(Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Neil Sacker, who spent two decades in-house at major film studios and production companies before joining Stroock & Stroock & Lavan’s Los Angeles office last year, has decamped for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

Sacker, most recently special counsel at Stroock, will be of counsel at Skadden. When Sacker joined Stroock about 14 months ago, it was his first foray into private practice. He was returning to legal work after taking several years off to deal with a health crisis.

In the early 1990s, Sacker served as senior counsel to Warner Brothers Studios. He later ran the legal affairs department at Miramax Films, overseeing the acquisition of the rights to the “Lord of the Rings” franchise, and served as COO of the Yari Film Group, which produced and financed Best Picture winners like “Crash” and “The Illusionist.”

When Sacker’s health improved enough for him to resume his legal career, the heads of several talent agencies encouraged him to join a law firm, telling him that he could fill an important niche by advising financiers who wanted to invest in the entertainment industry. Their advice turned out to be quite prudent, he said.

“My business started accelerating faster than I thought,” Sacker said. “I thought to myself, ‘Where’s the very, very best firm in the entire world where it could flourish and keep growing?’”

For Sacker (pictured right), the answer was Skadden, partly because the firm has a thriving transactional entertainment practice, but didn’t yet have anyone with his experience representing movie financiers and producers. He hopes to add transactional work to his practice, and Skadden’s reputation in that arena will lend him additional credibility as a dealmaker, he said.

“We’re very lucky to have Neil because he does come with that inside studio experience,” said Skadden entertainment group leader David Eisman. “The piece that our clients were asking for that we didn’t have was a pure-play, experienced entertainment lawyer. This will enable us to provide the A-to-Z services that complement the transactional work we do here in the L.A. office.”

Eisman said that Skadden expects to continue growing its capacity to handle cross-border entertainment transactions, both in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., where its Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) practice group is based.

Skadden saw its head count rise by 3 percent in 2016, while gross revenue increased 3.5 percent, to $2.5 billion. But in February, the firm saw the chairman of its Los Angeles-based West Coast litigation practice, Thomas Nolan, leave for Latham & Watkins.

Sacker’s move from Stroock follows the departure in March of its former co-managing partner, Stuart Coleman, who took roughly a dozen lawyers to Proskauer Rose in New York. Last month Stroock’s energy and project finance chair, Jeffrey Meyers, joined McDermott Will & Emery.

In February, Stroock’s private equity chair Ray LaSoya left the firm’s Los Angeles office for Cooley. Stroock special counsel Benjamin Potter joined LaSoya at Cooley last month. Steven Atlee, a litigation partner at Stroock who joined the firm’s Los Angeles office in early 2015, also recently left for local firm Park & Velayos.

Asked about the uptick in lateral movement involving his now former firm, Sacker said he just tried to keep his head down and focus on building his own practice.

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