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Editorial

Index of tables

  1. Restructuring and insolvency
  2. Leading individuals

Leading individuals

  1. 1
    • Scott Atkins - Henry Davis York
    • David Cowling - King & Wood Mallesons
    • Roger Dobson - Jones Day
    • Dominic Emmett - Gilbert + Tobin
    • Clint Hinchen - Allens
    • Michael Hughes - Minter Ellison
    • James Marshall - Ashurst
    • John Martin - Henry Davis York
    • Ross McClymont - Ashurst
    • John Nestel - Herbert Smith Freehills
    • Maria O’Brien - Baker McKenzie
    • Karen O’Flynn - Clayton Utz
    • Tony Troiani - King & Wood Mallesons
    • Ian Walker - WARD Lawyers
    • Brendon Watkins - Minter Ellison
    • Leon Zwier - Arnold Bloch Leibler

Who Represents Who

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Noted for its ‘exceptional client service’, the full-service practice at Allens has excellent strength in depth across Australia. Administrations, liquidations, receiverships, restructuring and schemes of arrangement are all handled very well: Philip Blaxill acted for Deloitte as administrators of Quickflix on successfully negotiating a deed of company arrangement (DoCA). The firm’s excellent banking and finance department complements the creditor-side restructuring and insolvency work: Tania Cini advised Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) as secured lender to Emeco Holdings, Orionstone and Andy’s Earthmovers on the three companies’ merger and debt restructure, while group head Alf Pappalardo acted for Westpac on its recovery of A$20m-worth of debt from defendants such as Zilzie. The ‘incredibly smart’ Clint Hinchen is ‘very client-focused’; Geoff Rankin, Matthew Whittle and Chris Prestwich are also recommended.

Arnold Bloch Leibler’s primarily Melbourne-based department fields ‘trustworthy, absolutely best-in-class lawyers’, and is led by the ‘commercial, creative’ Leon Zwier, who is regarded by many peers as Australia’s leading insolvency partner. He, Susanna Ford and Genevieve Sexton assisted KordaMentha with the administration of Arrium Group, which involved drawing up a DoCA for each of the 94 companies comprising the group, court proceedings brought against creditors such as GSO Capital Partners, and restructuring the group itself. The latter task also involved Ben Mahoney and the ‘technically excellent’ Justin Vaatstra. Agribusiness is an active area for the firm: Jane Sheridan acted for PPB Advisory and KordaMentha on their liquidation of Gunns Group and Timbercorp Group respectively. Oaktree Capital Management is an investor-side client.

Ashurst’s ‘strong, cost-effective’ team, which is especially active in Sydney but has commendable strength in Melbourne, is well known for its expertise in debtor-side restructuring and schemes of arrangement and for its excellent creditor-side track record, particularly for funds and alternative lenders. Though active across a wide range of sectors, the practice’s ‘excellent knowledge of the energy and finance industries’ is singled out for particular praise: James Marshall and Emanuel Poulos advised KPMG as liquidators of BBY, and Marshall assisted Boart Longyear with its $589m restructuring. Ross McClymont acted for a lending syndicate that included Westpac, National Australia Bank (NAB) and Barclays with the restructuring of Slater and Gordon via a creditors’ scheme of arrangement. The ‘incisive, well-connected’ Michael Sloan is ‘well-respected by financiers and insolvency practitioners alike’; Tony Ryan and Lionel Meehan are also recommended. In 2017, Joseph Scarcella and Timothy Sackar left to join Johnson Winter & Slattery and Clayton Utz respectively.

