Harry Belafonte (Lloyd Lee/Flickr)
Harry Belafonte is likely singing a happier tune now that he’s come to terms with the family of his longtime friend, the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The activist-actor-singer has settled a lawsuit against the estates of Dr. King and the civil rights leader’s late wife, Coretta Scott King, according to sibling publication the Daily Report.
The “King of Calypso” filed the suit against the Kings’ three surviving children in October in order to assert his claim over three documents the heirs say belong to the estates. The King children had previously attempted to block Belafonte’s attempts to sell the items at the Sotheby’s auction house. Belafonte has said that the documents in question—which include an early draft of a Dr. King speech written in the singer’s New York apartment as well as a condolence letter sent to Mrs. King from President Lyndon Johnson—were given to him by Dr. King himself, one of his close aides, or Mrs. King.
Last week, though, Belafonte dismissed his suit in a filing in U.S. district court in Manhattan after the parties reached a settlement, the terms of which have not been disclosed. Atlanta-based Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton litigation partner Michael Tyler is representing the King estates, while Belafonte is represented by Jonathan Abady of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady.
In a joint statement issued to Daily Report, Tyler and Abady said: “The parties have reached a compromise, the terms of which are confidential and have resulted in Mr. Belafonte retaining possession of the documents. With their agreement, the parties express their appreciation to one another for the good-faith efforts that led to this resolution.”
In other entertainment matters…
— David Letterman’s recent decision to retire as host of CBS’ “The Late Show” sometime in 2015 led the Tiffany Network to move quickly last week and announce a replacement in Stephen Colbert, the political satirist who inked a five-year contract to succeed the venerable late night talk show host next year.
Colbert, host of “The Colbert Report” on Viacom-owned Comedy Central, was an ideal in-house replacement. Media magnate Sumner Redstone—himself a former lawyer and one of the nation’s wealthiest individuals—owns a controlling stake in both Viacom and CBS. Legal issues have long surrounded late-night TV succession battles, but the Letterman-Colbert progression appears to have occurred without any such recriminations. Of course, that doesn’t mean that lawyers were not involved.
Emails to CBS chief legal officer Lawrence Tu and general counsel of CBS Television Studios Jonathan Anschell were not returned, although a spokesman for the New York–based network told The Am Law Daily that it handled Colbert’s contract negotiations internally. (CBS hired Tu from Dell late last year to succeed the retiring Louis Briskman as the company’s legal chief, where Briskman was one of corporate America’s highest-paid in-house lawyers.)
As for Colbert, whose show has often been a home to some Am Law 100 lawyers, his legal advisers remained elusive at the time of this story. An email to his spokeswoman Carrie Byalick went unanswered, while a phone call to Colbert’s agent, James “Babydoll” Dixon of the New York–based Dixon Talent Agency, was also not returned at press time. (Dixon is a well-known figure in the late night talk show business whose other clients include Jon Stewart and Jimmy Kimmel.)
Edward Colbert, an IP partner with Kenyon & Kenyon in New York who pronounces his last name with a hard “T,” unlike the softer French pronunciation preferred by his younger brother Stephen, did not respond to a request for comment about The Late Show’s next host. Nor did Caplin & Drysdale political law head Trevor Potter in Washington, D.C., a former general counsel to both of U.S. Sen. John McCain’s unsuccessful presidential campaigns, who has made waves in recent years for his role helping Stephen Colbert set up Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, a so-called SuperPAC that later dissolved and gave away its money to charity.
Viacom general counsel Michael Fricklas, a former Am Law Daily Dealmaker of the Week, declined to comment on his company’s role in the Colbert-Letterman succession plan. Fricklas, like CBS’ former legal chief Briskman, has perennially ranked among the nation’s top-paid in-house lawyers, according to sibling publication Corporate Counsel.
— Katherine Heigl’s latest photoshoot could be worth millions.
Ballard Spahr is representing the “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Knocked Up” actress in a $6 million lawsuit claiming Duane Reade “misused and misappropriated” a paparazzi photograph taken of Heigl as she left one of the pharmacy chain’s New York locations. In a suit filed last week [ PDF] in U.S. district court in Manhattan, Heigl claims Duane Reade used a photo that had been posted online—and which featured the actress in sunglasses, a heavy scarf and carrying two Duane Reade shopping bags—for advertising purposes via social media.
The complaint includes multiple exhibits showing examples of the store’s Twitter feed and Facebook profile, including one particular post from March 18 that posts the paparazzo shot of Heigl accompanied by the message that includes the actress’ own Twitter handle: “Love a quick #DuaneReade run? Even @KatieHeigl can’t resist shopping #NYC’s favorite drugstore.”
