Antoinette "Toni" Bush, partner-in-charge of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s communications group, is leaving the firm to become global head of government affairs for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.
The move comes a month after Bush’s now-former firm helped News Corp., the world’s second-largest media conglomerate, reach a $139 million settlement of shareholder litigation stemming from the company’s high-profile phone-hacking scandal.
"In addition to being one of the most respected attorneys in her field, Toni has been an extraordinary mentor, partner, and colleague at Skadden," said a statement issued to The Am Law Daily by firm executive partner Eric Friedman. "We wish her the best in her future endeavors."
Bush, 56, works out of Skadden’s office in Washington, D.C. She declined to comment via email when contacted by The Am Law Daily about her move in-house at News Corp.
One of the country’s top minority women lawyers, Bush initially joined Skadden in 1993 after serving as senior counsel to the communications subcommittee of the U.S. Senate’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. In that post, Bush was instrumental in writing the Cable Television Act of 1992, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.
She left Skadden in 2000 and spent the next three years in-house at Northpoint Technology. During her tenure with Northpoint, Bush found herself ensnared in a political controversy over the Federal Communications Commission’s approval of certain wireless broadband technologies.
Bush, who returned to Skadden in early 2004, is known for her deep Democratic political connections. Her husband, Dwight, is a top party donor who has served on the board of several financial institutions. Bush’s stepfather is prominent Beltway attorney Vernon Jordan Jr., a former adviser to President Bill Clinton and current senior counsel at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. And her cousin, attorney Valerie Jarrett, is a senior adviser to the White House. (Former Skadden litigation partner Christina "Tina" Tchen serves as chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama.)
Bush and her husband were major fund-raisers for Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns. Her close ties to the Obama administration and relationships with such high-powered mass media clients as News Corp., Sony, and Viacom were covered in a New York Times story last year that focused on the White House’s propensity for opening its doors to big donors and lobbyists.
In 2011, Bush was a candidate to become the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, a position that eventually went to former U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd. The D.C.–based MPAA has been a longtime client of both Bush and Skadden.
U.S. Senate records show that News Corp. has paid $245,000 through the first quarter of 2013 to David Leach, The Cormac Group, The Fritts Group, The Glover Park Group, and Quinn Gillespie & Associates for lobbying work related to FCC limits on ownership of media properties, newspaper and broadcast cross-ownership prohibitions, deployment of broadband wireless and IP technologies, online privacy, digital rights, and copyright issues.
News Corp. announced last year that it would split itself into two independent companies, one composed of its newspaper and publishing holdings, which will retain the name News Corp., and the other comprising its more lucrative media and entertainment properties under the 21st Century Fox banner. Skadden has taken the lead advising News Corp. on its proposed split, according to our previous reports.
According to a press release announcing her move, Bush will work for News Corp., the global publishing portion of a still-unified Murdoch media empire that saw its profits surge in the first quarter of this year thanks to cable television assets like Fox News, Fox Sports, and FX.
Skadden was one of seven Am Law 100 firms that grabbed a role last year on News Corp.’s acquisition of a 49 percent stake in the YES Network, the broadcast home of Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees and the National Basketball Association’s Brooklyn Nets. Other major deals that Skadden has handled for News Corp. over the years include the $5 billion sale of digital video streaming company NDS in 2012 and its $5.6 billion buy of Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Company in 2007.
News Corp. hired a new in-house legal chief last year in Williams & Connolly partner Gerson Zweifach, who remains of counsel with the firm. The company also reshuffled its in-house legal department by appointing five group chief compliance officers to report to Zweifach, according to British publication Legal Week. Several other attorneys also play prominent roles at News Corp.
Viet Dinh, a leading conservative lawyer and partner at Washington, D.C.’s Bancroft, is an independent member of News Corp.’s board of directors. Former general counsel Arthur Siskind remains a senior adviser to Murdoch and director emeritus to the board. And former U.S. Department of Justice antitrust division head and deputy White House counsel Joel Klein, who took a key role advising Murdoch during the phone-hacking scandal, has returned to his role as CEO of an educational division at News Corp.
News Corp.’s deputy general counsel is Janet Nova, who made headlines two years ago for stepping in front of a shaving cream pie tossed at Murdoch by a protester.