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Viacom Names New General Counsel, Shuffles Legal Department

March 13, 2017, 4:06 PM

Viacom announced it’s promoting one of its in-house attorneys Christa D’Alimonte as its next executive vice president, general counsel and secretary.

D’Alimonte, who replaces the company’s longtime top lawyer Michael Fricklas, had been a deputy general counsel. She joined the company in 2012 from Shearman & Sterling, where she had been deputy practice group leader of the firm’s global mergers & acquisitions group, according to a company release .

D’Alimonte spoke about the differences between working in-house and working at a law firm at Big Law Business’ first Annual Summit in July 2015.

“As a relatively new entrant to the in-house world, the focus on budgets has been an eye-opener,” she said at the conference. “My colleagues and I review, on a monthly basis, how firms are doing. We notice which firms are good about keeping to budget, or alerting us when things go off budget.”

And D’Alimonte also spoke about leaving the law firm world to join Viacom: “It was a hard decision to leave. I wanted to be closer to the business. It’s dramatic how much I didn’t know, even though I’d represented them for years.”

Viacom’s new CEO Bob Bakish praised D’Alimonte’s “distinctive understanding of our company and strategic vision” in a press release about her promotion.

In a statement, she said “the law department has never been more critical” as the media landscape changes.

Her predecessor, Fricklas iswell-known for overseeing the lawsuit against YouTube for alleged copyright violations related to protected content on the site. Filed in 2007, the case stretched on until 2014 before settling. During that time, a system emerged by which digital services like YouTube were not held liable for copyright violations as long as they allowed copyright holders to take down disputed material.

D’Alimonte’s tenure begins April 15 — and Fricklas will remain at the company until as late as May. His departure comes after Bakish took over as CEO in December, following a drawn-out boardroom fight for control of the company between ex-CEO Philippe Dauman and the aging controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone’s daughter, Shari. Ultimately, Shari won and Dauman departed last year.

Fricklas, who joined the company in 1993, had to work hard to stay out of the cross hairs during the fight. The Hollywood Reporter had this choice anecdote :

It was supposed to be a fabulous trip to Italy in May for Michael Fricklas and his wife Donna to celebrate their 20th anniversary when word came down that the Redstones had removed Philippe Dauman and George Abrams from a Trust that holds a controlling voting stake in Viacom. Barely off the plane, the Viacom general counsel wouldn’t get to tour the ancient Roman ruins nor have a romantic gondola ride in Venice. Fricklas had to turn around immediately and return to New York to take care of an escalating dispute that would roil Viacom over the following months.

It’s worth noting that Dauman is also a Shearman alumnus who practiced corporate law for the firm in Paris and New York, before helping Redstone in a hostile takeover of Viacom in the late 1980s. He later joined Viacom in 1993.

As part of its announcement about D’Alimonte, Viacom also announced that it is promoting a third Shearman alumnus, Keyes Hill-Edgar, executive vice president and general counsel of Viacom Media Networks. His title changes from head of business affairs to head of global business affairs.

His responsibilities will expand to include oversight of “Viacom International Media Networks, Content Distribution and the Media Networks’ labor, guild and production legal matters,” according to the press release. Hill-Edgar will continue to oversee business and legal affairs for the company’s domestic media networks, which includes Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central and numerous other channels.

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