United States > Finance > Corporate restructuring
Index of tables
- Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Bingham McCutchen LLP
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
- Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
- Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
- Jones Day
- Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP
- Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP
- White & Case LLP
Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP
Allen & Overy LLP
- Bracewell & Giuliani LLP
Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP
- Mayer Brown
Paul Hastings LLP
Shearman & Sterling LLP
- Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Vinson & Elkins L.L.P.
- DLA Piper LLP
Andrews Kurth LLP
Arnold & Porter LLP
Brown Rudnick LLP
Caplin & Drysdale
- Chadbourne & Parke LLP
Choate, Hall & Stewart
Covington & Burling LLP
- Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP
- Foley & Lardner LLP
Fulbright & Jaworski LLP
- Jan Baker - Latham & Watkins LLP
- Corinne Ball - Jones Day
- Paul Basta - Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Donald Bernstein -
Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Martin Bienenstock -
Proskauer Rose LLP
Jack Butler -
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
- Richard Cieri - Kirkland & Ellis LLP
- Evan Flaschen - Bracewell & Giuliani LLP
Jay Goffman -
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Marcia Goldstein -
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
Stephen Karotkin -
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
- Alan Kornberg - Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
- Richard Levin - Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP
Harvey Miller -
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
- Harold Novikoff - Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
Peter Pantaleo -
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
John Rapisardi -
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
Michael Reilly -
Bingham McCutchen LLP
- James Sprayregen - Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Few firms can match the all-round firepower of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, with its ‘deep bench of experienced and business-savvy lawyers’ and its ability to maintain a creative culture that is ‘not bound by convention – enabling it to tackle many novel issues that have not gone through the bankruptcy court before’. Widely acknowledged to be one of the top three specialist debtor’s counsel, the firm scores points for its ‘good relationships with creditors’ counsels and advisors, which assures that little effort is wasted on needless posturing’. Significantly, the firm’s preeminent experience in advising companies ensures that when it does represent creditors – and it has experience in advising the full spread of creditors’ and equity committees – it has a tactical advantage in terms of anticipating debtors’ actions. Cross-border advice is a notable strength, as is the firm’s strong full-service support; a ‘highly integrated practice that can draw on a variety of related expertise in the corporate, tax, regulatory and real estate areas’. New clients continue to turn to the firm in their droves and recent additions to the firm’s roster include MSR Resort Golf Course, Nebraska Book Company and Sbarro – they join names such as Corus Bankshares and Japan Airlines Corporation. The firm advised on some of the biggest filings of 2010; most notably, James Sprayregen (‘one of the top partners in this field’), Paul Basta (‘great knowledge and response times’), Ray Schrock (‘excellent and growing in profile’) and attorney James Mazza advised The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, which has assets of $2.5bn and a workforce of over 40,500 people, in its Chapter 11 cases. In another headline matter, the firm represented Innkeepers USA Trust, the owner and operator of an extended-stay and select-service hotel chain, on its successful guidance out of Chapter 11 following the $1bn sale of 64 hotels to a joint venture and the $195m sale of five other hotels to Chatham Lodging. Other leading individuals include ‘restructuring doyen’ Richard Cieri, Adam Paul, who ‘applies experience in a practical manner’, and Edward Sassower – a ‘tireless advocate with a highly evolved understanding of what matters to financial clients’.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is a ‘debtor-focused heavyweight with a strong ability to create commercial solutions for clients’, but it also has experience in representing creditors and investors on bankruptcies, restructurings and business reorganizations. The firm overhauled the leadership of its restructuring practice in August 2011 and named ‘amazing and highly creative’ Jay Goffman as sole global restructuring head. It also appointed ‘first rate and highly commercial partners’ George Panagakis and Ken Ziman as deputy practice leaders in Chicago and New York respectively. Former co-heads Jack Butler and Gregory Milmoe remain, but will re-focus on their day-to-day practices. The firm scores points for its ‘robust debtor practice’ and its ‘comprehensive and in-depth analysis’, with the general consensus being: ‘it is not cheap but I never have to worry about missing something when Skadden is involved.’ Restructuring is a national specialism and the practice spans the firm’s New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Delaware offices, ensuring a ‘broad market knowledge that few firms can match’. Indeed, it is market leading in many areas including pre-packaged bankruptcies, where it fields a strong record for speed – it notoriously guided Bluebird Corporation in and out of Chapter 11 in 32 hours, the fasted pre-pack in history. More recently, the firm advised media conglomerate Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios on its restructuring – the largest pre-packaged bankruptcy case in history to be confirmed in less than 30 days. The firm also leverages off its sterling global M&A practice to provide a preeminent offering in cases where distressed companies need to dispose of assets quickly. In a highlight example, in March 2011 the firm represented Centro Properties Group, an Australian-headquartered shopping mall development and management company, on its cross-border reorganization, which involved the sale of its US business to Blackstone Group for $9.4bn. The firm is advising Centro on the introduction of US restructuring concepts, such as pre-packs, into Australian restructuring proceedings. Other representative clients include C&S Wholesale Grocers, Credit Suisse, Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, Pfizer and Travelport.
There are few global headline restructuring deals that Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP has not had a hand in and its involvement in five out of the six largest US restructurings in history has guaranteed that it maintains a gold standard status in this field. Widely acknowledged as ‘the counsel that all debtors want on their side’, the market praises the firm’s ‘enviable strength in depth’, ‘formidable knowledge of the global market that makes it a force to be reckoned with in cross-border deals’ and its ‘excellent commercial awareness that other lawyers could look to and learn by’. Certainly, the team comprises some of global restructuring law’s biggest hitters including ‘global leader in the field’ Harvey Miller, who provides ‘an unmatched level of experience, technical knowledge and commercial awareness’, and notoriously was the driving force behind the firm’s representation of Lehman Brothers in its restructuring. Other leading names include Marcia Goldstein, chair of the business finance & restructuring group, who is recommended for her ‘unique blend of sensible advice tempered with a strong commercial nous’, the ‘responsive, dedicated and great to work with’ Stephen Karotkin, ‘unflappable, great tactician’ Gary Holtzer and ‘consummate strategist’ Lori Fife. The firm is undoubtedly better known for its debtor-side work and it acts for the full spread of distressed companies, from major global corporates through to smaller middle-market players. Among its recent cases, it represented Blockbusters in its Chapter 11 cases as well as advising Texas Rangers Baseball Partners on its bankruptcy. Other representative debtor clients include Pilgrim’s Pride and Semgroup. However, the team packs a powerful punch across the board; in addition to its market-leading debtor practice the firm also has a strong precedent for advising creditors, and purchasers and sellers of distressed assets on restructuring and bankruptcy work.
Lawyers at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP attract praise for their ‘unrivalled market knowledge’, ‘tremendous work ethic’ and ‘practical application of the law’. International clients value the firm’s ‘truly integrated global offering that provides a seamless service across four countries’ – in addition to its flagship US practice it also fields restructuring lawyers in France, the UK and China. The firm is ‘excellent in the restructuring space’, with sources quick to highlight its ‘excellence reputation and cutting-edge experience in advising on the creditor side of large restructurings’. A mouth-watering creditor client list is dominated by the world’s largest financial institutions including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley. Among the firm’s recent transactions, the ‘technically excellent and commercially savvy’ Donald Bernstein advised JPMorgan as agent on media company Tribune’s $8.5bn prepetition senior credit facility. Bernstein co-heads the team alongside ‘terrific restructuring lawyer’ Marshall Huebner, who continues to advise the joint administrators and liquidators of Lehman Brothers in its headline Chapter 11 cases. On the litigation side, Karen Wagner represents Sterling Equities, the owners of the New York Mets, on matters worth over $1bn arising from the Madoff case. Financial services work generally is a major strength and the firm has carved a successful niche in advising creditors on complex cases resulting from the 2008 financial crisis. Other recent work includes advising JPMorgan on the restructuring and resolution of a $1.85bn multi-tranche credit facility for subprime mortgage investor Credit-Based Asset Servicing and Securitization. Although, the firm’s market-leading creditor practice grabs headlines, it also has a healthy debtor capability, with Damian Schaible recommended in this area. Clients also include hedge funds and acquirers, and it advises on the full spread of acquisitions of distressed companies, debtor-in-possession financings and exit financings.
