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Sonos Looks for New Legal Chief as Google Patent Showdown Looms

Jan. 20, 2023, 8:30 PM

Sonos Inc., facing a patent war with Google, is looking for a new top lawyer after chief legal officer Edward Lazarus was promoted.

Lazarus took over as chief financial officer at Sonos on Nov. 15, the company said in a proxy statement filed Thursday. He’ll also continue as its top lawyer and corporate secretary while Sonos searches for a replacement, according to the company.

His promotion comes amid the ongoing audio patent fight between Sonos and Alphabet Inc.’s Google over wireless home speaker technology. A trial in a California federal court is currently slated for May 2023.

Sonos and Lazarus didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The Santa Barbara, Calif.-based company disclosed in the proxy that it gave Lazarus nearly $5 million in total compensation during fiscal 2022, more than triple the nearly $1.4 million that Lazarus earned a year earlier. Sonos gave Lazarus the additional title of interim CFO on Sept. 1, according to the proxy.

Sonos scored a key win against Google last year at the US International Trade Commission, which ruled that the internet search giant infringed on five company patents for wireless speaker technology. Google has fought back, getting the ITC to probe Sonos over patents for its own speaker systems.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Lee Sullivan Shea & Smith, a Chicago-based intellectual property boutique known as LS3, are representing Sonos in the dispute. Mark Triplett, Sonos’ longtime head of IP, is based out of Chicago. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is taking the lead in the litigation for Google.

The proxy filed by Sonos shows that the bulk of Lazarus’ pay last year was comprised of $4.5 million in stock awards. He also received $400,500 in cash compensation. The company disclosed that board member Julius Genachowski—a former general counsel at Barry Diller’s IAC and one-time chairman of the Federal Communications Commission—received almost $270,000 in total compensation last year.

Lazarus’ new role increased his base salary to $475,000 and came with a one-time grant of restricted stock units valued at $4 million.

Sonos hired Lazarus as its legal chief in late 2018, just months after raising $264 million through an initial public offering. Lazarus took over from the company’s former general counsel, Craig Shelburne, who co-founded Sonos in 2002.

Prior to Sonos, Lazarus spent five years at Tribune Media Co., the publishing giant where he was general counsel and chief strategy officer. Lazarus previously served as a top official at the US Federal Trade Commission and founded the appellate practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Lazarus began his legal career as a clerk for former US Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. In 1998, he wrote Closed Chambers: The Rise, Fall, and Future of the Modern Supreme Court. The book, which Lazarus wrote while working as a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, caused a stir among the appellate bar for peeling back the layers of secrecy that had long surrounded the high court.

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