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NPR Hires Former Gannett General Counsel Allen as Legal Chief

Jan. 21, 2021, 10:57 PM

National Public Radio Inc. announced Thursday its hire of Elizabeth Allen, former general counsel for newspaper publisher Gannett Co. Inc., as chief legal officer starting Feb. 16.

“NPR has been a staple in my life since I was a little girl listening to ‘All Things Considered’ in the car,” Allen, who will also hold the titles of general counsel and corporate secretary, said in a statement. “I look forward to joining.”

She takes over from Michelle Shanahan, NPR’s acting legal chief since November. Shanahan replaced Jonathan Hart, a former Cooley partner who had spent six years as the Washington-based media group’s chief legal officer before resigning.

Federal tax filings show that NPR paid $446,160 to Hart and $252,640 to Shanahan during its 2018-19 fiscal year. Shanahan has spent 24 years at NPR, having been senior associate general counsel for the past decade. NPR cut the pay and benefits of staffers last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Allen, who began her career as an associate at Nixon Peabody, spent 16 years at McLean, Va.-based Gannett, overseeing the company’s legal group starting in 2019. She left last April after the closure of Gannett’s $1.4 billion sale to New Media Investment Group Inc. and its subsidiary, GateHouse Media.

Allen had replaced Barbara Wall, who was elevated to interim chief operating officer as the company pushed forward on its combination.

The merged company, which kept the Gannett name and headquarters, installed Gatehouse’s top in-house lawyer, Polly Grunfeld Sack, as its legal chief.

Wall, now a member of the board of directors at Gannett, received roughly $10 million in severance and retirement benefits as a result of the merger, according to securities filings. Wall now owns $996,000 in Gannett stock, per Bloomberg data.

BBB National Programs Inc., a McLean, Va.-based organization that oversees more than a dozen industry self-regulation programs, elected Wall as a board member in December. Andrea Shandell, an ex-associate general counsel and chief ethics and privacy officer at Gannett, joined BBB National in November in the newly created role of vice president for privacy initiatives and operations.

More Media Hires

NPR is just one of several media groups making legal group moves for 2021.

Bloomberg Law reported this week on the Walt Disney Co. promoting global deputy chief compliance counsel Alicia Schwarz to senior vice president and chief compliance officer. Schwarz takes over from associate general counsel and outgoing compliance chief Jacob “Jack” Yellin, who in a Thursday email confirmed that he will soon retire after 31 years in-house at Disney, 27 of them in compliance.

Disney’s elevation of Schwarz follows its hire of former ViacomCBS Inc. senior counsel Mikhia Hawkins in October and ex-Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker associate Julianna Mather in June. Hawkins and Mather have joined Disney has principal counsel in New York and Burbank, Calif., respectively. Mather joins another former Wilson Elser associate at Disney in James Pitaro, who in 2018 was named president of sports broadcasting subsidiary ESPN.

Other entertainment industry comings-and-goings include:

  • Red Apple Media, owner of New York City’s WABC Radio and controlled by billionaire John Catsimatidis’ holding company Red Apple Group Inc., announced Jan. 15 its promotion of Emily Pankow to general counsel. Pankow was most recently an assistant general counsel at Red Apple and affiliate United Metro Energy Corp. Edward Reilly, a former associate legal counsel at Red Apple, left in October to join student discount website UNiDAYS as corporate legal counsel.
  • iHeartMedia Inc., a San Antonio, Texas-based radio broadcaster that separated two years ago from Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc., promoted deputy general counsel Jordan Fasbender to general counsel and corporate secretary as of Jan. 1. Fasbender succeeds Paul McNicol, who securities filings show will serve as a consultant through Dec. 31 at an emended annual salary of $500,000 before retiring from iHeartMedia. The company also hired Greenberg Traurig media and entertainment partner Gabriel Fleet in Atlanta this month to be executive vice president of business affairs and chief music licensing counsel.
  • Cox Communications Inc. announced Dec. 4 its promotion of vice president of regulatory affairs Joiava Philpott to general counsel and senior vice president of law and policy. Philpott, who joined Atlanta-based Cox in 2012, succeeds Jennifer Hightower, who in September was tapped to become general counsel for parent Cox Enterprises Inc. The conglomerate saw former legal chief Juliette Pryor depart last year to take the top legal role at grocery chain Albertsons Cos. Inc.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at
John Hughes in Washington at