Noted for its ‘very good technical advice’ and its ‘strong understanding of the restructuring and insolvency sector’, Minter Ellison’s ‘well-resourced’ department is frequently instructed by insolvency practitioners on high-profile mandates, and advises creditors, debtors and significant third parties on a range of matters. David O’Brien and group head Michael Hughes are singled out for their ‘depth of knowledge and understanding’; O’Brien acted for McGrathNicol as voluntary administrators of BrisConnections Group in the largest infrastructure insolvency in Queensland’s history. Caitlin Murray advised PPB Advisory on its voluntary administration of eight entities in Allphones Group, and acted for Ferrier Hodgson on its liquidation of the Australian Institute of Professional Education. Hughes, who along with Brendon Watkins is ‘commercial, strategic and very responsive’, defended SingTel Optus against a A$156m unfair preference claim brought by the liquidators of Bill Express. Centerbridge Partners and Rabobank Australia are creditor clients. Ian Walker left in December 2016 to head Ward Lawyers’ restructuring and insolvency practice.

Noted for its ‘excellent client service, industry knowledge, strength in depth and value for money’, Clayton Utz’s ‘very focused, strategic’ practice performs strongly across its Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth offices. Cameron Belyea and Alistair Fleming are ‘very thorough’ and provide ‘thoughtful, well-researched bespoke advice’; they advised KordaMentha as administrators on all aspects of Arrium Group’s mining business, including negotiating government funding and purchasing critical mining machinery. Nick Poole and Paul James acted for Peabody Energy’s Australian group on Peabody’s $10bn global restructuring. Group head Karen O’Flynn, who is ‘wonderful to work with’, has ‘an easy but authoritative manner’ and ‘a knack for getting what she and her clients want’; the ‘amazing, honest’ Brett Cook ‘values client relationships over legal fees’. Jennifer Ball and Orla McCoy are also recommended. Timothy Sackar, who specialises in front-end restructuring and has much multi-jurisdictional experience, arrived from Ashurst in May 2017.

Gilbert + Tobin’s primarily Sydney-based department fields a five-partner team that acts for debtors, creditors and insolvency practitioners on high-profile mandates. KordaMentha instructed the practice on the administration and restructuring of Arrium Group, including the $1.2bn sale of Arrium’s grinding-products business, Moly-Cop, to American Industrial Partners. David Clee and ‘legendary’ group head Dominic Emmett acted for KKR and BIS Industries on the restructuring of BIS Group’s debt of around US$/A$1bn, with debt issued in both currencies. The ‘very effectiveSimon Lynch is ‘very responsive and commercial’; he, Clee and Emmett advised the noteholders to Emeco on its restructure and merger with Orionstone and Andy’s Earthmovers, and assisted the noteholders to Paladin Energy on the proposed restructure of two tranches of bonds. Colleen Platford and Crispian Lynch are also recommended. Peter Bowden arrived from Norton Rose Fulbright in August 2017.

The ‘very client-focused’ team at Henry Davis York, which is particularly strong on the creditor side, is ‘easy to deal with’. It has cross-border capabilities: Scott Atkins and John Martin acted for Asian Development Bank and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar on modernising Myanmar’s insolvency laws. Atkins also advised Grant Thornton as liquidators of Centaur Litigation on the liquidation process and the restructuring of Centaur Group. Torchlight Fund is an additional client. Claudine Salameh is recommended for regulatory work. In August 2017, Cameron Cheetham, Craig Ensor and Michael Catchpoole left to join Corrs Chambers Westgarth’s Sydney office. Henry Davis York and Norton Rose Fulbright have announced their intention to merge towards the end of 2017.

The ‘confidence-inspiring’ team at Herbert Smith Freehills is ‘innovative, sophisticated, commercial and rapidly responsive’, with ‘talent at all levels’ and ‘the ability to manage large, complex matters quickly and effectively’. Representing creditors is the practice’s strongest suit, though it also acts for insolvency practitioners: Paul Apáthy, who is ‘highly commercial and extremely good technically’, advised Ferrier Hodgson on its receivership of Keystone Group, while Mark Clifton assisted Deloitte as voluntary administrators (and subsequently liquidators) of Retail Adventures. On the lender side, the Perth-based Konrad de Kerloy advised ANZ on its A$900m exposure to Pankaj Oswal and certain related entities – the bank having invested in Yara Pilbara Holdings, which went into receivership and in which Oswal was a shareholder. Other secured creditor clients include Infrastructure Capital Group and Macquarie Bank; Imdex is a debtor-side restructuring client. Peter Smith and John Nestel lead the practice.