Latham & Watkins LLP’s commitment to growing the debtor side of its practice was illustrated with another high-profile lateral hire in 2011. Following on from the arrival of its co-global restructuring and insolvency chair Jan Baker from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in 2010, the firm welcomed Paul Harner from Paul Hastings LLP, who specialises in representing public and private companies in Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases. The team now numbers more than 80 lawyers and clients commend its ability to ‘call upon a deep bench for specialty areas’ and praise lawyers for their ‘strong case management and strategy skills’. The firm may currently be better known for advising creditors but debtor representations are already an active source of instructions and Baker recently acted for Boston Generating in its Chapter 11 case and subsequent $1.1bn sale of assets. However, there is no doubt that the firm’s creditor-side work is the real jewel in its crown and in a highlight case, co-group chair Mitchell Seider represented Credit Suisse as agent for the secured lenders of Bosque Power; notably the firm obtained a rare ruling terminating the debtor’s exclusive right to file a plan of reorganization on the 120th day of the case – paving the way for a plan sponsored by Credit Suisse and the lenders that gave control of the assets to the lenders. The firm also has considerable experience in acting for committees and Roger Schwartz – his ‘in-house background allows him to combine robust legal analysis with deep appreciation for business’ – recently represented the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors in the Chapter 11 cases of Advanta. The firm also deserves plaudits for the enviable balance of firepower between its national offices. From LA, Peter Gilhuly leads the West Coast restructuring practice and is a ‘stand out lawyer in the restructuring field’.
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP historically ‘impresses on the creditor side’ with its high-profile work advising committees being a noted strength. However, the 31-lawyer team is also well-versed in representing debtors and investors into distressed companies and is considered ‘a go-to firm for any complex restructuring matter’. Indubitably, its debtor-side practice has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years and its work representing AbitibiBowater on the restructuring of more than $8bn of debt as well as a $1.5bn exit financing demonstrates its growing weight in this area. Led by ‘brilliant lawyer and excellent counsellor’ Alan Kornberg, the team is ‘staffed leanly and adds great value to any workout’, provides ‘excellent business-centred advice’ and is ‘able to hit the key legal issues right away’. Douglas Davis is an ‘excellent and thorough lawyer with a wonderful low-key persistence’ and is involved in representing Citigroup on prosecuting claims against Lehman Brothers. The ‘highly tactical’ Stephen Shimshak ‘rapidly analyses complex legal situations and hones in on the most important issues’, and advised global telecoms provider Ericsson on the $4.5bn acquisition of bankrupt Nortel’s patent portfolio. On the committee side, Elizabeth McColm (‘incredibly responsive’ and ‘follows up without reminders’) and Andrew Rosenberg (‘wonderful ability to get deals done’) represented an ad-hoc committee of senior secured bondholders to Trico Marine Group on a successful $500m out of court exchange. Jeff Saferstein also deserves mention for his ‘broad range of knowledge and practical approach to legal issues’ – in a highlight deal, he worked alongside Kornberg in representing the agent bank and steering committee of secured lenders in the Chapter 11 case of casino operator Aliante Gaming. Other representative clients of this ‘thorough, practical and unbelievably responsive’ team include Anchorage Capital, Oaktree Capital Management and Silver Point Capital.
Fielding an ‘increasingly strong presence in restructuring matters’, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP ‘cuts right to the heart of a legal problem with no time-wasting’, and attracts superlative praise for its ‘technical strength and superb market knowledge’. Its strong focus on representing creditors, particularly senior lenders, scores points because it ensures that the team’s ‘business knowledge and close familiarity with most issues adds value and enables all matters to be resolved expediently’. Leveraging off its global weight in capital markets and funds matters, the firm fields an enviable niche in advising on complex financial restructurings; ‘no firm can touch it for restructuring advice involving complex products’. Group head Peter Pantaleo ‘can talk the talk and walk the walk’ say clients who highlight his ‘encyclopaedic banking and credit knowledge’ and his ability to ‘command enormous respect in this area’. Pantaleo heads an 18-lawyer team that also includes the ‘extremely smart’ Steve Fuhrman – praised for his ability to ‘get along with and influence lawyers on both sides of a deal’ – and high-profile litigator William Russell. Russell was part of the team that represented Wachovia on the successful settlement of a long-running case arising out of the bankruptcy of Adelphia Communications Corporation; involving claims of over $7bn, the case illustrates the extent to which bankruptcy litigation is a firm sweet spot. In another headline case, ‘exceptional litigator’ Thomas Rice is working alongside Fuhrman, Mary Beth Forshaw and Elisha Graff to advise JPMorgan Chase Bank and JPMorgan Securities on Jefferson County’s $3bn Chapter 9 bankruptcy case. Other highlight work includes advising the Travelers Indemnity Company in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. However, financial entities comprise the bulk of the firm’s roster and other representative clients include Barclays, Blackstone, Deutsche Bank and Wells Fargo.
Few firms come close to the corporate prominence of New York powerhouse Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and the team leverages off that sterling reputation to offer a broad expertise in advising banks, funds and other creditors, as well as acquirers, in restructuring and bankruptcy matters. Despite its modest size, the 23-strong team attracts top-tier instructions from some of the most prestigious names in this space and is considered as ‘among the best in class for restructuring work’. Sources praise the ‘sophisticated ease in which the firm completes transactions’, its ‘unparalleled commercial knowledge and foundational business sense’ and its ‘smooth and painless case management’. Among the team’s recent representations, it advised the United States Treasury on the headline-grabbing financial rescues of government sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – notoriously involving the treasury putting up a multibillion-dollar investment. In addition, the firm has advised lenders, derivatives counterparties or equity holders in such high-profile cases as Lehman Brothers, Graceway Pharmaceuticals and Riviera Casinos. In line with its phenomenal M&A strength, it also has a leading acquirer practice and has advised potential purchasers into the Innkeepers, Blockbuster and NorTel bankruptcy cases. Litigation is another notable strength, and the firm continues to represent JPMorgan Chase in cases arises from the Lehman Brothers and Madoff bankruptcies, while Credit Suisse is also instructing the firm in several lawsuits relating to the Thornburg Mortgage bankruptcy. The ‘highly experienced’ Harold Novikoff is considered the ‘safest pair of hands in the market’ and is the main contact in a team that includes ‘encyclopaedic resource on bankruptcy law’ Richard Mason, who specialises in advising bondholder groups, banks and creditor’s committees in restructuring matters, as well as distressed M&A specialists Scott Charles and Eric Rosof.
Widely considered a ‘restructuring and bankruptcy stalwart’, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP specialises in advising on the creditor side and is considered by some as ‘the leader in the US market for advice to creditors’. Lawyers are ‘extremely skilled, capable and collegial’ and ‘prepared and efficient in their delivery of services’. The firm is well regarded for its niche in advising creditors’ committees and from New York and Los Angeles respectively ‘top-tier restructuring specialist’ Fred Hodara and David Simonds are representing the official committee of unsecured creditors of Washington Mutual in the bank’s Chapter 11 proceedings. The case involves claims worth over $100bn and is notable for Washington Mutual being the largest bank holding company ever to file for protection under the Bankruptcy Code. Other headline roles for the team include representing the creditors’ committees in both the complex, cross-border Nortel Networks bankruptcy and in the Chapter 11 of former healthcare system Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers – the latter has built up liabilities of over $1bn. Showing that the firm can successfully turn its hand to debtor work, it also advised satellite communications provider TerreStar Networks it its Chapter 11 case and the accompanying $1.3bn sale of its assets to Gamma Acquisition. Other recent cases for the team include advising an ad hoc group of first lien lenders in the out of court restructuring of major transportation and global logistics provider YRC Worldwide. Daniel Golden chairs the restructuring group and is applauded for his ‘phenomenal business knowledge’ and ‘can-do attitude’, and clients also recommend Ira Dizengoff for his ‘tactical nous’.
