networks Group Inc., Lucasfilm Ltd., Marvel Entertainment LLC, and Pixar Inc.

As a senior executive vice president, in addition to general counsel and corporate secretary, he’ll lead hundreds of in-house lawyers in areas like compliance and ethics, intellectual property, litigation, privacy protection, regulatory matters, and securities and transactional law.

“I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead Disney’s global legal organization,” he said in a statement, adding that it was an honor to succeed Braverman, “an iconic figure in the legal profession.”

Disney’s search for Braverman’s successor saw it consider both in-house candidates and high-profile legal industry names outside the Burbank, Calif.-based company, according to Bloomberg Law.

Braverman has long been one of the highest-paid in-house lawyers in corporate America. Bloomberg data shows he currently owns more than $18 million in Disney stock.

Despite taking a pay cut last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Braverman earned $9.2 million in total compensation during 2020, down from the nearly $14 million he received in 2019.

Securities filings by Spotify show that Gutierrez hasn’t been one of the company’s top five highest-paid executives since 2017, the year before Spotify went public via a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Gutierrez currently owns more than $2 million in Spotify stock, according to Bloomberg data.

Disney hasn’t yet disclosed Gutierrez’s compensation. He didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Spotify, Microsoft

Gutierrez, who is based in New York, joined Spotify in 2016 and was promoted three years later to chief legal officer and head of global affairs.

During his time at Spotify, which has its roots in Sweden, Gutierrez helped the podcast and music streaming company take on technology rivals such as Apple.

“While we are sad to see Horacio depart Spotify, we wish him well on this next chapter and thank him for his leadership,” Spotify said in a statement. “Horacio built a strong team that is well-positioned to continue to execute on our strategy.”

Eve Konstan will continue to lead Spotify’s legal affairs team. She was hired by the company last year from AT&T Inc.-owned HBO to be its general counsel. Spotify also recently recruited former U.S. Copyright Office general counsel Regan Smith to be its head of public policy and government affairs.

Gutierrez, during his 17 years at Microsoft, played a key role in the company’s antitrust wars, according to a Bloomberg News profile of him this year. That experience helped prepare him for antitrust actions at Spotify targeting Apple and others.

Gutierrez, who speaks English, Portuguese, and Spanish, and has spent time in private practice in the U.S. and Venezuela, also held other duties at Microsoft. He was deputy general counsel for intellectual property and licensing, a key function at the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant.

Microsoft tapped Gutierrez to be the top lawyer for its products and services group prior to appointing him as its general counsel in 2015. Gutierrez assumed that role from Bradford Smith, who Microsoft promoted to president and chief legal officer.

(Adds analyst comment in third paragraph, details about Gutierrez throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com;
John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com