King & Wood Mallesons is seen on many of the highest-profile restructures and insolvencies in the market, often acting for creditors or insolvency practitioners. Department head Tim Klineberg acted for NAB and up to 34 other creditors owed around A$2.8bn by Arrium Group, and, along with global practice head David Cowling, advised McGrathNicol as administrators of McAleese Group. Cowling and the Brisbane-based Emma Costello acted for PPB Advisory on its liquidation of Queensland Nickel. On the debtor side, Klineberg assisted Paladin Energy with a A$362m debt restructure. Melbourne-based insolvency litigator Tony Troiani, an expert in directors’ duties, is also recommended, as are Samantha Kinsey and Philip Pan in Melbourne and Brisbane respectively. Nathan Collins is the key partner in Perth. Larissa Strk left to join the Supreme Court of Western Australia in July 2016.

Praised for its ‘outstanding technical knowledge’, the team at Norton Rose Fulbright is ‘very client-focused, cost-conscious and willing to go the extra mile for clients’. It advises insolvency practitioners on high-profile mandates, and has been especially active in the retail sector: Chris Cruikshank acted for Ferrier Hodgson as receivers and managers of Dick Smith Holdings in its highly publicised insolvency, and assisted Deloitte with its voluntary administration of Howards Storage World. On the creditor side, the ‘experiencedTim Mornane acted for Bank of New York Mellon as trustee for the senior noteholders in relation to Mirabela Nickel’s receivership, and advised Credit Suisse on the restructuring of its exposure to Bandanna Energy. Department head Steven Palmer advised ANZ as lender on the recapitalisation of Peabody Energy’s Australian group. Mitchell Mathas, David Goldman and Chris McLeod are also recommended. Norton Rose Fulbright and Henry Davis York have announced their intention to merge towards the end of 2017.

Frequently advising debtors, creditors and insolvency practitioners on high-profile matters, Baker McKenzie’s department is led by Maria O’Brien. Along with Bryan Paisley, O’Brien assisted Emeco Holdings with implementing a restructuring support agreement with its creditors and those of Orionstone and Andy’s Earthmovers. She also acted for KordaMentha as administrators of Arrium Group on property and equipment finance matters relating to Arrium’s offshore subsidiaries, which are not in administration. David Walter is especially busy on the creditor side: he advised Macquarie Bank and Generation Investment Management on A$42m-worth of loans defaulted on by Maria’s Farm Veggies. His other clients include Fortress Credit Corporation (Australia) II, Australia Capital Financial Management and The Trust Company. Insolvency litigator Ian Innes arrived as special counsel from Ashurst in February 2017, bringing with him clients such as PPB Advisory and FTI Consulting.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth’s team was significantly bolstered by the arrival of Cameron Cheetham, Craig Ensor and Michael Catchpoole from Henry Davis York in August 2017; Cheetham is UK-, US- and Australia-qualified, while Catchpoole is a cross-border restructuring and insolvency expert with a focus on contentious matters. The practice, which counts energy, mining and financial services as sector strengths, is led by Jason Salman and Mark Wilks, who along with Sam Delaney is described as ‘whip-smart’. On the creditor side, Salman advised Black Crane Capital on Emeco’s restructure and merger with Orionstone and Andy’s Earthmovers. Salman also acted for PPB Advisory on its liquidation of Bandanna Energy, and advised McGrathNichol on its receivership of Midwest Vanadium. In early 2017, Jade Rowarth arrived from Maddocks, helping offset the departure of John Stragalinos to DibbsBarker.