Bingham McCutchen LLP’s restructuring practice is mainly split between its New York and Boston offices and also has a strong West Coast offering, gifting the firm with a strong national footprint. Nevertheless, the real jewel in its crown continues to be its cross-border capability and sources assert that its international strength-in-depth is the firm’s best asset: ‘it has a global penetration that few firms can match, which ensures seamless advice in multi-jurisdictional cases.’ Known for a client list that is mainly comprised of investors, creditors’ committees, insurance companies, banks, trustees and funds, the ‘highly experienced’ and ‘user-friendly’ team also has considerable experience in acting for developers and governments. In a foremost example of its international strength ‘leading restructuring lawyer’, and co-head of the firm’s global financial restructuring group, Jeffrey Sabin worked alongside teams in Japan and China to represent GE Capital as agent for a $400m lending group in Spansion’s insolvency proceedings. Sabin also led the team that advised a group of secured lenders (including Morgan Stanley, Highland Capital and Taconic) in the successful Chapter 11 restructuring of Molecular Insight Pharmaceuticals. Arguably, however, the firm’s most high-profile case arose from an instruction from the bond insurance providers in the out of court restructuring of Native American Gaming Casino; global co-head Michael Reilly is widely acknowledged as a ‘first-tier restructuring specialist’, and headed the team advising on the $2bn restructuring of debt relating to the largest Indian gaming casino in the US. Other leading names include ‘top choice’ Timothy DeSieno, who is recommended for representing institutional investors in national and international restructurings, and ‘excellent litigator’ Sabin Willett.
Led from New York, but also benefitting from platforms in Washington DC and Charlotte, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP’s excellent practice continues to increase its share of the most prominent mandates. The firm’s ‘vast restructuring experience’, ‘extremely intelligent lawyers’ and ‘ability to get the right result’ has seen its market profile raise steadily in recent years, as evidenced through a slew of headline debtor instructions. Its work representing Lyondell Chemical Company in its successful emergence from Chapter 11 continues to pay dividends and through 2011, the firm advised the global chemical giant on several matters arising from its reorganization, which has involved over $350m in litigation and more than $42bn in filed bankruptcy claims. Led by newly appointed co-chair George Davis, who clients single out for his ‘outstanding knowledge, timely delivery of work and quick response times’, the Lyondell deal also included key input from Andrew Troop and Christopher Mirick, who both dealt the firm a blow by leaving to join the restructuring group of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, along with former co-chair Deryck Palmer in 2012. However, the firm retains an enviable amount of top-level experience and in another key debtor mandate, ‘superb tactician’ and financial restructuring co-head John Rapisardi represented Puerto Rico-based Caribbean Petroleum on its bankruptcy and the subsequent sale of its petroleum products, valued at over $149m in secured debt and approximately $500m in claims. The firm’s creditor work is the traditional heart of the practice and it remains a leading player in this area. From Washington DC, Mark Ellenberg spearheaded the firm’s advice to Morgan Stanley relating to $1.4bn in claims arising from the close of trading books maintained with various Lehman affiliates. The firm is also advising US National Association as trustee for notes and pass through certificates issued as part of several financing transactions entered into by the debt-burdened Dynegy Roseton and Dynegy Danskammer.
Led out of New York by the ‘peerlessly attentive and commercial’ James Bromley, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP is a cross-border powerhouse. The firm’s niche strength in advising on sovereign debt matters has stole a march on the rest of the market and as national finances buckle around the world, the firm has built up a sterling practice in advising governments on their debt crises including Greece, Iceland, Iraq and Argentina. In fact, its Latin America practice is widely considered the feather in the firm’s cap. New York-based Richard Cooper is ‘without qualification, the best lawyer for dealing with Mexican and Latin American borrowers’, with one client commenting, ‘if we have a problem in Mexico, we try to get Rich on our side and, if the company has already hired him, we are glad it did!’. Closer to home, the firm’s debtor-led practice has evolved into a major contender for the top-tier mandates and impressively it managed to secure an instruction from longstanding client Nortel Networks on its headline-grabbing Chapter 11 proceedings. Among the transaction’s most interesting aspects was the $4.5bn bankruptcy sale of its US and foreign patent assets – the largest stand-alone sale of patents ever. On the creditor side, the firm is representing Goldman Sachs, and other derivative creditors, in issues relating to Lehman Brothers’ Chapter 11 plan. Thomas Moloney and Evan Davis are advising several multinational financial institutions (HSBC, Bank of New York, Citigroup Global Markets Limited) in bankruptcy litigation arising from the Madoff fraud. Lisa Schweitzer deserves mention for her ability to ‘cut right to the heart of the matter and solve issues quickly and efficiently’.
The ‘extraordinarily capable’ 30-strong team at Dechert LLP attracts praise for its ‘very high level of service’ and for being ‘more user friendly than its rivals’. Widely considered a ‘top pick for creditor restructuring work’, the firm has an ability to leverage off its strength in other practice areas to offer ‘valuably specific advice’ – in particular ‘it has a fantastic real estate finance team which makes it especially competent on complex real estate financing workouts.’ Although it has some experience in representing debtors, it is better-known as the “go to” firm for the full creditor spread of first and second lien lenders, bondholders and hedge funds. ‘Master tactician’ Michael Sage is commended for being ‘appropriately aggressive while knowing when necessity compels conservatism’, and among his recent highlight cases, he represented the Government of Singapore Investment as lender in the Chapter 11 cases of MSR Resort Golf Course – involving the restructuring of approximately $1.4bn in funded debt. Sage co-chairs the firm’s business restructuring and reorganization practice alongside the ‘technical and quick thinking’ Allan Brilliant, who is leading the team advising a noteholder group on the cross-border restructuring of $1.6bn worth of defaulted senior notes issued by Mexican glass manufacturer Vitro. The firm is applauded for its ‘excellent courtroom skills’ and these were evidenced in its successful representation of the Marshall family in a precedent-making case at the Supreme Court that decided when the bankruptcy judge entered a “final” $474m judgement against E Pierce Marshall, it lacked the constitutional authority to do so. Other recommended lawyers include leveraged finance specialist Jay Alicandri.
Driven out of New York, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP’s 26-strong team wins plaudits from all quarters for its ‘exceptional business acumen’. The consensus is that it ‘delivers advice that demonstrates not only an understanding of the law, but an understanding of how it applies to the business issues underlying the deal’, while its ‘deep bench of lawyers’ provide ‘incisive and practical advice’. This commercial awareness is apparent through the firm’s transactional approach to restructuring work. In a representative case, the firm acted for a consortium of private equity investors in a successful $3.93bn bid for Extended Stay Hotels, the largest hotel chain to file for Chapter 11. The case was one of the first successful CMBS-structured bankruptcies and the firm also advised the consortium on several subsequent matters following its October 2010 closing. In another high-profile mandate, the team represented the unsecured creditors committee of Station Casinos in its Chapter 11 cases; the gaming company had racked up approximately $6.5bn of debt but emerged from Chapter 11 in June 2011. Group head Brad Eric Scheler was heavily involved in both cases and attracts rave reviews from clients for his ‘experience and tenacity’ and for being ‘focused on producing the best possible result for his clients’. Gary Kaplan ‘explains and discusess pertinent issues in relatively simple terms’ and is ‘always friendly, understanding and enjoyable to deal with’. Kaplan had a key role on the firm’s most high-profile debtor mandate, leading the team that advised Mexico’s third-largest supermarket retailer, Controladora Comercial Mexicana, in its financial restructuring – which involved $2.2bn of derivative obligations and $1.1bn in creditor claims. The ‘incredibly smart’ Jennifer Rodburg is also singled out.
