Disney New General Counsel to Guide Future Growth

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Horacio Gutierrez began his position as General Counsel for Disney in February 2022. He brings a wealth of experience from technology behemoths Spotify and Microsoft. Gutierrez’s legal background will be an asset as the media entertainment giant endeavors to innovate its business strategy.

The Burbank, California-based company believes Gutierrez possesses many of the qualities needed to guide Disney through media industry changes. “Horacio is an incredibly skilled attorney and dynamic leader who comes to Disney with 35 years of legal experience in markets around the globe,” Bob Chapek, Disney’s CEO stated. “Having spent more than two decades working for premier technology companies, he has an extensive understanding of the complex legal questions that come with technological disruption and rapid industry change. Horacio is a key addition to my leadership team, and I look forward to working with him.”

Gutierrez replaces Alan Braverman as general counsel, who is retiring after serving as Disney’s top lawyer for nearly two decades. Braverman is one of the most highly paid in-house lawyers in the United States. He earned $9.2 million in total compensation in 2020 and $14 million in 2019. Data shows that he holds more than $18 million in Disney stock.

Gutierrez likewise has built a reputation as a high-profile in-house lawyer. Since 2017, Gutierrez has been one of Spotify’s top five highest-paid executives. He holds more than $2 million in Spotify stock. His total compensation package at Disney, which includes salary, bonus, and equity awards, is around $22 million.

“I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead Disney’s global legal organization,” Gutierrez commented, adding that he admired Braverman as “an iconic figure in the legal profession.”

Gutierrez’s Diverse Career

Gutierrez has had a distinguished and diversified career. Before accepting the position at Disney, He has worked in private practice and in-house at some of the leading technology companies in the world.

A fluent speaker of Portuguese and Spanish who has worked in private practice in the United States and Venezuela, Gutierrez has also worked as an in-house lawyer at Microsoft. He was initially a deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing. He then received a promotion to president and chief legal officer in 2015. While there, he gained firsthand experience in navigating antitrust actions.

Spotify, which is headquartered in Sweden, brought Gutierrez onboard in 2016. Three years later, Spotify promoted him to the position of chief legal officer and head of global affairs. His home base continues to be New York.

As chief legal officer of Spotify, Gutierrez helped the podcast and music streaming company compete with technology giants Apple and Netflix. At Spotify, he also navigated controversies stemming from popular podcast host Joe Rogan.

Gutierrez guided Spotify through its battles over songwriter pay. Songwriters and publishers have alleged that music streaming services including Spotify have underpaid royalty fees for years. Songwriters scored a major victory in January 2018 when a US Copyright Royalty Board ruling declared that Spotify must raise its royalty charges.

Shaping the Future of Disney

Gutierrez will be responsible for guiding Disney’s legal affairs worldwide and overseeing its various business divisions including ABC, ESPN, Fox Networks, Lucasfilm, Marvel Entertainment, and Pixar. Disney employs hundreds of lawyers amongst its various subsidiaries and business divisions.

Disney Lawyers
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To support the legal department, Disney recently promoted Alicia Schwarz to chief compliance officer. Disney is also actively hiring for legal and compliance roles.

In the face of rapid industry change and increasing competition, Disney hopes to grow its media streaming platforms and services. It plans to diversify its content and attract more subscribers globally. Its Disney+ streaming service has nearly 130 million subscribers worldwide.

More Americans are venturing to Disney’s theme parks as the pandemic cools. Initial data shows that Americans are ready to splurge on events and travel. Disney hopes its theme park attendance will eventually increase back to pre-pandemic levels.

Disney also announced plans to enter the apartment and condo industries. The entertainment company is developing residential community plans through Storyliving by Disney. The team has already created designs for a community in California’s Coachella Valley. The residential communities will give residents access to Disney amenities, programming, and entertainment.