Though traditionally strong on the creditor side, HWL Ebsworth’s ‘very good’ department is increasingly being instructed by insolvency practitioners. It provides ‘timely, cost-effective advice’ and ‘an exceptional level of service’, and has ‘significant industry knowledge spanning a wide range of sectors’. Wayne Jenvey acted for FTI Consulting on its liquidation of Queensland Nickel, including defending it against a damages claim of A$1.2bn, while Grant Whatley advised Deloitte on its administration of Animal Supplies Group. Jenvey and David O’Farrell also represented Deloitte on its A$47m liquidation of Octaviar Financial Services. The ‘thorough, easily approachable’ Andrew O’Halloran is ‘exceptionally good’, and has ‘a reputation for practical solutions and a commercial approach’; he defended CFC Group against a A$15m insolvent trading and unfair preference claim. Warren Jiear joined the Brisbane office from Piper Alderman in October 2016.

Active mostly in debtor-side restructuring and insolvency work, Johnson Winter & Slattery is also frequently instructed by liquidators. The key partners, including Paul Buitendag and group head David Proudman, are ‘always accessible and available, and handle complex issues while focusing on a commercial outcome’. Proudman, who is commended for his ‘understanding of complex issues’ and his ‘high-quality advice’, acted for PPB Advisory on the receivership of Black Oak Minerals, including the sale of three gold projects and a silver project spread across two states. He also acted for PPB Advisory on its liquidation of Linc Energy. Matthew Allchurch advised interests associated with Mark Rowsthorn, founder of and major shareholder in McAleese, on its attempted recapitalisation and restructure. Insolvency litigators Joseph Scarcella and Jemaya Barlow, a special counsel, joined in March 2017 from Ashurst.

Maddocks fields a team of three dedicated Melbourne-based insolvency practitioners who are active mostly in contentious work, primarily liquidation and recovery. Group head David Newman, who is ‘very commercial, quick to respond and always willing to go the extra mile’, acted for Ferrier Hodgson on its liquidation of Banksia Securities, and assisted it with the administration of the Sage Institute of Fitness. Newman and Marelda Hibberd advised Pitcher Partners, the trustees of the bankrupt estate of Joseph Gutnick, on negotiating funding with a major creditor and conducting a well-publicised examination of Gutnick. On the creditor side, Damian Wurzel advised Société des Mines de la Tontouta as a major creditor of Queensland Nickel on the latter’s liquidation, including the appointment of a special-purpose liquidator. Michael Johns is also recommended.

The team at Colin Biggers & Paisley acts mostly on the debtor rather than the creditor side; it also has excellent liquidation regulatory strengths, with Nigel Watson often assisting clients with maintaining their liquidator status. Department head Peter Harkin advised Grant Thornton on its receivership of McAleese Transport, which included negotiating a DoCA. He also acted for the liquidators of AE&E Australia. Indeed, construction is a busy sector for the practice: Scott Hedge advised Grant Thornton on its liquidation of Walton Construction Group. In the retail space, Hedge assisted McGrathNicol as liquidators of Dick Smith and its eleven subsidiaries.

The ‘well-regarded’ three-partner team at DLA Piperknows the insolvency space well, takes a commercial approach to dispute resolution’, and is noted for its cross-border capabilities. The group is led by the ‘experienced’ Kon Tsiakis, who advised Ernst & Young as voluntary administrators (subsequently becoming liquidators) of Ceramic Fuel Cells. He also assisted Enerji with negotiating and implementing a DoCA for its recapitalisation after having been placed into administration. On the creditor side, Amelia Kelly advised Westpac, and KordaMentha as receivers, on its exposure to a property development in northern Queensland operated by Peter Bega. Atlantic is another representative client. Insolvency specialist Ryan Hennessey joined as special counsel from Baker McKenzie in September 2016.

Gadens Lawyers’ practice is based across Melbourne and Brisbane, where the key partners are Robert Hinton and Scott Couper respectively. The team acts for creditors and insolvency practitioners in the context of small and medium-sized enterprises. Hinton advised PPB Advisory on the recovery of around A$6m-worth of debts arising from pre-liquidation building contracts, while Couper assisted the receivers of LM First Mortgage Income Fund with the contentious and non-contentious aspects of its receivership. Dye & Co and Macquarie are additional representative clients. Commercial litigator Ivan Hristovski left to join the Bar in September 2017.

