Joshua Grode

A longtime movie industry lawyer is getting ready to put aside his legal career for a switch to a high-profile position with a key client.

Joshua Grode, co-chair of the transactions practice at Irell & Manella in Los Angeles, is preparing to leave the firm and become CEO of film and television production company Legendary Entertainment, according to reports in the Hollywood trade press.

Legendary is a subsidiary of Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group Co. Ltd., which turned to Irell & Manella and Grode for outside counsel on its $3.5 billion acquisition in early 2016 of the Burbank, California-based company. Grode succeeds former Legendary founder Thomas Tull, a Pittsburgh native who was ousted from the company earlier this year after the close of its sale to Dalian Wanda. (Tull is now reportedly looking to buy a Major League Baseball team.)

Grode did not immediately return a request for comment about his decision to leave Irell, which he joined in 2014 as part of a six-lawyer team leaving Los Angeles-based Liner, which was absorbed this summer by DLA Piper. At the time of his hire, Grode was in a group comprising the first lateral hires by Irell & Manella in four years.

Reports of Legendary’s interest in Grode as CEO emerged in August and noted his role as a key legal adviser to Dalian Wanda, particularly in orchestrating the sale of Legendary—known for box-office blockbusters like “The Dark Knight,” “Pacific Rim” and “Kong: Skull Island”—to the growing Beijing-based media giant. Latham & Watkins took the lead for Legendary on that deal, while Simpson Thacher & Bartlett advised the company’s board of directors on the matter.

“We are thrilled for our partner as he embarks on this exciting journey,” said Irell & Manella’s incoming managing partner Ellisen Turner in a statement. “Our firm has a deep roster of the best and brightest lawyers in the country who are committed to advising clients based on a deep understanding of their business and their goals. It is a testimony to the success of our approach when clients look to Irell when filling their most important leadership positions.”

The statement also said Irell & Manella looks forward to working with Grode “on his new endeavor and continuing to support Legendary’s remarkable growth and success.” Gregory Klein, who had sole leadership of the firm’s transactional practice before Grode came aboard three years ago, will continue as leader of the group, an Irell & Manella spokeswoman said.

Irell & Manella, profiled by The American Lawyer in 2016, has been busy this year preparing for the new leadership of Turner, who in February 2018 will officially succeed Andrei Iancu as managing partner. Iancu, who has held the role since 2012, was nominated in September by the Trump administration to become director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

As for the movie business, it continues to provide transactional opportunities for Big Law. Last week, British cinema operator Cineworld Group plc turned to Slaugher and May, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel to advise on its $3.1 billion takeover bid for Knoxville, Tennessee-based Regal Entertainment Group, which is represented by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr and British firm Macfarlanes, according to sibling publication Legal Week. Paul Hastings is advising Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC as financial adviser to Regal.

Cineworld’s bid for Regal is part of an effort by the proposed acquirer to compete with movie theater chain leader AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., which since 2012 has been owned by Dalian Wanda, the latter of which in recent months has sought to shed some of its size and clear up murky financial ties and related transactions.