A ‘truly national practice’, Jones Day’s restructuring capability is spread out among its New York, Chicago, Ohio, Dallas and California offices. The 59-lawyer team strikes a chord with clients for ‘its size and breadth of service, which ensures it is able to address all issues internally’. It also attracts praise for ‘managing expectations and deadlines well and delivering a finished project that is top notch’. The firm is proficient in representing creditors and committees but debtor-side instructions continue to mount up, due in part to its growing reputation for an ‘aggressive approach that produces positive results’. The firm ‘shines in the courtroom’ and this is demonstrated through a string of Chapter 11 successes. Most recently, it represented the committee counsel in Qimonda’s Chapter 11, assisting it to pursue claims against parent company Qimonda AG in its insolvency proceedings in Germany, among other matters. The firm also represented Harry & David in its Chapter 11 reorganization plan, involving a rights offering to acquire approximately 75% of reorganized Harry & David stock for $55m. On the financial services side, the team is defending RBS against claims exceeding $2bn filed by the trustee appointed in the Chapter 11 case of Thornburg Mortgage against certain RBS entities and other financial institutions. New York-based global head Paul Leake is ‘exceptional in his legal knowledge, his ability to service the needs of his clients, manage the team and negotiate a transaction’. The ‘fabulous’ Corinne Ball is also recommended for her ‘strong courtroom presence’ and ‘ability to manage a large team’, and is currently advising Lehman brothers on various Chapter 11 issues. Other leading names include Jeffrey Ellman, singled out for his ‘strong understanding of both legal and business implications of a decision’ and of counsel Jane Rue Wittstein, who is praised for her ‘good street sense’ and ‘comprehensive knowledge’. Bruce Bennett, James Johnston and Sidney Levinson joined the Los Angeles office from Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP.
The ‘extremely responsive and professional’ 46-strong team at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP is a top choice with clients for its ‘thorough knowledge of the industry’ and ability to ‘achieve great results’. Known for its strength in automotive and financial services restructurings as well as its sterling record in representing creditors, clients highlight it as ‘a traditional leader in bank debt’ and as a ‘commercial team that quickly gets to grips with the business issues’. The firm also maintains a solid debtor practice, but its profile for advising creditor committees, bankruptcy trustees, bondholders and investors continues to dominate. In two recent highlight examples of its committee pedigree, the firm advised the unsecured creditors committee of Capmark Financial Group, which had assets of $20bn and liabilities of $21bn when it entered Chapter 11, on several matters including more than ten complex asset sales. Leveraging off its historical experience in the automotive area, the team represented the unsecured creditors committee of General Motors in the fourth largest bankruptcy in history. The case also illustrated the firm’s strong litigation credentials; it led GM’s litigation of its asbestos liabilities and managed to reduce those from several billion dollars to $625m. Among its debtor-side work, the firm represented Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers on various issues arising from its Chapter 11 cases and it also continues to represent Bally Total Fitness on issues arising from its successful Chapter 11 reorganization. Distressed investment is also an active area and it represented bank lenders holding more than $3bn in claims in the Chapter 11 of Tribune. The ‘exceptional’ Kenneth Eckstein, considered by many as a ‘leading restructuring light’, and the ‘smart but no-nonsense’ Thomas Moers Mayer co-head a ‘strategic and inclusive group of lawyers’ including Thomas Janover (‘best in his field’), and the ‘excellent’ Amy Caton.
Jointly led out of Los Angeles and New York by Paul Aronzon and Dennis Dunne respectively, finance powerhouse Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP’s 49-strong team receives accolades for its ‘excellent reputation in acting for creditors’, its ‘extensive international network that makes cross-border work seamless’ and for its ‘client-led commercial approach that ensures it always sees the bigger picture’. Undoubtedly a creditor-side specialist – it is highly regarded for its strong record in committee representations – the firm also wins its fair share of debtor mandates. It is representing Vitro, Mexico’s largest glassmaker, in the restructuring of $1.3bn worth of senior notes as well as on its obligations under various derivative contracts with financial institutions and other unsecured debt. However, in line with its traditional forte, its headline cases were representing the official creditor committees in both the mammoth Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and also in the Chapter 11 cases of US-supermarket and food giant, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. Contentious work is also an active area and the firm is defending a consortium of 64 lenders to a TOUSA-sponsored joint venture in a complex $423m fraudulent transfer litigation. Other stars of this ‘hard-working’, ‘nationally-prominent’ and ‘vastly experienced’ team include Matthew Barr and Thomas Kreller, who are recommended for distressed investment matters, and Gregory Bray, who is considered a ‘creditor specialist of the first rank’.
Largely concentrated in New York, White & Case LLP’s 34-strong group also calls on experienced restructuring partners in Miami and Washington DC. Considered by many as a ‘team with bite’, its all-embracing experience encompasses acting for creditors, investors and debtors and this “both side of the table” approach ensures that it is renowned for its ‘depth of knowledge on restructuring practices’ as well as for its ‘excellent application of strategy, speed and force’. Global head and ‘great trial lawyer and deal maker’ Thomas Lauria splits his time between New York and Miami and recently led advice to debtors Natural Products Group and Generation Brands in their respective successful pre-pack Chapter 11 plans. On the lender side, John Cunningham represented an ad hoc group of lenders on the bankruptcy of Six Flags, which saw the group acquire ownership of the debtor’s amusement park business – clients recommend him for his ‘understanding of client strategies and for his ability to successfully execute that strategy across all interested parties’. Among the firm’s other highlights, it won an instruction from Beal Bank, the holder of around $500m of first lien debt, on matters arising out of Trump Casinos’ Chapter 11 – Gerard Uzzi led the transaction and is singled out as ‘outstanding at team coordination and effective document production’. The firm also has a strong record in the hedge fund and financial services space. Other recommended names include Alan Gover (‘brilliant strategist and excellent negotiator’), Craig Averch (‘a cut above other restructuring lawyers’, ‘deep commercial understanding and always available’) and Evan Hollander.
Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP is a ‘good choice for complex restructuring situations’ and scores highly for its ‘unmatched bench strength’ and its litigators’ status as ‘among the most formidable opponents in the market’. From New York, the 17-partner team attracts praise for its increasingly strong creditor practice, which complements the firm’s longstanding strength in representing debtors in restructurings and bankruptcy litigation. Co-chaired by Marc Abrams (‘a debtor-side stalwart’, ‘highly visible in the market’) and Matthew Feldman (‘what Feldman doesn’t know about bankruptcy law just isn’t worth knowing’, ‘a good resource on both the debtor and creditor side’), the team also includes highly rated creditor specialist Margot Schonholtz and Rachel Strickland, who is singled at as ‘one of the leading advocates, negotiators and trial attorneys in the area – she is usually the best attorney in court room’. In 2012, the firm landed an instruction from the Teamsters Union in the headline Hostess Brands Chapter 11 case – the iconic US company is the baker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread and has a workforce of around 19,000 employees. Distressed investment is also a strong suit for the firm, which has the capacity to call on a respected M&A capability and also packs a punch in other complimentary areas such as funds and tax. Among the team’s recent transactional highlights, it worked alongside the firm’s corporate and financial services department to advise TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Partners on the $440m acquisition of substantially all of the assets of the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, resulting in the cancellation of the Palm’s debt.
New York-based Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP prides itself on drawing in partners from its commercial banking, securities and M&A practices, as well as its litigation department, to assist with corporate restructurings and distressed debt matters. This approach finds favour with clients who highlight the firm as an ‘excellent all-round restructuring shop’ and point to its experience in representing debtors, creditors and acquirers across a diverse range of industries including automotive, financial, energy, technology, real estate and leisure. Lawyers are ‘very knowledgeable and experienced with excellent contacts in the restructuring community’ and group head Richard Levin is as a ‘good communicator that is tough when necessary’. Levin recently worked alongside litigator Michael Paskin to act for various Goldman Sachs entities on litigation arising out of the Tribune bankruptcy case, involving allegations that the $8.5bn leveraged buyout of Tribune in 2007 constituted a fraudulent transfer and rendered the company insolvent. Commercial banking partner Paul Zumbro is also highly recommended and led the team that represented US book giant Barnes & Noble on the acquisition of all the intellectual property assets, including all trademarks and the database of approximately 48m customers, from the Borders Group bankruptcy estate. On the municipal bankruptcy side, the firm won an instruction from the City Council of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to advise it on its financial situation and available options to address it obligations. Other representative clients include Credit Suisse and New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation.
