As any number of folks have observed, Time Warner’s decision to reorganize DC under the leadership Diane Nelson–who had a proven track of developing another literary property, Harry Potter, into a multimedia juggernaut–reflects a broader interest in maximizing the exploitation of DC’s intellectual property. It’s only natural that the corporate eye should turn to the seemingly intractable dispute with the Siegel family over Superman and Superboy.
Superman, of course, has long been vulnerable to magic, so the possibility that Harry Potter’s best friend at Warner Bros. may have placed an avada kadavra spell on Superman’s lawyers only seems fitting. In this regard, the mere fact of a legal change accompanying regime change is, for me, less interesting than the specific form the change takes. Time Warner could have easily chosen a lawyer known for resolving disputes through negotiation–after all, the Los Angeles area’s federal courts are national leaders in alternative dispute resolution, which has given rise to an equally vibrant marketplace for business lawyers adept at negotiating favorable settlements. Instead, the company went for a nationally known aggressive litigator.
I don’t have any inside information as to why Time Warner et al. chose Petrocelli in particular, though I look forward to posting any that may become available. It is true that new DC president Diane Nelson came to Time Warner from Disney–in particular, Walt Disney Records–but that hire seems to have taken place before Petrocelli became Disney counsel in the Winnie the Pooh case and at a time when Nelson would have been relatively siloed from legal in PR.
More tantalizing hints can be found in Time Warner’s connections to the firm in which Petrocelli is a partner, biglaw stalwart O’Melveny and Myers. Not only is Warner Bros. General Counsel John Rogovin a former O’Melveny partner, but Time Warner has engaged O’Melveny as counsel in several high-profile intellectual property & other disputes outside DC.