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Netflix, Sirius XM Legal Chiefs Got Big Raises in 2019 (1)

April 24, 2020, 1:40 PMUpdated: April 27, 2020, 4:18 PM

A pair of longtime in-house legal leaders in the media and entertainment space enjoyed sizable increases in their pay packages last year, according to recent proxy filings.

Sirius XM Holdings Inc. general counsel Patrick Donnelly saw his compensation climb some 300% last year, to more than $10.92 million. Netflix Inc., which is now enjoying a coronavirus-linked subscription boom, boosted the total 2019 pay of chief legal officer David Hyman to nearly $8.16 million, a 27% raise over 2018.

Hyman, who has served as Netflix’s top in-house lawyer since 2002, received a $1 million increase in base salary, to $3.5 million, and over $4.64 million in stock awards, per the Los Gatos, Calif.-based streaming and on-demand media giant’s 2019 proxy.

The hike in Hyman’s total compensation from the nearly $6.43 million he received in 2018 was attributed to his performance in “managing and developing a global legal and public policy function,” according to Netflix. Bloomberg data shows that Hyman owns Netflix stock valued at $13.88 million.

At New York-based Sirius, which owns and operates the SiriusXM satellite and online radio network, Donnelly’s significant spike in compensation mostly came from $8 million in stock and option awards in 2019 that will vest over several years.

Donnelly currently owns $1.97 million in Sirius stock, according to Bloomberg data. Donnelly’s $875,000 base salary remained the same last year, although his bonus increased slightly to $2 million, up from the $1.8 million bonus he earned for 2018 when his total compensation stood at $2.72 million.

Sirius, which hired Donnelly as general counsel in 1998, also disclosed in its most recent proxy a new employment agreement that will keep him with the company through Nov. 22, 2022. The deal will see Donnelly’s base salary rise to $1.03 million. Sirius is controlled by Liberty Media Corp., a media conglomerate that saw its new legal chief earn about $6 million after being hired last year.

SeaWorld Stock Awards

With its aquatic theme parks closed and 90% of its employees furloughed due to the coronavirus, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. recently made headlines by awarding $6.8 million in restricted stock awards to six top management members.

The move, which came after SeaWorld slashed by 20% the pay of its top executives, saw chief legal officer and general counsel G. Anthony Taylor receive nearly $1.18 million in stock, according to an April 12 securities filing. Bloomberg data shows that Taylor currently owns $2.34 million in SeaWorld stock.

SeaWorld paid nearly $2.57 million in total compensation to Taylor in 2019, including $394,580 in cash. Taylor has served as the Orlando, Fla.-based company’s in-house legal chief since 2010. SeaWorld cited Taylor’s “role in our cost reduction initiatives” in its evaluation of his job performance last year.

Bloomberg Law reported in February on SeaWorld securing court approval for a $65 million class action settlement to resolve investor claims that the company misled investors about financial losses stemming from the 2013 documentary film “Blackfish,” which detailed park conditions for captive killer whales.

Gannett GC’s Exit

Gannett Co. Inc., sold last year in a $1.38 billion deal that saw it combine with newspaper industry rival GateHouse Media LLC, also disclosed how much it paid its former top in-house lawyer in 2019.

Bloomberg Law reported in November on GateHouse general counsel Polly Grunfeld Sack taking over the legal chief role at McLean, Va.-based Gannett, whose former chief legal officer and one-time interim COO Barbara Wall stepped down Jan. 3 and joined the board of the combined company, which kept the Gannett name.

Wall received $441,647 in cash last year, of which $150,000 was put into a legacy Gannett deferred compensation plan. The successor company paid a collective $6.92 million to Wall in two separate payments on Dec. 27 and Jan. 2.

In July, she will be eligible for another $4.36 million severance payment, $1.86 million in retirement benefits, a $275,000 cash retention bonus payment, and a $388,110 payment for “unvested cash-settled performance units,” according to Gannett’s 2019 proxy.

Gannett also paid $17,500 in cash to Wall for her service as a board member between Nov. 19 and Dec. 31 following its combination with GateHouse. In August, she will be eligible to receive $765,061 in accrued deferred compensation payments.

More Big Media Paydays

Total compensation packages for 20 other law department leaders at notable media and entertainment companies can be found below. The cash component of each pay package—a sum that includes base salary, bonuses, and non-equity incentive compensation—is noted parenthetically. Bloomberg Law has reported that some of the in-house lawyers listed here recently agreed to temporary salary reductions to help offset financial losses related to the Covid-19 pandemic:

  • Activision Blizzard Inc. – Christopher Walther, $5.16 million ($1.96 million)
  • News Corp. – David Pitofsky, $3.46 million ($2.2 million)
  • Live Nation Entertainment Inc. – Michael Rowles, $2.05 million ($1.6 million)
  • Nielsen Holdings plc – George Callard, $2.71 million ($1.47 million)
  • Zynga Inc. – Phuong Phillips, $2.66 million ($844,250)
  • Hemisphere Media Group Inc. – Alex Tolston, $2.36 million ($740,130)
  • Cinemark Holdings Inc. – Michael Cavalier, $2.21 million ($1.26 million)
  • The New York Times Co. – Diane Brayton, $1.64 million ($1.19 million)
  • The E.W. Scripps Co. – William Appleton, $1.54 million ($839,306)
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Co. – William Bayers, $1.54 million ($970,848)
  • Graham Holdings Co. – Nicole Maddrey, $1.32 million ($789,962)
  • Tegna Inc. – Akin Harrison, $1.29 million ($725,000)
  • Altice USA Inc. – Michael Olsen, $1.22 million ($475,962)
  • Rogers Corp. – Jay Knoll, $1.11 million ($549,697)
  • Cumulus Media Inc. – Richard Denning, $1.09 million ($949,715)
  • Six Flags Entertainment Corp. – Lance Balk, $1.02 million ($605,000); Balk retired Feb. 28 and was replaced by Laura Doerre.
  • Entercom Communications Corp. – Andrew Sutor IV, $933,183 ($605,164)
  • National CineMedia Inc. – Sarah Kinnick Hilty, $794,190 ($542,829)
  • Tribune Publishing Co. – Julie Xanders, $668,261 ($657,061)
  • Genius Brands International Inc. – Michael Jaffa, $262,439 ($240,625)
(Adds information for Activision Blizzard and Altice USA in 18th and 30th paragraphs.)

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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