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Audrey Lee

Audrey Lee
Audrey Lee, executive VP and general counsel, Starz

Audrey Lee’s story began when her parents emigrated from China. They came to the United States with nothing and did not know English, but worked hard  to create a great life for the family. Lee was born in New York and lived there until about first grade, when her family relocated to California. Her father entered the aerospace industry as an electrical engineer, then retired from Boeing as a senior scientist working on the International Space Station. 

Lee recalled being asked to help her father with some of the communications aspects of his work. “I remember being in elementary school helping my dad with memos,” she said. “I would have to read them and make sure they sounded OK. I didn’t know anything about the electrical part of it, but at least I could shape the rest of it.” 

Her parents expected her to enter medicine, but her skill in mathematics and sciences lacked, so she leaned more towards a legal career. She wanted to be a lawyer because law, she thought, was the great equalizer. “Now when I think about it, that sounds super naïve,” she said with a chuckle.

After law school she went to work at a large corporate firm, Latham and Watkins in Los Angeles. There, she specialized in traditional corporate mergers-and-acquisitions securities work and governance. She stayed there for about five years before leaving for a new internet startup: IdeaLab, which had been a former client.

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After IdeaLab, Lee joined Sony Pictures as a lawyer working in M&A and, at the same time, got her business degree at UCLA. “Then I moved over to the licensing side of things, heading up distribution across home entertainment, television, some parts of theatrical, which all was very interesting,” she said. An opportunity arose at content producer Lionsgate, with a chance to expand her range of duties, into such areas as production and development, video gaming, film financing and helping to launch four subscription VOD channels. 

Three years ago, she became general counsel for Lionsgate-owned Starz, the premium programmer. Her work extends from litigation, securities filings, talent relations and employment matters to distribution deals. “This is what I love about my job. There is no ‘typical’ day, as it’s so varied.”

When the pandemic hit, Starz and other programmers were forced to halt production worldwide. Getting back to work safely and efficiently was job one. 

When I came to the job, we were only in the U.S., and within a year or two we were in 50 countries, so that was a massive legal endeavor.”

Audrey Lee

The company worked diligently to create safety protocols, with groups ranging from governors’ offices, local departments of health, inspectors, consulting agencies and guilds. 

Lee said she was proud of her work helping to “get our shows back into production so quickly, safely, and really leading the industry in that regard. We had finalized our production protocols ahead of most of the industry, which I feel was a big win for our company. I am also very proud of successfully navigating some of the larger distribution renewals. 

“We have closer to 25 shows now being produced without a hitch,” she said. “Everything has been relatively manageable.”

Leading a Global Push

She’s also proud of helping launch the on-demand Starz Play service in more than 50 countries. “When I came to the job, we were only in the U.S., and within a year or two we were in 50 countries, so that was a massive legal endeavor.”

“Audrey is a trusted and strategic executive who has been an instrumental part of our leadership team driving strategy for our business and legal affairs,” Starz president and CEO Jeffrey Hirsch said. “A skilled and consummate professional, she has helped navigate the company through many sensitive and complicated issues including creating COVID Television Production & Safety Guidelines that allowed Starz to be one of the first studios in the country to restart production during the pandemic.” 

Lee is also a wife and mother of three, a 17-year-old girl and twin 15-year-old boys. She spends weekends at various pool decks around Southern California, watching and cheering on her kids playing water polo.