Hall & Wilcox’s ‘extremely good’ department is ‘very strong technically’, and adopts ‘a commercial approach to all matters’; voidable transactions are a particular strength. ‘Pragmatic, commercial and responsive’ group head Wayne Kelcey acted for PPB Advisory on its liquidation of Pacific Services Group. The ‘very smart, experienced’ and ‘extremely commercial’ Natasha Toholka is ‘calm and measured’, has ‘very good judgement’ and ‘always thinks outside the box’. Stephen Klotz and Mark Petrucco are noted for their ‘experience and judgement’; Petrucco advised BRI Ferrier as administrators of Infa Secure on negotiating a DoCA and successfully defending it in litigation. Adrian Lasky, who acts almost exclusively for insolvency practitioners, made partner in January 2017.

Given Kemp Strang’s longstanding reputation in banking and finance, its strength in creditor-side restructuring and insolvency work is unsurprising. It also defends third parties against claims brought by liquidators: Michael Joseph represented Wenman Brimak in recovery proceedings brought by the liquidators of two companies alleging that Wenman Brimak received over A$1m from uncommercial transactions with the liquidated companies. He also defended Bingo Waste Services against an unfair preference claim brought by a liquidator. Lender-side expert Sarina Roppolo and group head Peter Harrison are also recommended. The practice is based primarily in Sydney, though Phil Kaunitz and Glen Williams are recommended in Brisbane. Emma-Jane Stevens is the name to note in Melbourne.

Insolvency litigator Michael Lhuede is the key contact at Piper Alderman; in addition to his contentious work, he regularly advises companies and directors on front-end restructuring matters. The team acts for lenders and listed and unlisted corporates as well as insolvency practitioners. Secured recoveries are a particular strength. Litigator Frank Lancione is also recommended.

Dentons’ ‘impressive’ practice, which is based across Sydney and Perth, is commended for its ‘strong knowledge’ and ‘timely, cost-effective advice’. Practice head Justin Bates, who provides ‘strong, commercial advice’, is ‘excellent at advising on the merits of particular claims’. He acted for Hall Chadwick as liquidators of Medivac on its proposed recapitalisation and back-door listing, its arrangements with secured creditors and its evaluation of potentially voidable transactions. David McIntosh is especially busy on the creditor side: he acted for lenders including Unicredit Bank and ING Bank on the international restructuring of Wolf Minerals. He also successfully defended Rabobank against proceedings brought by DCL Developments alleging that the bank failed in its lending obligations to assist the borrower. Hector West is the key contact in Perth; he advised KordaMentha on its receivership of Compass Resources.

Strong in secured and unsecured insolvencies, DibbsBarker’s Melbourne office welcomed the ‘smart, commercial’, widely respected John Stragalinos from Corrs Chambers Westgarth in December 2016; he brought with him insolvency practitioners such as KordaMentha and PPB Advisory as well as a significant manufacturing client he defended against an unfair preference claim brought by the liquidators of a large soda manufacturer. Mark Addison successfully defended Wet Fix Holdings against a winding-up application brought by the trustee of The Summerfield Trust. Front-end restructuring expert Macaire Bromley left to join DLA Piper in October 2016; in August 2017, insolvency litigator Joanne Hardwick arrived from Mills Oakley Lawyers. The Brisbane-based Scott Guthrie heads the practice.

Based in Perth and accordingly active in construction, energy and mining insolvencies, Jackson McDonald’s department is headed by Victoria Butler, with support from commercial litigators Neil Gentilli and Eva Lin. Butler acted for Grant Thornton as administrators of Riverline on negotiating a DoCA and creditors’ trust deed, while Gentilli represented the liquidator of Westgem Investments in a claim brought by its former creditors regarding loans made for a landmark Perth retail and office development. Other clients include FTI Consulting, PPB Advisory, Ferrier Hodgson and WA Insolvency Solutions.