Heigl’s suit says Duane Reade ignored a written request to remove the posts “and brazenly continues to exploit Ms. Heigl’s image for commercial gain, despite her strenuous objection.” Heigl is asking the court for at least $6 million in damages, which her suit says the actress plans to donate to an animal welfare charity she founded with her mother called The Jason Debus Heigl Foundation.
In a statement provided to The Am Law Daily, Heigl’s attorney, Ballard Spahr litigation partner Peter Haviland, said while photographs of both celebrities and the nonfamous alike are found in news publications every day that does not give for-profit companies the right to use those pictures for the purpose of advertising. He adds: “Everyone, including a celebrity, has the right to decide whether to become the poster child for a particular corporation’s commercial advertising. Katherine Heigl is asserting her rights under this principle—known as the ‘right of publicity’ under New York law. She’s doing this not for personal gain or self-promotion, but to protect an important right that each of us has to decide whether or not we want to be associated with a company’s advertising. Any financial benefit will go not to her, but to the nonprofit Jason Debus Heigl Foundation.”
It was not clear at the time of publication if Duane Reade has hired legal counsel. Duane Reade has not yet filed a response to the suit, and The Am Law Daily’s attempt to obtain a comment from Walgreens, Duane Reade’s parent company, was unsuccessful.
— The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) said last month it is buying a 50 percent stake in Tribeca Enterprises, the operator of New York’s annual Tribeca Film Festival, which kicks off later this week.
The deal values Tribeca Enterprises—which was cofounded by actor Robert DeNiro, along with Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff, in 2003—at $45 million. The company’s eponymous film festival opens Wednesday in New York with the showing of “Time is Illmatic,” a documentary on the rapper Nas. In total, 55 films will premiere as part of the festival’s 12-day slate. The company’s portfolio also includes event space Tribeca Cinemas and an independent film distribution label.
MSG will retain the right to increase its stake in the company over time. The buyer owns a variety of media properties, including regional sports networks, MSG Entertainment and such venues as Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and Beacon Theatre.
Hughes Hubbard & Reed is representing MSG with a team led by the firm’s deputy chair, Kenneth Lefkowitz, as well as corporate partner Charles Samuelson and associate Michael Traube.
Tribeca has enlisted Paul Hastings to advise on the stake sale with a team that is led by New York–based M&A partner Luke Iovine III. Tax partner Kristen Chang Winckler and corporate of counsel Kimberly Smith are also advising along with associates Kim Edsenga, Laura Hidalgo, Leslie Kersey, Natasha Chua Tan and Jennifer Tytel.
— Music streaming service Spotify said last month it is buying music data supplier The Echo Nest in a deal that could be a stepping stone to a possible initial public offering for the buyer. The deal is reportedly worth up to $100 million, according to TechCrunch.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom is advising Spotify on the purchase with a team that includes New York–based M&A partner Howard Ellin as well as IP and technology partner Stuart Levi, executive compensation and benefits partner Regina Olshan, antitrust partner Clifford Aronson, tax partner Pamela Lawrence and associates Christopher Barlow and Meredith Rovelli.
The CEO of Somerville, Mass.–based The Echo Nest is Jim Lucchese, who previously worked as an attorney at Greenberg Traurig, where he specialized in music and digital media transactions.
Quartz has reported that the purchase of Echo Nest, which provides the algorithms Spotify uses to create personalized music streams, lends further credence to reports that Spotify is expected to go public at some point this fall. The company also reportedly obtained a $200 million credit line last month from lenders including Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs, according to Financial Times.
— Arent Fox represented Reservoir Media Management in the acquisition of Irish music publisher First State Media Holding’s 26,000-song catalog. In a deal announced in February, New York–based Reservoir paid an undisclosed amount for the portfolio, which includes Chubby Checker’s “Twist,” The Trammps’ “Disco Inferno,” and “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen. Reservoir is also acquiring works from such artists as Kelly Clarkson, John Denver, Duke Ellington and Bob Marley as well as other popular works from a variety of musical genres.
Arent Fox represented Reservoir—which is expanding its catalog to 75,000 songs with the transaction—with a team that includes New York–based IP partner Ross Charap as well as senior associate Matthew Finkelstein. Winston & Strawn represented the seller, First State Media, with a team that included tax partner Dennis Kelly as well as counsel H. Joseph Mello and associate John Corrigan.
Brian Baxter contributed reporting to this article.