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Murdoch-Owned Media Giants Paid $16 Million to Two Top Lawyers

Oct. 7, 2022, 2:07 PM

A pair of media companies owned by mogul Rupert Murdoch paid nearly $16.2 million in total compensation to their law department leaders during fiscal 2022.

David Pitofsky, News Corp.'s general counsel, received nearly $5 million in total compensation, the company disclosed Oct. 5 in a proxy statement. That sum is less than half of the nearly $11.2 million pay package earmarked for Fox Corp.’s chief legal and policy officer Viet Dinh, according to another proxy filed Sept. 19.

Neither lawyer responded to requests for comment. Both New York-based media companies are controlled by Murdoch, a billionaire whose Fox-owned cable unit Fox News is facing litigation over its coverage of the 2020 US presidential election.

Dinh, who has been called one of the most powerful executives at Fox, is a former Vietnamese refugee who was a founding partner of Washington-based litigation boutique Bancroft. The law firm was acquired in 2016 by Kirkland & Ellis, which is one of several firms handling election-related litigation for Fox. Another is Clement & Murphy, formed over the summer by two former Kirkland partners who left in response to the firm’s decision to step away from gun cases.

Dinh’s pay package at Fox is down slightly from the more than $12.4 million he received during 2021. That sum came after Dinh and other top Fox executives took pandemic pay cuts in 2020. Dinh’s most recent compensation is comprised of more than $6 million in cash—or $3 million in salary and $3.1 million in nonequity incentive plan compensation—and nearly $5 million in stock and option awards.

Bloomberg data shows that Dinh, who left Kirkland to join Fox in 2018, currently owns nearly $4 million in company stock. His pay during 2022 includes roughly $54,000 for the use of corporate aircraft, according to Fox’s proxy.

News Corp.'s Pitofsky, a former Goodwin Procter partner, has served as the company’s legal and compliance chief since his 2015 promotion to both roles.

He currently owns about $3 million in company shares, per Bloomberg data. Securities filings show that Pitofsky in August sold off $1.5 million in company stock.

Pitofsky received more than $1.7 million in stock awards and almost $3.1 million in cash during 2022, according to News Corp.’s most recent proxy, an increase from the nearly $4.7 million in total compensation he received the year prior.

Among other media legal chiefs, the Walt Disney Co. earlier this year gave its new top lawyer Horacio Gutierrez a pay package valued at $22 million after predecessor Alan Braverman left with nearly $17 million in annual compensation. Paramount Global, formerly ViacomCBS Inc., saw general counsel Christa D’Alimonte‘s total pay slip 45% last year, to $3.3 million.

Legal Rosters

Fox’s proxy filing noted that the company gave almost $305,000 in total compensation to independent board member William Burck in fiscal 2022. A high-profile litigator who joined Fox’s board last year, Burck received $110,000 in cash and about $195,000 in stock awards. Earlier this year, he became a co-managing partner of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

“The company did not pay any fees to Quinn Emanuel during fiscal 2022,” Fox said in its proxy. “The company has no current professional relationship with Quinn Emanuel, nor does it expect to enter into any relationship so long as Mr. Burck continues to serve on the board.”

Burck didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The company said in a 2021 proxy that it paid an “insignificant” amount in fees to Quinn Emanuel, primarily “pursuant to an indemnification agreement that preceded the company’s separation” from predecessor 21st Century Fox Inc., whose studio assets were sold in 2019 to Disney, bolstering the Murdoch family’s finances.

Hunton Andrews Kurth and Jones Day collectively handled about 30% of Fox’s caseload in US federal courts within the last three years, according to Bloomberg Law data. New York’s Mintz & Gold; Wiley Rein; Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; and Proskauer Rose have also represented Fox during that time.

Ballard Spahr, a firm known for its First Amendment expertise, had a role on nearly 38% of News Corp.’s US federal litigation docket over the last three years, according to Bloomberg Law data. Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer and Davis Wright Tremaine collectively handled about 20% of matters for News Corp., followed by Mintz & Gold; Proskauer; Dentons; and Jenner & Block.

In-House Shuffle

Murdoch’s News Corp. and Fox have also made changes to their in-house ranks.

In early 2021, Fox tapped Bernard Gugar to be general counsel for its Fox News unit, succeeding Lily Fu Claffee, who left the company to become the top lawyer at OneMain Holdings Inc. Late last year Fox recruited former Kirkland partner Stephen Potenza to be deputy general counsel for Fox News.

Fox also promoted former chief litigation counsel Jeffrey Taylor to the newly created position of general counsel, while hiring Nicholas Trutanich to be its chief ethics and compliance officer. Earlier this year, Trutanich took on the additional role of chief integrity officer for the United States Football League, a Fox-backed reboot of a spring football outfit that once involved former President Donald Trump.

News Corp. tapped attorney and longtime lobbyist Todd Thorpe this year to succeed the recently retired Antoinette Bush as the company’s global head of government affairs. Bush, a former partner and head of the communications practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Washington, was hired in 2013 by News Corp.

Abigail Slater, another lawyer and lobbyist initially hired by Fox in 2019 to be its head of policy and strategy, left the company earlier this year to become the first-ever lobbyist at streaming platform Roku Inc.

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

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