Advising debtors and creditors in equal measure, the team at Jones Day is based mostly in Sydney, with Lucas Wilk the key partner in Perth. Widely respected practice head Roger Dobson acted, alongside commercial litigator Steven Fleming, for Lehman Brothers Holdings in litigation over estate assets relating to collateralised debt obligations. Dobson also represented Ferrier Hodgson on its voluntary administration of Payless Shoes, advised McGrathNicol on its voluntary administration of American Apparel, and acted for the receivers of NewSat in seeking damages against NewSat’s directors for financial and operational mismanagement. On the creditor side, John Emmerig acted for Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and CommSec in a case brought against the now-collapsed ABC Learning Centres concerning the latter’s sale of A$600m-worth of unsecured notes to the banks without disclosing its true financial situation.

Creditor-side work is the cornerstone of K&L Gates’ ‘communicative, very knowledgeable and very quick’ practice, which advises banks, private equity players and funds on large restructuring and insolvency matters. ‘Very experienced’ group head Jason Opperman is ‘very commercial and approachable’, and has ‘in-depth technical knowledge’. He acted for St George Bank, and for PPB Advisory as the receivers of stockbroking firm BBY, on maximising returns for the bank after BBY collapsed. Danielle Funston acted for HLB Mann Judd on its liquidation of Hobbs Schemes, and advised a global investment bank on Emeco’s restructure and eventual A$700m merger with Orionstone and Andy’s Earthmovers. ‘Widely respected’ litigator Andrew Chambers acted for Bendigo and Adelaide Bank on its recovery of loans made to borrowers in several Great Southern managed investment schemes. Special counsels Zina Edwards and Chris Scott are noted for their international expertise.

Particularly active on the debtor side, McCullough Robertson’s Brisbane-based practice is headed by Scott Butler, who advised National Plant & Equipment on a restructure that involved a A$23m recapitalisation via a DoCA. He also acted for Management Resource Solutions on its A$20m restructure, and assisted McNaughts Transport with its restructure and the standstill of its loan arrangements with Westpac. On the creditor side, Butler advised Isa Sun on a A$25m loan to a mining equipment lessor, and acted for Bank of Queensland on negotiating deeds of forbearance relating to loans defaulted on by Turner Group Holdings. Peter Kennedy is also recommended.

Mills Oakley Lawyers’ practice is primarily Melbourne based, though insolvency litigator Gerard Breen joined the Sydney office from Johnson Winter & Slattery in July 2016. Breen represented the directors of Force Corp in a lawsuit brought by Lease Collateral alleging misleading conduct concerning Force Corp’s refinancing, and in a similar insolvent trading claim brought by the liquidators of Force Corp. Stuart Lewin acted for KordaMentha as liquidators of Timbercorp on the recovery of Timbercorp Finance’s loan book, while Ariel Borland advised a representative party of stockbroking firm BBY on proceedings brought by the latter’s liquidators concerning the distribution of client monies held by BBY. Insolvency practitioner clients include Grant Thornton and Rodgers Reidy; Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and Chillee are creditor clients. Insolvency litigator Joanne Hardwick departed for DibbsBarker’s Melbourne office in August 2017.

Contentious work is the key strength of Squire Patton Boggs’ practice; it has a particular strength in insolvency-related class actions, due to practice head Amanda Banton. Banton advised over 80 client creditors in a class action against Lehman Brothers Australia, and acted for Oztech as lead applicant in a class action on behalf of unsecured noteholders who had invested a total of A$348m in Octaviar Investment Notes. She also represented the liquidators of Equitrust Income Fund and Equitrust Premium Fund in bringing claims against the funds’ directors totalling A$240m and A$35m respectively. Shaan Palmer is also recommended.

Insolvency practitioners and mid-tier financiers are the core client base of TressCox Lawyers’attentive’ department. ‘Good strategic thinker’ Kirsten Farmer heads the group; she acted for Bentleys Chartered Accountants as trustee of a bankrupt estate in long-running proceedings brought by the estate’s only creditor in pursuit of debt repayment. She also represented Dean-Willcocks Advisory on its liquidation of Swan Services. Andrew Stops and the ‘responsive, accessible’ Maria Kerhoulas are the key partners in Melbourne. Sydney-based consultant Derek Hilliard is also recommended.

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