The ‘world-class’ bankruptcy group at Debevoise & Plimpton is ‘thoughtful, creative and business-minded’, provides ‘deep, insightful analysis’ and is ‘always available to its clients’. Led from New York by co-chairs Richard Hahn and the ‘technically outstanding’ Steven Gross, the team now numbers eight partners following the arrival of Natasha Labovitz in September 2011 from leading restructuring player Kirkland & Ellis LLP – she attracts praise for her ‘commanding presence in court’ and for her ‘ability to understand client needs and provide practical, creative advice that is tailored accordingly’. Among the firm’s recent cases, My Chi To (considered to be ‘among the brightest young bankruptcy lawyers in the country’ due to her ‘unparalleled understanding of deal structure and inter-creditor dynamics’) worked alongside the firm’s corporate team to advise Galderma on its $275m acquisition of the intellectual property, and other assets, of Graceway Pharmaceuticals. Other highlights for this ‘top-notch team’ included representing Najafi Companies on its proposed acquisition of the assets of Borders Group, involving the purchase of assets worth $215m and the assumption of liabilities worth $220m. On the debtor side, the firm advised party supply company Oriental Trading Company, a portfolio company of The Carlyle Group, in its successful emergence from Chapter 11 proceedings.
Led by Daniel Murray out of its flagship Chicago office, Jenner & Block LLP’s team also benefits from a sizeable New York presence. Although the firm has experience in a diverse range of industries, it continues to receive a high flow of instructions in relation to the financial services and telecommunications sectors. Litigation is a firm trademark and this is manifested through a case list that leans heavily towards contested bankruptcy matters, however it has the capability to act for a varied spread of debtors, lenders and creditors across the full spectrum of restructurings, bankruptcy litigation and investment matters. Catherine Steege has built up a reputation as a ‘no-nonsense and sensible lawyer that intuitively understands which battles are worth fighting’, and successfully represented News Corporation’s Fox Sports as litigation counsel in its dispute with the Los Angeles Dodgers over the planned sale of the team and its assets (including media rights) – the Dodgers agreed to stop all attempts to conduct an early sale and negotiate media rights. On the financial services side, Vincent Lazar is representing CME Group, the world’s largest futures exchange, in the Chapter 11 of MF Global – notable for being the largest commodity broker bankruptcy in history.
Morgan Lewis experienced the retirement of former practice head Richard Toder in December 2011. The firm has done well to recruit strength at top level through the hire of former bankruptcy judge and ‘all-round bankruptcy specialist’ James Garrity from Shearman & Sterling LLP. Garrity will lead the group from New York, but the firm’s restructuring capability also extends to its Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco outposts. The team specialises in advising financial institutions, and other debt and equity holders, on restructuring and bankruptcy matters, and it fields a niche in the area of DIP and exit lending. New York-based Wendy Walker is highly active and recently had roles advising GE Capital as agent for a $575m secured DIP financing in the Borders bankruptcy, and also in advising JPMorgan Chase Bank as agent on several entertainment industry mandates such as a $550m loan to RHI Entertainment. On the debtor side, Neil Herman and David Gerson are representing retail clothing chain, Anchor Blue, and furniture manufacturer, Berkline, in their respective bankruptcy cases. Transactional matters are also a strength, and it represented Safeway in its successful bid for pharmacy assets from The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company following its Chapter 1. The firm is also conducting work for Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Sun Capital Partners.
The peer consensus is that Morrison & Foerster LLP has ‘really come out of nowhere in the last couple of years to establish a strong reputation in this space’, and clients point out that ‘service levels are outstanding’ and lawyers display ‘deep business acumen and industry knowledge’. There is no doubt that the firm has been involved in a growing proportion of the market’s largest mandates over recent years, particularly in the real estate and financial services areas. Led from New York by the ‘phenomenally experienced’ Larren Nashelsky and the ‘highly technical and extremely responsive’ Gary Lee, the team also maintains a strong West Coast presence ensuring ‘excellent national coverage and strong regional contacts’. Highlighted as ‘one of the top creditor/committee practices in New York, and the US generally’, the firm is also considered to be ‘gaining the credibility to start making a serious play for debtor representations’. Anthony Princi is a ‘very strong creditor lawyer and a tough negotiator’ and is leading the team representing the official unsecured creditors in the restructuring of Ambac Financial Group – the financial services company has around $1.2bn in outstanding senior bond debt. The firm also received an instruction from the unsecured creditor committee in the high-profile Chapter 11 of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. In a groundbreaking regulatory matter, it advised the insurance division of the State of Rhode Island’s department of business regulation in the first proposed discharge and liquidation of the obligations of a solvent insurer in the US. Clients also single out Larry Engle as a ‘bulldog in representing the client’, and Lorenzo Marinuzzi as doing an ‘unbelievably good job in managing complex cases’.
From New York, Susheel Kirpalani’s group at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP provides ‘the highest level of service’ and attracts praise for its ‘excellent ability in hard-fought and complex cases’. Certainly, the firm’s signature business litigation practice guarantees that contentious work is an area of expertise, and its strong focus on creditor representations generates an enviable flow of peer conflict referrals, ensuring it usually has a role in the market’s most hotly-contested restructuring cases. In a recent showcase of its talents, the firm successfully represented the official creditors’ committee for New Stream Secured Capital in the rejection of a pre-packaged Chapter 11 plan that provided insufficient recoveries to investors. The firm also has a presence on the West Coast, and Los Angeles-based Eric Winston is considered ‘very smart, knowledgeable, articulate and persuasive’ – he recently led advice to Hildene Capital Management and Hildene Opportunities Master Fund in a landmark case opposing the senior noteholders’ plan of reorganization for Zais Investment Grade Limited VII – a Cayman Islands CDO. Among other highlights, it also has a large team committed to act as special counsel to the official committee of unsecured creditors of Lehman Brothers on its collapse. Other recommended partners include Andrew Rossman and Daniel Cunningham; both reside in the firm’s New York office.
Headquartered in Chicago, Sidley Austin LLP’s practice is also represented by partners in the firm’s Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC offices. Led by bankruptcy co-chairs Larry Nyhan (‘one of the best global insolvency attorneys around, particularly strong in contested Chapter 11s’) and James Conlan (‘excellent negotiator’, ‘the man you want fighting in your corner’), this ‘professional and business savvy’ team counts on the services of over 30 partners in the US alone and is recommended it for its ‘very good expertise and efficient case management’. The firm’s debtor-side practice continues to gain in profile and it has become a real contender for some of the market’s most newsworthy cases. Highlight examples included acting for energy company Dynergy Holdings in its Chapter 11 proceedings, involving approximately $13.8bn in total assets and $6.2bn in total liabilities, and also acting for America’s largest employee-owned media and entertainment business, Tribune Company, in its Chapter 11 case – involving around $13bn in total funded debt. The firm also has a good name for creditor work and its strong international capability ensures a regular flow of cross-border mandates. Domestic creditor highlights included acting for General Electric Capital Corporation as agent for a senior debt syndicate with claims against Heartland Publications. Clients also single out the ‘hardworking’ Matthew Clemente and the ‘technically excellent’ Dennis Twomey for praise.
The extensive global reach of Allen & Overy LLP ensures it remains a ‘top choice for cross-border matters’, with New York-based team head Ken Coleman singled out for his strength in handling cases with a multi-jurisdictional aspect. This experience is evidenced through the firm’s niche in advising on cases involving UK schemes of arrangement – among other international proceedings relating to distressed companies – which complements its excellent track record in representing financial clients and debtors on Chapter 11 reorganizations, and other types of US bankruptcy and restructuring matters. Coleman recently led the team acting as US counsel to Ernst & Young as court-appointed monitor on the $8.9bn restructuring of pulp and paper company AbitibiBowater – the case also involved proceedings in Canada and the UK. In another cross-border case, Alvarez & Marsal Canada instructed the firm in relation to its role as court-appointed monitor of Angiotech Pharmaceuticals in its $250m restructuring. The firm also acts for some of the world’s largest financial institutions including HSBC, which it is advising on derivative claims arising from the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The team is praised for its provision of ‘succinct, timely and appropriate legal advice’, and for its ‘good understanding of business objectives and concerns’. ‘Excellent advocate and negotiator’ Daniel Guyder is a ‘strategist who can always see the big picture’. Elizabeth Leckie is also recommended.
