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Vice Replaces Legal Head Who Quit for Obama Staff Media Venture

Oct. 6, 2022, 3:36 PM

Vice Media Inc. hired Maria Krasnikow Harris as chief legal officer, replacing Lucinda Kinau Treat, who left last week to lead Crooked Media Inc., a venture started by former staffers to President Barack Obama.

Harris made the move after Packable Holdings LLC, a private equity-backed e-commerce platform that named her legal chief a year ago, filed for bankruptcy in August after a merger with a special purpose acquisition company collapsed.

Vice, a digital media and broadcasting company valued at $5.7 billion in 2017, has watched its price tag slip in recent years along with online rivals. BuzzFeed Inc. raised a mere $16 million last year after going public by merging with a SPAC.

Vice last year considered a $3 billion SPAC merger of its own. That tentative deal with technology investor Jack Leeney’s 7GC & Co. Holdings Inc. fizzled by August 2021. Vice instead raised $135 million from some existing investors.

Harris and Vice didn’t respond to requests for comment. An auto-response email message from Treat, Vice’s top lawyer for the past four years, said Harris has succeeded her. Harris also added her new job to her LinkedIn profile.

She previously spent nearly four years as general counsel at SoulCycle Inc. Harris left the studio fitness chain, which was hit hard by the pandemic, in early 2021.

Harris is a former in-house lawyer at the Body Shop International Ltd. and Revlon Inc. Harris and Treat worked together at Revlon, where the former was an assistant general counsel and the latter chief legal and administrative officer for the Ronald Perelman-owned cosmetics company that filed for bankruptcy in June.

Crooked Media

Treat last week confirmed her decision to relocate from New York to Los Angeles in early October to become the first chief executive of Crooked Media. Variety first reported the move.

Former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau and fellow former administration staffers Jon Lovett and Tommy Vietor started Crooked Media in 2017. The company has secured funding from billionaire George Soros, according to Variety.

Treat joined Vice in 2018 after serving as general counsel for Madison Square Garden Co., owner of the NHL’s New York Rangers and NBA’s New York Knicks, as well as a holding company that controls MLB’s Boston Red Sox.

Treat, a former associate at Shearman & Sterling, was also once general counsel for baseball’s Miami Marlins, whose former owner is hedge fund billionaire John Henry. Treat played a key role in assisting Henry on his acquisition of the Red Sox in 2002.

Vice Changes

Within the past year, Vice’s legal group has brought on former Jackson Lewis and Ropes & Gray associates Delonie Plummer and Emily Rossi as a global employment counsel and associate counsel, respectively.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Davis Wright Tremaine; Davis & Gilbert; and Sullivan & Worcester have represented the company in litigation filed in US federal courts, according to Bloomberg Law data.

Shearman, Treat’s former firm, advised Vice three years ago on its acquisition female-focused online publisher Refinery29 Inc. Vice hired James Schwab, a former Paul Weiss partner and chair of the law firm’s media and entertainment practice, as a co-president in 2018.

Schwab retired from Vice in 2018 after the company named Nancy Dubuc as its new chief executive, replacing co-founder Shane Smith.

The Wall Street Journal reported in June that a Black-owned media group has considered a deal for Vice. A month earlier, Vice was said to be considering selling off pieces of the company, according to CNBC. The New York Times recently reported that Vice has received takeover interest from Greek broadcast Antenna Group SA.

Vice has also been considering a $50 million content deal with a Saudi Arabian company that has unnerved some of the company’s journalists, according to the Times, whose late media critic David Carr once challenged Vice executives over the company’s brash reputation.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com