L.A. Law Shake-up: Top Showbiz Dealmakers Exiting O'Melveny & Myers for Rival (Exclusive)

Joseph Calabrese

Why he matters: He advised Legendary Entertainment on the launch of its television division and acquisition of Asylum Entertainment, helping to turn it into a full-fledged independent media company. Then he helped Legendary settle its co-finance, co-production deal with Warner Bros. and transition to a similar one with Universal Studios.

Biggest Hollywood tantrum he's witnessed: "I did have the pleasure of breaking up a fistfight in a conference room over the acquisition of a film company. My client went across the table accusing the other side of lying to him."

The typically steady and stable world of Los Angeles-based entertainment law is getting a major jolt.

Showbiz dealmakers Joe Calabrese and Christopher Brearton and a team of four lawyers are leaving top firm O'Melveny & Myers for longtime L.A. rival Latham & Watkins, the firms are set to announce. And O'Melveny is naming new heads of its entertainment transaction group. 

The pair of O'Melveny partners, who have been featured on The Hollywood Reporter's Power Lawyers list of the top entertainment attorneys in America, are bringing the following attorneys to Latham: Robert Haymer, Nancy Bruington and Kenneth Deutsch in Los Angeles, and Lisbeth Savill in London.

In their place, O'Melveny is naming longtime dealmakers Stephen Scharf, Matthew Erramouspe, and Bruce Tobey as the new transactional co-heads of the firm's entertainment, sports and media practice.

The move is significant because Latham, one of L.A.'s top law firms, has long lagged behind O'Melveny and other Southern California firms in its entertainment practice. Poaching Calabrese and Brearton puts the firm in the center of the pack. Latham declined to comment on the move. 

Brearton and Calabrese have been at the forefront of several top M&A and finance transactions in Hollywood. Calabrese has a particular specialty in handling deals in China. He's represented Legendary Pictures and its China-based venture Legendary East, and he's advised the studio on $1 billion in equity and debt transactions. He's also represented the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and sports teams including the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Brearton helped Participant Media in accruing $100 million for film financing and has advised the company in its equity investment in Cineflix Media. He also represented DreamWorks Animation in its overall multiyear distribution deal with Paramount, and MGM in its five-year deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The O'Melveny firm isn't exactly out of the Hollywood game, of course. The firm's new department heads have their own years of experience in entertainment dealmaking. Scharf is a pioneer in entertainment transaction law, Erramouspe has his own specialty in China and Tobey is a former executive with CBS Films and Paramount.

“Our clients could not be in better hands than with these three sought-out entertainment lawyers,” said Bradley J. Butwin, chair of O’Melveny, in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Stephen, Matthew, and Bruce, together with our leading entertainment litigators, are furthering a legacy laid down by John O’Melveny, Deane Johnson, Donald Petroni, and others. Today, entertainment companies are facing an expanding global market and a changing digital media landscape, and O’Melveny’s award-winning entertainment lawyers are poised to help them achieve their goals.”

In addition, the firm is retaining its highly regarded entertainment litigation practice, which includes Daniel Petrocelli.

“We are fortunate to have the leadership of Stephen, Matthew, and Bruce and look forward to working closely with them to serve our great entertainment clients” said Petrocelli, chair of O’Melveny’s business trial and litigation practice

Email: Austin.Siegemund-Broka@THR.com
Twitter: @Asiegemundbroka

Email: Matthew.Belloni@THR.com
Twitter: @THRMattBelloni