The ‘phenomenally committed’ team at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP may be driven out of Connecticut, but with specialist partners in New York, Houston and Dallas, there is no doubt that this is a ‘seamless national firm’. Its sterling Texas pedigree ensures that it is well regarded for natural resources-related bankruptcies but it is also applauded for its ‘vast international experience’, and in cross-border mandates ‘lawyers emulate global best practice and do not hide behind the comfort of a “different jurisdiction” line of defence’. Team head Evan Flaschen ‘advocates directly and pointedly’ and is singled out for his ‘superb knowledge, fine commercial sense, unending energy and sharp focus’. Leveraging off its strong oil and gas practice, maritime matters are also a strong area of expertise and Flaschen recently worked alongside Gregory Nye and the ‘outstandingly commercial and technically superb’ William Wood to represent Athens-based petroleum transport company, Omega Navigation, in its Chapter 11 proceedings in Houston. In a high-profile creditor instruction, the firm represented senior lenders – from a group comprised of almost 90 investors and banks owed over $3bn – in the restructuring of Australia-based Centro properties, one of the world’s largest shopping mall companies. The ‘assertive but non-aggressive’ Renée Dailey is recommended for ‘approaching her tasks with an infectious enthusiasm’.
Led from New York and Orange County, Gibson Dunn’s restructuring group also includes key partners in its Los Angeles office and provides a ‘committed and business-minded service’. David Feldman, Craig Millet and Michael Rosenthal co-chair a practice that receives a good balance of both debtor and creditor representations, with strength in financial services and real estate instructions. Recent highlights on the financial services side include advising Credit Suisse as general partner in several private equity funds in relation to the bankruptcy of Arcadia Investments. The firm is also advising Credit Suisse as part of the committee of unsecured creditors in the People’s Choice Home Loan bankruptcy. Among the firm’s recent real estate-related cases, it acted for recreational vehicle and manufactured housing business, Fleetwood Enterprises, in its ongoing Chapter 11 cases. Oil and gas-related matters are also a sweet spot, and it is representing Angus Petroleum, a wholly owned subsidiary of troubled South Coast Oil Company, on its sale and other matters arising from the Chapter 11 of its parent company. Other recommended names include Oscar Garza, who is advising FCP PropCo as debtor in the Chapter 11 of Station Casinos, and Matthew Williams, who is leading advice to the trust administrator on the liquidation and distribution of General Motors’ assets.
Traditionally known for its track record in litigious creditor representations, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP acted on several debtor-side mandates over the past year. Led from New York by David Friedman and David Rosner, this 14-partner group is a ‘committed and hungry team that you want in your corner’. The firm is acting for the debtors in the bankruptcy of book giant Borders, which filed for Chapter 11 in February 2011. The firm obtained court approval for $505m in post-petition financing and also held a successful auction, which saw the sale of valuable IP assets primarily to Barnes & Noble. On the creditor side, the firm is acting for the unsecured creditors’ committee in the bankruptcy of Adelphia Communications Corporation and was significantly involved in the sale of all the debtors’ assets in one of the largest bankruptcy M&A transactions to date. In fact, the media and telecoms sector has been a major source of instructions for the firm: it won instructions from Law Debenture Trust Company of New York as indenture trustee for 18% of the total outstanding senior notes issued by Tribune Company, and also from Anderson News, the second largest wholesaler of books and magazines in the US, on its bankruptcy proceedings. Adam Shiff is singled out as an ‘effective and industrious lawyer’.
Mayer Brown’s clients say: ‘I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone, except my opposition’. The team specialises in acting on creditor-side cases with an excellent track record in representing institutional lenders, distressed investors and creditors’ committees. It scores highly for ‘excelling in complex situations’ with its ‘very strong bench of capable lawyers’ and its ability to ‘zero in on the issues and address them in the most advantageous way for the client’. The ‘extremely responsive and technically very strong’ Brian Trust heads the group from New York, and is working alongside the firm’s London office to advise The Bank of New York Mellon on matters arising from its exposure to the mammoth MF Global bankruptcy and related regulatory issues in the US and UK – the case is the 8th largest bankruptcy filing in history. Chicago-based Thomas Kiriakos is recommended for his ‘extremely insightful and timely advice’, and represented Bank of America in its bulk loan sale, which involved 31 commercial real estate loans worth almost $1bn. The firm is also advising various international affiliates of Nortel Networks, and the board of directors, on the telecoms equipment manufacturer’s Chapter 11 filing. Other recommended partners include the ‘user-friendly’ and ‘highly commercial and knowledgeable’ Howard Beltzer and Frederick Hyman – who ‘impresses with his ability to create calmness out of chaos’.
Paul Hastings LLP’s restructuring group is led by New York-based bankruptcy chair Luc Despins, and also fields partners in California, where Kevin Fisher is the main contact, and Atlanta, where Jesse Austin leads the team. The firm regularly represents financial institutions, secured and unsecured creditors, creditors’ committees and investors but also has solid experience representing debtors, leveraging off the firm’s leading reputation in real estate matters to pack a particular punch in that industry. In a highlight example, the firm advised real estate finance and investment management company, Capital Trust, in the out-of-court restructuring of its $580m outstanding recourse debt obligations. On the creditor side, the firm is representing Carval Investors UK as the largest non-affiliate creditor in the Lehman Chapter 11 and it also advised the unsecured creditors committee on proceedings arising from the bankruptcy of US coated paper producer, New Page. On the transactional side, New York-based Leslie Plaskon (‘highly intelligent with superb judgement’) advised Morgan Stanley on its $700m exit financing to auto parts manufacturer Visteon Corp. Over the past twelve months, the firm has also handled instructions from Wells Fargo Capital Finance, AIG Global real estate, UBS and General Electric.
In 2011, Shearman & Sterling LLP was rocked by the departures of highly respected names James Garrity to Morgan Lewis and Michael Torkin to Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, bringing the total number of partners in the group to three. Nevertheless, the firm retains its strong reputation for working on the full spread of creditor work, debtor representations, distressed M&A matters and DIP and Exit financings. Also, the firm’s undoubted strength in complementary areas, such as corporate, finance and tax, sees clients praise its ability to ‘work seamlessly across departments to provide thorough advice from every angle’ and ensures that there are no gaps in service. The ‘outstandingly professional’ Frederic Sosnick continues to lead the practice, with strong support from Douglas Bartner, who impresses for his ‘unflappable manner and cool businesslike approach’. The restructuring team is working alongside the firm’s litigation, asset management and finance departments to represent Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and their respective affiliates on the $1.5bn Chapter 11 of Lehman Brothers. The firm is also representing Citicorp and Citibank as administrative agent under a $1.5bn senior secured term loan in Capmark Financial Group’s Chapter 11. On the debtor side, Provo Craft & Novelty instructed the firm to advise on its $240m balance sheet recapitalization transaction.
In 2011, the three-partner team at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP was bolstered by the arrival of former Shearman & Sterling LLP partner Michael Torkin as special counsel, and John Jerome (‘immensely tenacious’, ‘attentive and skilful’, ‘one of the true “deans” of the bankruptcy bar’) as of counsel from Saul Ewing. Clients agree that this is the firm to instruct for ‘sophisticated, complex and challenging work – you go to it when quality is paramount’, and assert that lawyers ‘bring an attention to detail and a curiosity about the clients’ business that is exceptional’. This curiosity is manifested through a diverse practice that is equally at home in advising companies or banks on the full spread of transactional, crisis management and contentious bankruptcy matters. Andrew Dietderich is ‘extraordinarily creative and insightful’ and is advising mortgage insurance company PMI Group in its analysis of restructuring alternatives. Other high-profile debtor instructions include advising the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers on its bankruptcy as well as representing MF Global as lead restructuring counsel. ‘Scary smart’ Los Angeles-based finance specialist Hydee Feldstein is ‘very experienced with a knowledge of both the commercial finance and restructuring and bankruptcy areas’, and represented Morgan Stanley in the pre-packaged bankruptcy plan and $425m exit financing for US marketing group, Vertis.
