In recommending Janet Nova as a Wonder Woman, colleague Carissa Coze described her as a “multitasking powerhouse.”
“I don’t know about a powerhouse,” Nova responded with a laugh. But the 16-year veteran of what’s now called 21st Century Fox admits to handling “lots of significant transactions” for clients both outside and in-house, and said they keep her quite busy.
“If outside counsel is maybe only able to handle a couple, when you’re in-house you have to handle everything from the significant to the mundane, whether it’s dealing with a significant acquisition or you’re dealing with an employment agreement,” she explained. “Some of it is in more of an advisory role, some of it is more execution. But you’ve got to be able to keep all the balls in the air.”
LED KEY INITIATIVES
Over the past several months, Nova has had to juggle multiple transactions, including the split of the former News Corp. into two public companies. 21st Century Fox retained the original film and television assets, while the publishing assets were spun off into a new company that carries the News Corp. name.
“From the moment before we started this to the public to now, the value of these companies has doubled,” 21st Century Fox senior executive vice president and chief financial officer John Nallen said. “It was a massive execution transaction that led to tremendous value to the shareholders. And if people pointed in the boardroom to who led the legal charge on this without a hiccup, it would be Janet Nova.”
A native New Yorker and Columbia Law School graduate, Nova also led 21st Century Fox’s acquisition of 49% interest in the New York Yankees’ YES Network, ranked by Forbes among the 10 most-valuable sports brands worldwide. She now serves on the board of directors for its holding company.
Nova guided Fox Television Stations’s acquisitions of two stations in Charlotte, N.C., from Capitol Broadcasting Company and the acquisition of the Shine Group, a U.K. media production company that had been founded and principally owned by Elisabeth Murdoch.
“Probably the most challenging issues I had to face were when I was interim counsel at the company at the time of the phone-hacking crisis,” Nova said of the 2011 headline-grabbing scandal involving News Corp.’s News of the World newspaper in the U.K. She was one of several lawyers who prepared News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch for his appearance in front of a parliamentary committee.
“We were really stepping into a role — literally doing crisis management — which is something that we at News Corp. hadn’t done before, and I didn’t personally have that experience,” Nova recalled.
It was during those proceedings that Nova extended herself even further, by physically protecting Murdoch from what was thought to be a pie-wielding protestor.
“He wasn’t a protestor — he was a comedian trying to draw attention to himself,” Nova said, recounting the incident. “I’m sitting behind Rupert and I see some guy out of the corner of my eye, and it looks like he kind of doesn’t belong. I see him reach into this plastic bag and he pulls something out of it, and I see him coming across my peripheral vision and I see him going up to Rupert.”
Nova described what happened next as a defensive-offensive play between her and Murdoch’s wife, Wendi: “I went and tried to protect Rupert and, if you watch the video, you’ll see that Wendi comes over the top and she does this kind of volleyball slap of the guy’s head and mushes the shaving cream on a plate — which, of course, we didn’t know when it first happened. And I was more than happy that Wendi got all the press. That was all fine with me.”
FROM SKI BUM TO ASSOCIATE
Before joining what was then News Corp., Nova served as an associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP from 1993 to 1997.
“Two jobs since college — that’s pretty good,” she said, later recalling another memorable gig: “Before law school I was a ski bum in Vail, Colorado, for a season.”
The key requirements: “You ski as much as possible and you make money on the side in order to keep your skiing going. I worked on my folding skills (in a clothing store), and that was a lot of fun.”
At home, the busy barrister adds to her juggling act two kids (daughter, Katie, 13, who celebrates her bat mitzvah next month; and son, Henry, 8) with her husband of 15 years, Kenny Nova, an entrepreneur.
“To a large extent, many of the working women I know still retain a lot of the primary responsibility — not for all things — but for a lot of things having to do with their children, whether it’s managing playdates or managing your relationships with your caregiver,” Nova said. “I’m the one who fields phone calls from my kids during the day — and some of it is also self-imposed — but you want to make sure you’re doing the right things for your kids and that they have as much of your attention as possible, even in the middle of a meeting.”
TITLE: Executive Vice President, Deputy Group General Counsel, 21st Century Fox
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Associate at Law Firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. Helped to execute original News Corp.’s split into 21st Century Fox and News Corp.; Fox’s acquisition of interests in YES Network, and other transactions.
QUOTABLE: “One of the nice things about working out of the house is that when you’re home you can really focus your time on the kids as much as you can.”