- General counsel: Andrew Garard.
- Team headcount: 87 lawyers, including 65 in the UK.
Over the past five years, ITV’s profitability has increased 300%, but costs in its tightly-managed legal and business affairs team have fallen 30%.
The legal team has made a concerted effort to bring work other than M&A and litigation in-house, and has standardised a menu of repeat contracts to give the commercial business a higher degree of autonomy.
The television broadcaster last year acquired a controlling interest in Leftfield Entertainment for an initial cash payment of $360m, with the remaining share value calculated by a profit multiple, an opportunity brought directly to GC Andrew Garard as a result of a contact made in the US. This is one of a number of recent acquisitions in the US and Garard says: ‘The legal team has been front and centre of each deal.’
Major disputes involving the team include a challenge to the pension regulator’s retrospective determination that ITV should make a financial contribution under the Pensions Act 2004 after Boxclever – a joint venture between Granada (now part of ITV) and Thorn – became insolvent in 2003, leaving a pension scheme deficit of around £62m by the end of 2009. Garard says: ‘We will be fighting it tooth and nail.’
The broadcaster is leading the field with its corporate social responsibility activities, driven by Garard and director of legal affairs and third-party sales Barry Matthews (named Rising Star In-House Counsel of the Year at the 2014 Legal Business Awards), which will this year see 100 underprivileged children take part in a week-long development programme – a programme that has quadrupled in size from last year.
ITV’s panel review this year will also see external law firms required to provide diversity statistics and explain what measures they have in place to improve those figures.
Garard banned the billable hour in 2008 and external work is conducted largely on a fixed-fee basis. He comments: ‘If fee-earners have a target of 2,000 billable hours a year, we are working with law firms to ensure that lawyers working on our rates are adequately rewarded.’