Cynthia Quarcoo: the legal strength behind entertainment
Jun 17, 2016 at 8:42pm
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She is Sakordie’s lawyer. She is the legal power behind the phenomenal rise of, arguably, Ghana’s biggest musical export in the 21st century.
Responsible for scrutinising all contracts, deals, endorsements, partnerships and any other legal and business details to keep brand Sakordie rising and rising to the Grammys, Cynthia Quarcoo is not just a lawyer but the superstars’ lawyer.
But Sakordie is not the only one benefiting from her legal prowess to building a strong brand. As the years went by many entertainers have come to realise the need for proper legal and business representation.
The endless list includes the nation’s latest Highlife sensation, Bisa Kdei, Volta Regime Music Group boss, Edem, Stonebwoy, and Akwaboah.
For almost two decades, Cynthia has been behind the scenes trying to strengthen the legal and business base of many artistes in the country.
But how did the zeal to support and represent artistes begin? As a finance, banking and business lawyer, she never for once thought of rendering her services to these artistes for a fee due to her friendship with countless of them.
And so for years, as long time friends with Reggie Rockstone, Okyeame Kwame, Edem and other musicians and actors, Cynthia’s selflessness has seen her give vital legal and business advice to these entertainers.
But realising the lack of proper legal representation these artistes have and how promoters and producers take advantage of their legal deficiencies, Cynthia, trained in London and Ghana, has now decided to settle home and officially serve as the entertainment industry’s go to legal and foremost business brain.
Her law firm, CQ Legal which is due to open soon, will focus on international business, finance, and trade but due to Cynthia’s deep knowledge of intellectual property, corporate and commercial law and other areas that are applicable to the creative sector, she has established a department in the firm that solely serves clients across the entertainment, media and sports spectrum in addition to the other practice areas.
“A lawyer must form part of your team from day one,” she says to the B&FT Weekend as to the reason why she established the department.
To substantiate her argument, she adds that there are several collaborations and relationships between artistes, managers and producers that have not been formalised and the opposite is what has made artistes in developed economies very successful.
Looking at the Ghanaian system, she is of the view that, there is the need for a lot of structural changes right from policies through associations to the artistes themselves.
“Government must put the laws in place but then these laws need enforcement. Also artistes and creative minds must know what their rights are, and start to put structures within their own relationships to enforce that change up.
The more they start to recognize what they (artistes) have to do, then the system will start to change and will force government to sit up. If we sit down and wait for government, everybody wants to blame government sometimes we need to take it into our own hands.”
In order to speed up the process of change, she has also established Africa 1 Media as a management and professional services company to help artistes and entertainers structure their businesses and brands for growth and sustainability.
“Africa 1 Media aims to empower these artistes in many ways,” she says.
Through quarterly thought leadership programmes and seminars all stakeholders in the creative sector will benefit from experienced players from the globe on topics such as intellectual property or copyright, management, finance, personal development and branding.
With her practice spanning emerging markets including Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Asia Pacific, Cynthia’s in-depth understanding of the African legal and business landscape, deep sensitivity to its unique and ever evolving cultural/political setting and pedigree in media and entertainment law have positioned her as the go-to expert on critical legal issues in these areas.
Thus, her dream is to see all artistes and entertainers well represented and enjoying the fruit of their labour without looking back and regretting becoming musicians, actors, media personalities, sportsmen or women or entertainers in any form.
It is always said that you cannot run away from your destiny, no matter how many times you try. Cynthia’s law career was predicted by family members and friends when she was very young but she chose to run away from it.
Her parents preferred medicine but she wanted to pursue the arts. She ended doing her first degree in Economics even though she was a science student during her ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level education. After shuffling various schools in Ghana, Cynthia left Ghana at 14 to the UK.
In the UK, she started at university, stopped, worked in fashion and retail, got married, had two children, and after rediscovering herself and purpose, she went back to university.
“Going back to university was purely because I wanted my kids to have the best possible education and I wanted to get a better job. I did not tell mother or anybody, I just went and enrolled,” she says.
So it was in her second year that she took a few courses in law. There, lecturers lauded her analytical skills and encouraged her to pursue it. That was how she linked her law to economics and commerce. “I did very well at it. I ended up graduating with a Degree in Economics as a Major and Law as a Minor.”