Preeminent in Dallas and Houston, Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. is strengthening its national footprint through a growing New York profile – notably four of its 16 restructuring partners are based in the city. Nevertheless, its Texas origins remain a big draw for clients who say, ‘New York firms looking south will never have the depth of expertise, experience or local relationships of this Texas stalwart’. Importantly, the firm’s leading oil and gas expertise, as well as its related experience in the environmental, marine and regulatory areas, ensures that it is ‘a peerless choice for energy restructurings’ – but retail and financial services are also strong areas of activity. Dallas-based head William Wallander is ‘strategically strong and technically sound’, and represented oil and gas exploration company, TriDimension Energy, in its Chapter 11 case and plan of reorganization. Other stars in this group of ‘aggressive advocates and commercial dealmakers’ include Daniel Stewart – ‘one of the best restructuring lawyers in the country’ – who led the team representing independent retail furniture chain, Lack’s Stores, in its Chapter 11. John Mitchell is also a ‘standout lawyer’ and is leading advice to Trico Marine Services, and five subsidiaries, in its Chapter 11 cases. Although, the firm is better-known for debtor work, it has experience in advising creditors and it is acting as special bankruptcy counsel to Deutsche Bundesbank as creditor in the US Lehman bankruptcy.
The US restructuring group of corporate powerhouse Clifford Chance ‘provides excellent advice and has a good sense of the interplay between legal and business issues’. Jointly led from New York by Andrew Brozman - recommended for his ‘crisp analytical insights’ – and Evan Cohen, this four-partner team ‘punches well above its size in terms of quality’, and includes the ‘excellent’ and ‘fantastically responsive’ Jennifer DeMarco. The firm’s global presence ensures that its client list has a strong international bent and it specialises in acting for some of the world’s most high-profile banking institutions, as well as other investors, on the full spread of creditor issues. Among its recent work, the firm advised AerCap, and other creditors, on American Airlines’ Chapter 11 filing. As one would expect from a firm with such a strong international M&A footprint, transactional work is also a notable strength and it is advising Siemens Hearing Instruments as the largest secured creditor, equity holder and successful bidder for the assets of HearUSA, a hearing care organisation, following its Chapter 11 filing in Florida.
Following on from a string of new hires in 2010, DLA Piper LLP has continued to recruit – making it clear that restructuring is a priority for the firm. Among the nine partner arrivals are new bankruptcy co-chairs Gregg Galardi, formerly a senior partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, and Richard Chesley, who joins from the Chicago arm of Paul Hastings LLP where he was office managing partner. The firm also bolstered its Miami and Wilmington teams, bringing the total number of restructuring partners to 25 across seven offices – with New York and Chicago housing the majority of those numbers. Recent work representing Hingham Campus and Linden Ponds in its approved Chapter 11 plan of reorganization is evidence that the firm already has experience in debtor-led work, but the new appointments should develop that side of the practice further. On the creditor side, it is acting for senior lender Starwood Capital Group on the bankruptcy of Viceroy Anguilla Resort and Residences, involving claims of $358m in secured debt and $12m in unsecured debt. Selinda Melnick is an ‘excellent bankruptcy attorney, with extensive experience representing airports impacted by airline bankruptcies’, and Stuart Brown ‘enhances the client’s business through his business acumen’.
Greenberg Traurig LLP’s ‘responsive, knowledgeable and practical’ team is led by co-chairs Mark Bloom (‘extremely intelligent, articulate, cordial and professional’), Keith Shapiro and Bruce Zirinsky from Miami, Chicago and New York respectively. Calling on the services of over 40 partners across an extensive national network, the ‘depth and breadth of expertise in the firm is an important aid’ – and it also ensures that it can turn its hand to debtor or creditor representations across the full spread of reorganizations, workouts, liquidations, and distressed M&A matters. Nancy Mitchell ‘commands respect and approaches complex issues with rationale and strong communication’, and Maria DiConza is ‘very responsive; practical and logical’; both were involved in representing Indianapolis Downs and India Downs Capital in their pending Chapter 11 cases – involving $600m of debt. The firm is also representing a group holding bonds issued by General Motors subsidiary, GM Nova Scotia in a $1.2bn litigation. Nancy Peterman ‘understands business issues and doesn’t get caught up with too much theoretical pontification’, and Diane Vuocolo ‘simplifies the most complex transactions in a business-friendly way’.
Andrews Kurth LLP distinguishes itself through its ‘knowledgeable, thorough and practical attorneys’, with clients singling out group head Robin Russell as ‘calm under pressure’ and ‘very effective in court’. The team fields seven bankruptcy partners in its home state of Texas, as well as four in New York, awarding it a solid national platform. It has experience in acting for debtors, trustees, creditor and equity committees and investors on the full spectrum of bankruptcy-related matters – however, it is its distressed investment practice and its specialist energy sector experience that really draws admiring glances. Russell recently acted alongside Monica Blacker – recommended for ‘finding practical solutions to complex issues’ – to represent NuStar Energy L.P. on its $41m acquisition of certain refining and terminal assets of AGE Refining. New York-based co-chair Paul Silverstein is also recommended.
Led out of Washington DC by Michael Bernstein, Arnold & Porter LLP also fields a capable California team, overseen by Lisa Hill Fenning, and a significant New York presence. The firm’s diverse client list translates into a broad practice with expertise in advising debtors, creditors and investors on an enviable mix of corporate restructurings, bankruptcies and transactional matters. The practice’s litigation bent ensures that it shines in complex contentious matters, and it is defending American Capital in a fraudulent transfer and breach of fiduciary duty litigation arising from a $100m leveraged buyout transaction. On the debtor side, the firm represented Quebecor World (USA) on its successful emergence from Chapter 11. Michael Canning is recommended for his ‘technical strength and user-friendly approach’.
Brown Rudnick LLP’s signature funds strength translates into a bankruptcy practice with a strong reputation in advising hedge funds on distressed debt, portfolio company acquisitions and other related matters. Led by William Baldiga, the team is split between the firm’s Boston and New York offices and includes new arrival Jeffrey Schwartz, who joins the firm from DLA Piper LLP where he served as restructuring chair. Among the firm’s headline cases, it continues to be involved in the complex Lyondell Chemical bankruptcy. Following on from its role advising the official committee of unsecured creditors, it is now general counsel to the post-bankruptcy litigation trust, and partner Edward Weisfelner is acting as the trustee of the litigation trust.
From Washington DC and New York, Caplin & Drysdale provides ‘exceptional service without overstaffing’, and its experience is ‘deep on almost every related topic encountered’. Elihu Inselbuch heads an eight-partner team that has a niche in representing creditors in bankruptcy issues arising from mass-tort asbestos liabilities and clients say it ‘knows just about every case that matters in this area’. Inselbach is acting alongside bankruptcy litigator Trevor Swett to represent the committee of unsecured creditors holding asbestos-related claims in the liquidation of General Motors – involving estimated claims of over $600m. The ‘practical’ Peter Van Lockwood is ‘excellent in every respect’ and obtained court approval on behalf of the committee of asbestos claimants of Federal Mogul for a plan of reorganization that calls for the creation of a $2bn trust to pay asbestos victims.
Chadbourne & Parke LLP’s Howard Seife is singled out as a ‘leader in the field’ and heads a 21-lawyer team from New York. The firm’s profile has risen steadily in recent years, marked by its ability to secure major roles on some of the market’s headline mandates, such as advising the creditors’ committee in the Tribune Company Chapter 11 reorganization. Notable for being the largest bankruptcy in the history of the American media, the firm is representing Tribune on the full spread of related matters including the sale of the Chicago Cubs under section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code. David LeMay is also recommended and is representing several clients (including global insurance heavyweight AIG and hedge fund GLG Partners) in their respective claims against various US Lehman debtors.
Considered ‘great lawyers and personable people’, the attorneys at Choate, Hall & Stewart attract praise for their ‘deep knowledge of the law and outstanding service’. Led by Douglas Gooding, the Boston-based 23-lawyer team also includes the ‘highly experienced and creative’ Kevin Simard, who ‘understands the nuances of relationships with borrowers and investors’. The firm fields a well-balanced practice that handles a steady stream of both debtor and creditor work. In line with market activity, the retail, publishing and financial services sectors are all areas of focus and it recently acted as lead debtors’ counsel in the Chapter 11 cases of Thompson Publishing Group. The firm also won an instruction from Citigroup on the restructuring of loans related to the bankruptcies of the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Driven from New York by Michael Hopkins, Covington & Burling LLP also has a presence in Washington DC. Clients recommend this ‘very capable and very quick’ team for ‘facilitating resolutions’ and praises its strength in creditor-side litigation as well as its comprehensive international capability that ‘ensures all cross-border matters are resourced seamlessly’. Michael St Patrick Baxter was recently appointed consumer privacy ombudsman in the Chapter 11 case of Borders Group by the United States Trustee. The firm is also involved in the Lehman Brothers case, representing Wilmington Trust Company as co-chair of the official unsecured creditors committee and indenture trustee for $48bn of senior bonds. The ‘very smart and practical’ Susan Johnston is recommended for ‘offering solutions not roadblocks’.
