Matthew Miller, a former top lawyer at cannabis company Green Thumb Industries Inc., joined BarkBox Inc. as its general counsel this month, the company confirmed.
The move comes after BarkBox, an e-commerce subscription service for dog treats and toys, agreed to merge in December with blank-check company Northern Star Acquisition Corp. The deal, which reportedly values BarkBox at $1.6 billion, will result in the privately held company going public and trading under the ticker symbol BARK.
The pet product companies enlisted the new legal leaders as they ride a boom in business to public markets, even as much of the U.S. retail market struggled in 2020 under the strains of the coronavirus pandemic.
Miller declined to discuss his new BarkBox role, which sees him succeed former legal chief, Karen Nachbar.
Petco spokeswoman Lisa Stark confirmed Eskenazi’s position and the addition of a handful of other lawyers by the San Diego-based company.
Eskenazi joined Petco from Boardriders, a Huntington Beach, Calif.-based surf wear company where she spent the past four years. She previously worked at drink giant Red Bull North America Inc. and clothing company True Religion Apparel Inc.
Petco this month hired Sunayna Ramdeo, associate general counsel for compliance, and Giovanni Insana, assistant general counsel for securities, from their in-house roles at IHS Markit Ltd. and InterDigital Inc., respectively. Other legal recruits by the newly public Petco include corporate counsel Cindy Kung, veterinary services counsel Mark Arimoto, and employment counsel Matthew Wroblewski.
Marty Lorenzo, Petco’s vice president of legal affairs, recently left the company.
Eskenazi takes over at Petco from Genevieve Kelly, who was hired in late 2018 after serving as the top lawyer at Dole Food Co. Kelly left Petco in early 2020 and in November joined Panera Bread Co., a fast-casual restaurant chain owned by German conglomerate JAB Holding Co., to succeed retired legal chief Scott Blair.
Kelly’s move to Panera Bread came a month after Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo rehired former partner Geri Haight, who spent nearly eight years in-house at the suburban Boston-based company, where she rose to deputy general counsel.
Petco hired Eskenazi in September, according to filings related to the company’s IPO this month, which show the listing generated $3.8 million in legal fees and expenses for Petco’s securities lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Latham & Watkins advised underwriters led by Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC and BofA Securities Inc.
Petco’s IPO marked a return to public ownership for an enterprise initially taken private 15 years ago. Petco was sold again in 2016 to CVC Capital Partners Ltd. and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, both of which remain controlling shareholders in the pet retailer.
After Eskenazi left for Petco, Boardriders hired global general counsel Maryn Miller from her former role as legal chief for Lucky Brand Dungarees LLC, a bankrupt apparel company sold for $191 million last year to retail investor Jamie Salter.
As for BarkBox, securities filings by Northern Star show it raised $250 million through an IPO in November. The listing generated $300,000 in legal fees and expenses for its lawyers from Graubard Miller, a law firm well-known in the SPAC world, while Kirkland & Ellis represented underwriters led by Citigroup Global Markets Inc.
New York-based BarkBox turned to Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian—a go-to legal adviser for many startups—and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom for outside counsel on its merger with Northern Star, which is backed by media entrepreneur Joanna Coles and Jonathan Ledecky, co-owner of the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders.
Ledecky was also behind a SPAC that helped take public XL Fleet Corp., a vehicle electrification company that also hired a new legal chief this month. Ledecky and Coles have since teamed up on another SPAC using the Northern Star name that’s seeking to raise $300 million in an IPO. James Brady, a former general counsel at fast-casual restaurant chain Sweetgreen Inc., is CFO for the Northern Star SPACs.
Bloomberg News reported this month that U.S. retail sales fell in December, despite the close of the holiday shopping season, as Covid-19 continued to close stores and keep customers online. Pet retailers, however, proved to be particularly resilient as their business boomed with owners stuck at home.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported in November on the success enjoyed by Chewy Inc., an online pet food retailer that went public in 2019, helping smooth the way for a $30 million payday for its general counsel Susan Helfrick.
Like Petco and BarkBox, Chewy has also been busy hiring in-house legal talent in recent months. The Dania Beach, Fla.-based company added former Akerman employment litigator Sasha Segall as a corporate counsel for employment law and recruited assistant general counsel Bradley Brodie, a former vice president of legal affairs and capital markets at investment bank Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc.
Elsewhere in the retail space, online fashion marketplace Poshmark Inc. raised $277 million through an IPO this month that generated $1.2 million in legal fees and expenses for its lawyers from Goodwin Procter, per securities filings. Davis Polk & Wardwell advised underwriters on the listing by Redwood City, Calif.-based Poshmark, which in November hired Evan Serl as its general counsel.
Serl spent the past four years as the top lawyer at Hired Inc., an online recruitment platform. He was hired by Poshmark to replace Kimberly Lytikainen, who left the company in early 2020 to become general counsel and compliance chief for San Ramon, Calif.-based Five9 Inc., a publicly traded cloud software provider.
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