Executive Turntable

Power Attorney Joel Katz Joins New Firm

Joel Katz
Noam Galai/Getty Images  for The T.J. Martell Foundation

T.J. Martell Foundation Board Chairman & Greenberg Traurig Chair Joel Katz accepts an award onstage during The T.J. Martell Foundation 44th Annual New York Honors Gala on Oct. 15, 2019 in New York City. 

He joins Barnes & Thornburg as senior counsel for the firm's entertainment, media and sports practice.

Power attorney Joel Katz, former founding chairman of Greenberg Traurig’s global entertainment and media practice, has joined Barnes & Thornburg. He will continue to be based in Atlanta as senior counsel for the firm's entertainment, media and sports practice.

“Mr. Katz has a distinguished 50-year legal career representing numerous well-known artists, producers, record labels, prominent organizations in the music industry, and Fortune 500 companies," a Barnes & Thornburg rep said in a statement. "He also has been deeply involved in countless community and philanthropic organizations in Atlanta and around the country."

Katz resigned from Greenberg Traurig “by mutual understanding” on Dec. 31 according to a statement released at the time by Richard A. Rosenbaum, Greenberg Traurig’s executive chairman. Rosenbaum also thanked Katz in the statement “for his contributions over the years” and maintained that despite his absence that “our global entertainment practice remains strong, diverse and among the largest, most dynamic and highest rated in the world." At the time, Katz had been rumored to be mulling over opening his own firm and bringing with him many of his label executive and artist clients.

In a new statement, Rosenbaum said, "Mr. Katz and Greenberg Traurig parted ways some time ago, and the departure was mutually desired. He spent a number of years building the practice, but at this stage continuing was not an option." He added, "Every one of the lawyers and staff who worked with Mr. Katz during his career at Greenberg Traurig elected to remain at our firm."

Katz is known for closing high profile deals including the sale of Big Machine Label Group to Ithaca Holdings and The Carlyle Group; negotiating The Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences a new 10-year television contract with the Univision network; the sale of 50% interest of the Messina Touring Group to AEG; and the sale of a 50% stake on behalf of Frontier Touring, Australia’s leading concert promotion company, to AEG Presents among many others.

Katz also worked as the Recording Academy’s general counsel since 2002. There, in 2019, he clashed with incoming CEO Deborah Dugan in what became a public matter when Dugan accused him of sexual harassment in a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after she was placed on administrative leave in January 2020. In her EEOC complaint, Dugan alleged that she has been subjected to sexual harassment by Katz, then the academy’s outside general counsel and a former member and chair (1995-97) of the Academy’s board of trustees. Katz denied the claims.

Dugan also said she complained during her tenure about the "exorbitant amount of money" paid by the academy to Katz and his firm. She alleged that Katz was personally paid $250,000 per year "simply to be on call in the event the Board needs any legal advice." Shortly before she was put on administrative leave, Dugan had been exploring employing an in-house counsel for the academy to bring down costs. The EEOC is still continuing its investigation of Dugan's complaint. The academy's arbitration complaint against her that alleges that she breached her employment contract is still in the discovery phase.

UPDATE: This article was updated April 7, 2021, at 7:30 p.m. EST to include Rosenbaum's updated statement.