London Entertainment Attorney Lisbeth Savill Retires From Latham & Watkins


Hailed as the best entertainment lawyer in London for her dealmaking prowess, Lisbeth “Libby” Savill is soon to swap her law-making chops for a new working life.

At the end of the year, she will leave her legal practice at Latham & Watkins to begin what she describes as “the next chapter” in an extraordinary career.

“I hate the word retirement. It sounds like you’re being put out to pasture,” she muses. “I’ve had a lot of not-for-profit board experience” — she sits on the board of the largest arts center in the U.K., the Southbank Centre — “but I’m looking forward to, among other things, exploring opportunities on commercial boards and strategic projects.”

This arts-obsessed Australian, who’s spent most of her working life in London stitching together complex deals, is a role model for women in a sector still dominated by men.

Savill helped to spearhead the success of British indie movies in the ’90s and aughts by structuring innovative film finance deals. She received a co-exec producer credit on the multi-Oscar winning “The King’s Speech,” and helped tie up the backing for such feted films as “The Crying Game,” “Sexy Beast” and Oscar-nominated “An Education.” 

“I didn’t mean to be pigeonholed as a film finance lawyer,” she recalls. “It was always about understanding rights and how you commercialize those rights. I became known for film financing because it was more out there — part of a wider international ecosystem where I formed long-lasting relationships.”

She’s also been responsible for delivering deals across the media and entertainment sectors, including numerous M&A transactions. Recently, she negotiated the tie-up that saw Riyadh-based media conglomerate SRMG partnering with Warner Bros. Discovery to launch Asharq Discovery, a free-to-view Arabic-language platform.

Her passion for movies has sustained her for 30-plus years of entertainment law practice. She worked at Olswang, the London firm famed for its media and entertainment work, before joining the U.K. office of O’Melveny & Myers, the L.A.-based multinational.

In 2014, she jumped ship to Latham to set up its media and entertainment biz in London from scratch.

Away from her lawyer’s perch, she is active and influential in the U.K.’s wider film community: she was deputy chair of the British Film Institute from 2011 to 2019, and a board member of Film London from 2003 to 2010. Savill helped devise the U.K.’s creative sector tax reliefs, which have stood the test of time since being introduced some 15 years ago.

What, then, are her secrets of the art of dealmaking? “For me, the most important thing is to understand the deal’s objectives. For that, you need to understand both your client’s and the other parties’ objectives. You need to really listen.

“It’s important to take the big picture and plan strategically,” she says. “Inevitably, in dealmaking there’s going to be compromise … There’s a lot of law that underpins these deals, but you have to ask yourself, what’s the deal’s commercial crux?”

It is also crucial to follow the money and not get distracted by irrelevancies: “Being a good interpreter of legal advice that fits the deal is essential. I’m a legal generalist. My focus is the media and entertainment industry, but I will rely on specific legal expertise on particular issues. For example, I’ll ask my tax people for tax advice, but in my work I have done so many tax-driven deals that I have learnt to interrogate and understand the advice I am given to apply it to the needs of the deal.”

Finally, showing respect is essential: “Personally, I don’t want to end up with blood on the floor. I want to get the deal done and have people walk away feeling good about it.” 

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