This week’s roundup of top in-house hires also includes appointments at Gong Cha, Capstan Therapeutics, Advanced Vapor Devices and Pérez-Llorca

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation promotes new CLO

The world’s second largest charitable foundation The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has appointed long-time legal counsel Lauren Bright as its new chief legal officer, replacing Connie Collingsworth on her retirement.

Bright has been at the foundation since 2005, most recently serving as co-general counsel and director of its Washington DC office. She has supported the foundation on a range of legal and strategic issues related to its policies and advocacy programmes. Prior to joining the foundation, Bright was an associate at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman for five years, having started her career at Dean Blakey & Moskowitz.

Collingsworth, who was the first member of the foundation’s legal team, is stepping down after more than 20 years with the charity. She was promoted to chief operating officer in 2019 alongside her existing role as CLO, helping to build and shape the organisation’s strategic direction and governance standards, providing guidance to four different CEOs during her tenure.

Current CEO Mark Suzman said: “Connie’s impact on every single part of this institution is both deep and meaningful and will endure for as long as this foundation exists. Her disciplined stewardship of the foundation’s resources, contributions to our governance and commitment to our mission have been integral to the success of this institution.”

The foundation has also appointed Shana Tarbell as its new COO, while it has handed Sonia Vora the chief human resources officer role, having served as interim chief since last year.

Suzman added: “Lauren, Shana, and Sonia bring decades of rich experience – both inside and outside the foundation – to their new roles.”

The foundation invests in programmes related to agricultural development, financial inclusion, gender equality, polio and water sanitation and hygiene.

Lucozade owner taps Guinness maker for new GC

Historic attitudes favouring globalisation are fundamentally changing….

The UK’s third largest soft drinks maker Suntory Beverage and Food GB&I has appointed Ewa Chappell as its new general counsel, replacing Mary Guest, who has been promoted to deputy legal director for the company’s European-wide business.

Suntory is known for brands such as Lucozade, Ribena and Orangina.

Chappell joins from global drinks giant Diageo, where she was legal counsel for its global supply and sustainability unit. She brings with her extensive experience across both corporate and commercial law, dealing with supply chain issues as well as helping to develop Diageo’s sustainability agenda. Suntory is Chappell’s second in-house role, having started her career in private practice at Addleshaw Goddard.

Carol Robert, chief operating officer of Suntory’s UK business, said: “Ewa is an incredibly strong addition to my leadership team with a huge breadth of experience and will lead the legal function and collaborate closely with our European parent company.”

Chappell will report to Guest, who moves to the broader European business after more than five years leading the company’s UK legal team, during which time it established its first legal panel. Guest also spearheaded a number of diversity and inclusion reforms, including making its parental leave policy more flexible and bringing in policies around menopause, pregnancy loss and domestic abuse.

Prior to joining Suntory in 2017, Guest was a managing associate at Linklaters within its TMT IP team. She also previously held roles as head of legal for the English Football Association and worked as a senior associate at Clifford Chance.

Robert said Guest’s move to the European business underscores the company’s commitment to promote from within.

Bubble tea chain Gong Cha lands ex-KFC legal head

Taiwanese bubble tea chain Gong Cha has hired former KFC and Yum! Brands Western Europe legal head Pip McKenzie as its new general counsel to oversee the next phase of its rapid global expansion.

Fast-growing Gong Cha has around 1,900 stores globally in 22 countries across Asia, North America, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. It plans to open a store a day on average this year, equivalent to a 40% year-on-year growth rate. It expects to have more than 500 stores up and running in the US alone by 2025.

The company said McKenzie brings with her extensive legal expertise in corporate governance, commercial transactions, regulatory compliance, IP rights and disputes and litigation across the quick-service restaurant and consumer goods sectors. She left KFC and Yum! in February after almost three years at the global fast food giant. Prior to that, McKenzie spent almost a decade at Unilever in London, most recently as a legal director focused on Europe business integrity, litigation and decentralised businesses. She was also legal counsel for major transactions and outsourcing.

Paul Reynish, Gong Cha’s Global CEO, said McKenzie’s experience and expertise will help fuel the brand’s ongoing growth trajectory.