Peers highlight Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP as ‘the “go to” firm for conflicts work in any type of restructuring’ and commend lawyers as ‘goal-oriented and incredibly responsive’ and for being ‘industry leaders that dig into matters, manage diverging personalities and continually achieve the right results for their clients’. Jointly led from New York by ‘tireless worker and extremely savvy lawyer’ Steven Reisman and Lynn Harrison, the firm punches well above its size to secure instructions on some of the market’s most visible cases. Highlights included acting as conflicts counsel for Lehman Brothers Holdings, and its affiliated debtors, in their Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases, involving the handling of all bankruptcy, corporate and litigation-related matters where the debtors’ lead bankruptcy counsel has an apparent conflict of interest.
Led by finance and financial institutions chair Charles Hedrick, the ‘effective’ and ‘straight talking’ team at Foley & Lardner LLP is split between the firm’s offices in California, Milwaukee, Chicago and Detroit. Well-known for its focus on creditor relationships, the practice also has a strong trustee and bondholder bent due to the leading reputation that Harold Kaplan maintains in this area. Highlight cases included representing ComputerShare Trust Company of Canada as indenture trustee for $125m in 10.85% debentures issued by Bowater. Canadian Forest Products in the AbitibiBowater Chapter 11 proceedings. Sports work is a trademark firm sweet spot and on the transactional side, it recently represented the successful buyer, Rangers Baseball Express, on the bankruptcy aspects of the contested plan and sale of Texas Rangers.
Dallas-based Louis Strubeck heads Fulbright & Jaworski LLP’s global financial restructuring and bankruptcy practice. In addition to its preeminent position in Texas, the team also fields partners in New York and across the West Coast. Creditor-side work is a forte, particularly contested litigation cases, but the firm also has extensive experience in M&A matters. On the contentious side, the firm successfully represented the primary lending group and plan litigation trust in a home building bankruptcy case that settled prior to trial for $90m. In a high-profile transactional highlight, the firm advised Texas Rangers Equity Holdings on the sale of a major league baseball team, a complex case that tested the bankruptcy court’s ability to compel a sale over the objection of Major League Baseball.
Well-known for its creditor-side work, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP also has strength in distressed investment matters and receives regular instructions from financial institutions, derivative counterparties and purchasers of assets. Led from New York by James Giddens, the team’s transaction list has a strong financial services focus. It recently represented the Bank of Nova Scotia as agent on two syndicated loans totalling over $1.3bn to operating subsidiaries of Adelphia Communications Corporation in Adelphia’s Chapter 11 proceedings. The firm also successfully represented a UK-based public company as one of the largest creditors to bankrupt US solar energy producer, Spectrawatt.
Kelley Drye & Warren LLP impresses for its ‘deep business acumen’, ‘strong substantive knowledge base’ and ‘excellent attention to client needs’. James Carr ‘always thinks multiple steps ahead and demonstrates shrewd business sense’, and heads a 21-lawyer team with strong retail experience that handles an even share of debtor and creditor work. In 2011, the ‘business savvy’ Craig Wolfe represented Contessa Premium Food in its $225m Chapter 11 petition. The firm is also representing US Bank National Association as indenture trustee and collateral agent in the $1.4bn bankruptcy cases of mobile satellite service operator TerreStar. Other recommended partners in this ‘deep bench of well-seasoned attorneys’ include Eric Wilson, who ‘understands that consensus and compromise is the best way to resolve issues but is prepared to go to court if necessary’.
Driven from Atlanta, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton’s ‘superbly business-minded and professional’ 14-lawyer team is also represented by partners in New York and Washington DC. Restructuring head Todd Meyers is ‘an outstanding example of a professional at the top of his game’ and is leading advice to TriMont Real Estate Advisors – which is owed over $100m – in the Innkeepers USA Trust bankruptcy. In another example of its creditor-side strength, Washington DC-based Mark Taylor (‘very technical, practical and a pleasure to work with’) is representing the indenture trustee of around $240m of trust preferred securities in the bankruptcy of Credit-Based Asset Servicing and Securitization (C-Bass).
Covering the full spread of debtor, creditor and committee representations McDermott Will & Emery LLP’s 40-lawyer team impresses for ‘keeping all tasks, information and documents coordinated – ensuring nothing “falls of the plate”’. Chicago-based group head William Smith is ‘excellent in dealing with the board and developing strategy’ and ‘brings a well of knowledge and experience to the table’. The firm is well-known for its strong niche in advising on healthcare restructurings and it is currently representing several hospitals and congregate care communities in financial distress including medical facilities in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC. It also has sterling creditor side experience.
Under the leadership of co-heads Adam Harris and Michael Cook, Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP’s 25-lawyer team provides a ‘tremendously responsive’, ‘client-focused’ and ‘highly practical’ service. The practice is well-known for its strength in litigation and its focus on creditor relationships but it also acts for acquirers, equity holders, plan sponsors and others in reorganizations and out-of-court workouts. In 2012, the firm won an instruction from an ad hoc group of second-lien noteholders, including affiliates of JPMorgan Investment Management, Credit Suisse Asset Management and Tennenbaum Capital Partners, in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Real Mex Restaurants.
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP’s sizeable 34-partner team is split between offices across California, New York and Washington DC. Geraldine Freeman and Alan Martin jointly head a ‘knowledgeable, efficient and proactive’ group, including ‘standout partner’ Steven Cardoza, the ‘thoughtful and well-organised’ Ori Katz and Carren Shulman – recommended as ‘zealous in her client’s defense’. The firm’s experience in both debtor and creditor-side cases ensures that it usually has a role in most of the West Coast’s most high-profile mandates. Real estate is a strong area and among its recent work the firm represented Essex Property Trust in its acquisition of troubled retail centre, Santa Clara Square.
Led out of New York by Stephen Lerner, Squire Sanders LLP ‘always brings the right skills and experiences to its engagements’ and ‘lawyers operate as a true partnership in the management of their cases’. The financial services sector is a sweet spot and the firm is representing AmFin Financial Corporation in its Chapter 11; the matter provides a perfect showcase for the team’s litigation talents as it gave rise to the first ever trial on the issue of whether a bank holding company owed a capital commitment to its bank subsidiary under section 365 of the Bankruptcy Code – the firm was successful in defeating a $500m claim asserted by the FDIC.
Wiley Rein LLP’s group head Jason Gold is considered as ‘among the best in bankruptcy’, and leads a group that attracts praise for its niche expertise in advising on media-related cases. The firm is rare in that it does not maintain a New York presence, however from Washington DC and Virginia, the seven-partner team manages to garner a healthy flow of mandates with national significance. Among its recent headline cases, the firm was instructed by Howrey LLP (formerly one of the largest antitrust and IP law firms in the world) on its high-profile liquidation. In another example of its debtor strength, the firm is representing Florida-based radio group Black Crow Media in its successful Chapter 11 reorganization.
Driven from Los Angeles, Winston & Strawn LLP is known for its strong West Coast and Midwest presence, but also fields partners in New York. Headed-up by ‘intelligent, creative and appropriately aggressive bankruptcy lawyer’ Eric Sagerman, the 18-partner team also calls on the services of Randy Rogers (‘deep industry knowledge and exceptional business acumen’) and Robert Julian (‘exceptional trial lawyer and strategic thinker’). The firm has ‘excellent creditor experience’, but also handles work for debtors and acquirers of distressed assets. The firm represented the official committee of unsecured creditors of subprime lender People’s Choice Home Loan in the formulation of a Chapter 11 plan, and is now advising the liquidating trustee.