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Univision Legal Chief Departs After Company Sale (Corrected)

Jan. 14, 2021, 11:50 PM; Updated: Jan. 15, 2021, 3:15 PM

Univision Communications Inc. is in the market for a chief legal officer after the closure of its sale to a new ownership group.

The privately held media company, a leader in Spanish-language broadcasting, has elevated in-house lawyers Amy Tenbrink and Glenn Dryfoos to interim general counsel as it searches for a permanent legal chief, spokeswoman Rosemary Mercedes told Bloomberg Law.

Univision announced Jan. 11 that chief legal and corporate affairs officer Jonathan Schwartz “has decided to leave the company” after moving into a transitional senior advisory role. Mercedes said that Schwartz has agreed to serve as an adviser to Univision for the next several months.

Schwartz didn’t respond to a request for comment about his decision to step down as the top lawyer at Univision, which hired him in 2012 to succeed retired former general counsel C. Douglas Kranwinkle.

Schwartz, who clerked for late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, also once worked at the Justice Department with Merrick Garland, now President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general.

Four years ago, Schwartz spearheaded a group of 44 top in-house lawyers pushing the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on Garland’s ultimately unsuccessful nomination to the Supreme Court.

Schwartz joined Univision after serving as general counsel for JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s investment bank. Prior to that he had been general counsel at Cablevision Systems Corp., deputy general counsel at Time Warner Inc., and general counsel for Napster Inc., a pioneering online music company that hired Schwartz in 2001. Napster, ahead of its time, was sold the following year.

Univision’s search for a new legal chief comes as the company closed Dec. 29 on its sale of a controlling stake in the company to private equity firm Searchlight Capital Partners LP and ForgeLight LLC. Grupo Televisa SAB, Latin America’s largest broadcaster, retained its minority stake in Univision.

Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Covington & Burling, and Sidley Austin represented Univision on the transaction, while Willkie Farr & Gallagher and Proskauer Rose took the lead for ForgeLight, an investment firm formed by Wade Davis, a former chief financial officer at media giant Viacom Inc.

Mexico’s Grupo Televisa was advised by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison counseled Searchlight on the deal for Univision, which drew the interest of rival bidders.

Legal Turnover

Temporarily succeeding Schwartz are Tenbrink, associate general counsel for revenue and business development, and Dryfoos, executive vice president of business affairs and general counsel for networks. Neither lawyer responded to requests for comment about their promotion to co-interim general counsel.

Dryfoos, a former partner at Los Angeles-based entertainment law firm Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger, joined Univision in 2008 after serving as general counsel for rival Hispanic broadcaster Telemundo Communications Group Inc. He is based in Univision’s Miami headquarters.

Univision hired Tenbrink in 2014 from Dish Network Corp., where she was a director and senior corporate counsel. In a 2019 interview with the Sirens Conference, a group she co-chairs that is dedicated to women in fantasy literature, Tenbrink spoke about pushing back against gender stereotypes.

“Become comfortable being uncomfortable, and even more than that, become comfortable making other people uncomfortable,” Tenbrink said about the mindset female professionals should adopt when they’re called “bossy, pushy, or aggressive.”

The ascension of Tenbrink and Dryfoos to the top legal position at Univision comes after the company saw some other lawyers leave its ranks last year.

Jay Grant, general counsel of Univision’s digital and news divisions, left in October to become chief legal officer for the Trade Desk Inc., an advertising technology company. Lynn Oberlander, hired by Univision in 2017 to serve as general counsel of Gizmodo Media Group, a company formed to house former assets of Gawker Media LLC, stepped down as chief news counsel in August to start her own practice.

Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, an attorney and former executive vice president of government and corporate affairs at Univision in Washington, also left the company last year to take a public policy and philanthropic position at Twitter Inc.

In 2019, Univision sold its former Gawker properties, including websites like Deadspin and The Onion, to a private equity buyer. Bloomberg News reported in December that Univision now plans to launch a streaming service this year.

(Corrects Schwartz's work experience with Merrick Garland in fifth paragraph. This story was published Jan. 14.)

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 in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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