As part of the company’s expansion, it has also hired former Coca-Cola, Jamba Juice and Colgate executive Geoff Henry to serve as Americas president.

VC-backed Capstan Therapeutics gets new GC

Venture capital-backed US biotech company Capstan Therapeutics has appointed former Silverback Therapeutics interim CEO and general counsel Jeffrey Pepe as its new GC.

Pepe brings with him more than two decades of life sciences experience handling a range of legal matters, including initial public offerings, managing clinical assets and developing IP strategies. He specialises in corporate law, IP portfolio management, contracts, due diligence and employment law.

Prior to joining Silverback in 2019 as GC and corporate secretary (and before becoming interim CEO), Pepe was a partner at Seed IP Law Group in Seattle. He also had earlier spells in private practice at DWC Law Firm and Darby & Darby, as well as a previous stint as an associate at Seed. Pepe also spent just over a year as a patent attorney at Nastech Pharmaceutical Company (now Adhera Therapeutics) and almost three years as associate general counsel and head of IP at Trubion Pharmaceuticals (now Aptevo Therapeutics).

Capstan also hired former Aristea Therapeutics finance chief Justin Thacker as its new CFO.

Laura Shawyer, president and CEO of Capstan, said: “Justin and Jeff each bring world-class expertise in leading biopharma companies through a wide range of major R&D and corporate milestones.”

Capstan is seeking to advance in vivo cell engineering to develop treatments for cancer, fibrosis, inflammation-related diseases and monogenic blood disorders. It raised $165m in seed and Series A financing last year from investors including Pfizer Ventures, Bristol Myers Squibb, OrbiMed, RA Capital, Polaris Partners and several other biopharma companies and VC investors.

AVD hires leading cannabis lawyer

US cannabis vaporiser tech developer Advanced Vapor Devices (AVD) has hired leading marijuana industry lawyer Doug Fischer as its new general counsel.

Fischer joins following a short stint as GC at multi-state cannabis operator Ascend Wellness Holdings, having previously been GC at cannabis accessories distributor Greenlane Holdings and chief legal officer of the National Association of Cannabis Businesses. Prior to his in-house work in the cannabis sector, Fischer spent almost nine years as an associate at Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, where he also counselled investors and cannabis businesses about compliance issues and federal enforcement risks.

At Greenlane, Fischer led the first ever IPO of an ancillary cannabis company on a major stock exchange. He has deep experience navigating novel regulatory matters and was instrumental in representing the cannabis vape industry in response to the PACT Act legislation in 2021, which sought to restrict the mailing of vaping products by post. In his new role at AVD, Fischer will provide support to the company’s clients as well as proactively lead on industry regulatory matters.

Alex Kwon, CEO and co-founder of AVD, said: “As our industry evolves, we recognise a significant opportunity to help steer the future regulatory landscape and advocate for appropriate industry legislation. As a seasoned legal mind in the cannabis sector with a wealth of knowledge in governance, Doug will lead AVD’s efforts in those areas and enable us to stay ahead of the market in creating a safer consumer environment.”

Earlier this year, AVD won a patent dispute arising from an infringement claim by vaping tech competitor CCELL, which is owned by Chinese company Shenzhen Smoore. The US International Trade Commission judge said that none of AVD’s vaping cartridges, components or products violated CCELL’s patents.

Pérez-Llorca appoints GC in rare move for Spanish firm

Spanish law firm Pérez-Llorca has appointed José Luis Luna as its general counsel to head up its in-house department as part of an effort to professionalise its broader management team.

Luna joins from LatAm-focused law firm Ontier in Madrid, bringing with him more than 20 years of experience in private practice and in-house. Prior to joining Ontier, Luna was director for corporate legal services at the now defunct Spanish infrastructure and renewables company Abengoa.

While the norm for many international firms, the appointment of a GC is relatively rare for Spanish law firms. The latest step in Pérez-Llorca’s management plan provides support to the existing leadership team, which includes Constanza Vergara as corporate director, María Luisa de Landecho as CFO and Rafael Madero as CIO. The firm has also been building out its HR, communications and business development departments, among others.

The firm’s management model is intended to allow its partners and lawyers to concentrate on growing their practices and focus on client legal matters rather than being distracted by day-to-day operational issues.