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Virgin Galactic, Preparing for Liftoff, Appoints New Top Lawyer

Nov. 25, 2022, 9:08 PM

Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc., a commercial spaceflight company backed by billionaire Richard Branson, has named Sarah Kim its chief legal officer and corporate secretary.

Kim, who has been general counsel for the newly-merged Topgolf Callaway Brands Inc., will take on those roles as of Dec. 5, Virgin Galactic announced this week. She succeeds former legal chief Michelle Kley, who left Virgin Galactic in July.

“As someone who has a lifelong interest in the sciences and space, I cannot wait to help play a role in the future of this transformative and rapidly growing industry,” Kim said in a statement.

The spaceflight industry, whose major players include Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin LLC and Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., has been hiring in-house lawyers to address legal and regulatory challenges.

Tustin, Calif.-based Virgin Galactic said earlier this month that it expects to begin commercial spaceflights by the second quarter of 2023, having previously delayed tests and a plan to carry its founder Branson into orbit.

Branson eventually blasted off in July 2021 but the company’s share price fell following its most recent flight postponement in August.

Virgin Galactic faces shareholder litigation over a merger with a special purpose acquisition company that took it public three years ago. Roughly a quarter of Branson’s estimated $5.2 billion fortune is invested in companies that went public using such vehicles, according to Bloomberg News.

Topgolf Callaway, where Kim worked before joining Virgin Galactic, was formed last year after predecessor Callaway Golf Co. agreed to pay $2 billion to acquire the rest of what it didn’t already own in Topgolf International Inc.

Brian Lynch, Topgolf Callaway’s chief financial officer and a former general counsel at Callaway Golf, also now serves as the combined company’s chief legal officer, according to its executive management webpage.

A securities filing by Callaway Golf earlier this year revealed that Lynch received a $4 million bonus for his work helping the Carlsbad, Calif.-based company complete its purchase of Topgolf. Callaway Golf put Lynch’s total compensation at nearly $8.4 million during fiscal 2021, according to a proxy statement.

Topgolf’s former top lawyer left the company ahead of that deal in mid-2020.

Callaway Golf hired Kim in 2019 after she spent two years at what is now Petco Health and Wellness Co. The former DLA Piper associate was also Callaway Golf’s chief ethics and compliance officer and corporate secretary.

Topgolf Callaway and Lynch didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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