After graduating from school, she went to work with the Bank of England whilst still staying in touch with her lecturers and staff at her law school. So when she was getting bored working in the City of London, she one day had lunch with the head of the law department at her former school.
Through that meeting, she realised that she had to focus on law, but then where was the money? London law is no joke on the pocket. But her determination and zeal never left and so she applied for scholarship at Lincoln’s Inn.
So while she was pregnant with her third child (by the way she has six but doesn’t look it), she got shortlisted out of the over 500 applicants, got interviewed and was among the five people who got full scholarships to study law.
After taking her post graduate degree in law, she took a year out of school and worked as an analyst at leading tax and audit firm PwC before going back to law school.
Coming home to Ghana
Cynthia’s moving story is made all the more attractive with her six children also guiding her in making critical decisions. Due to her roots in Ghana, she has always had at the back of her mind to come home with the kids.
So during her working days she one day passed by the offices of PwC and met a partner who told her about an opportunity where the firm was looking for a lawyer to help in liquidating the assets of Ghana Airways. In less than two weeks, she was appointed as a legal advisor to PwC who were taxed with liquidating the assets of Ghana Airways.
“Looking back, there has always been a point where there is God; there is something that has just moved me to the next level. In a nut shell, everything works in moving me up in my educational and professional life.
Cynthia’s six (children) lucky charms have been at the centre of it all. “I have been juggling both work and school, and the children have been at the centre of it. My kids have always been Number 1. If I have to give up a job and be home as a mother, I would. Now that they are grown and I am in my early 40s, I feel that what is yet to come is bigger than what has already happened.”
She actually finds it difficult to name her successes when people ask because this is just a teaser and there is so much more she knows she can offer. “I feel there is a second opportunity and a second coming. So far, it has not been straightforward but the journey has been interesting and rewarding.”
Starting Africa 1 Media, as an idea back in 2008, as a professional services firm, which is targeted at providing legal, business advisory, branding, and management services to people in the creative arts industry, she sees herself as a bit of an artist too.
As a social and outgoing person, Cynthia is always surrounded by musical and creative people. Through her social life, her old friend Reggie Rockstone began to introduce her to his friends as her lawyer.
Through these meetings she came to freely help musicians like Asem, Kwae Kese, Kwabena Kwabena, Kweku T and D Black. Then Sarkodie came and insisted on a professional relationship.
Today, she has Africa 1 Media and is ready to finally support the creative arts industry with all her might and help make it a better place for all stakeholders.
“The creative arts industry is one of Africa’s talent bases that has not been harnessed in terms of potential. And any thriving economy needs its creative economy to work.”
Africa1 Media has a strong team to hit the ground running. Lillian Blankson of BET is the Chief Operating Officer; Benny ‘Blanco’ Ashun is the Country Director for Ghana.
The company is setting up offices in South Africa and Ivory Coast. “We are the business side of the arts and creative industry and we help them commercialize their art. That is what Africa 1 Media does. I am part of the creative sector.”
Cynthia at a glance:
Founded Fountain Chambers in 2007, which merged with Beyuo and Co in 2009 to create Beyuo Jumu & Co. in Ghana.
Relocated to the United Kingdom in 2012 and worked with Fasken Martineau LLP as a Senior Associate Lawyer in their Banking and Finance practice focusing on transactions in the Middle East and Sub Saharan Africa
Advised on several high level international deals including:
A US$350,000 private equity participation in a Ghanaian bank
A US$5,000,000 subordinated loan agreement from the International Finance Corporation to a bank in Ghana
A US$1.6 million investment for a fund management firm within the Sub-Saharan region
Contributed to publications such as:
"Doing Business", Published by the World Bank
"Model Contracts for Small Firms: Legal Guidance for Doing International Business", Article published by the International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations
Recognised by Chambers Global and Legal 500 as a leading lawyer within the field of 'General Business Law (Ghana)'. Cynthia is praised for “very solid on corporate work’” "building up a most impressive practice" (2009 - 2012 editions)
Notable awards include, recognition as leading lawyer IFLR 1000 2011; Thomas More Bursary, The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn (2000); CPE Award, The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn (1999)
Member of the Ghana Bar Association and the Bar Council of England and Wales.
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