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United States > Real estate and construction > Real estate investment trusts (REITs) > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

Index of tables

  1. Real estate investment trusts (REITs)
  2. Leading lawyers

Regarded as ‘top among the tops’, Clifford Chance covers the entire REIT space, providing depth and breadth as well as ‘outstanding counsel in a timely manner’. Jay Bernstein leads the New York-based team, which advises both issuers and underwriters on tax and corporate matters related to the structuring and restructuring of REITs. The team recently acted as co-adviser to Chambers Street Properties in its merger with Gramercy Property Trust, creating one of the largest industrial and office net lease REITs, with 288 properties and 52m sq ft in major markets throughout the US and Europe. In the area of non-traded REITs, it advised Carey Watermark Investors 2 on its IPO, which was one of the first non-traded REIT offerings to offer more than one class of share, in anticipation of forthcoming FINRA regulatory changes; the ‘terrific and very knowledgeableKathleen Werner led the advice. Recently promoted partner Jake Farquharson is regarded as a ‘great professional’ with an ‘outstanding capability to identify challenges and find solutions’. ‘Tax mastermindRichard Catalano is also recommended. Other clients include National Storage Affiliates Trust, Sutherland Asset Management and Apollo.

The REIT practice at Goodwin Procter LLP is ‘second to none’. The ‘well-oiled, integrated team’ is highly praised for its ‘intimate familiarity with all things REIT related, from tax to business concerns to the underlying real estate’. The team recently assisted Easterly Government Properties with its IPO of 13.8m shares and a private placement of approximately $106m worth of shares to two institutional real estate funds managed by its predecessor. Elsewhere, it represented Macerich in connection with an unsolicited takeover bid by Simon Property Group. The practice is co-led from Boston by Gil Menna (‘hands down the best REIT lawyer in the country’) and Ettore Santucci. The ‘deep bench of talent’ also includes Yoel Kranz in New York and the Boston-based Mark Opper and Neal Sandford. Other clients include VEREIT, Monogram Residential Trust and Paramount Group.

Hogan Lovells US LLP comes highly recommended as ‘one of the very best firms in terms of its REIT practice’. The Washington DC-based team has a longstanding reputation for advising on REIT formation and regulatory compliance, as well as M&A deals involving publicly traded or privately held REITs. Its list of clients includes Equity Commonwealth, Kite Realty Group Trust and Apple Hospitality REIT. In recent highlights, a team led by Warren Gorrell assisted GE in connection with its agreement to sell its $27bn global real estate equity and debt portfolio business to Blackstone and Wells Fargo. Practice co-head David Bonser represented Industrial Income in its $4.6bn merger with Global Logistic Properties. Gorrel and Bonser are also advising Home Properties on its pending merger with Lone Star Funds valued at approximately $7.6bn. Paul Manca and REIT tax expert Prentiss Feagles are also recommended. Carol Weld King is now at Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP.

Latham & Watkins LLP has a sizeable practice in this space, with more than 40 partners and counsel providing specialist REIT-related advice. Chaired from Los Angeles by Michael Brody and Julian Kleindorfer, the team advises a strong portfolio of clients on the full breadth of REIT matters, including formation, the conversion of existing corporations and partnerships into REITs, private and public offerings securities offerings, M&A and real estate transactions, executive compensation structures, and compliance issues. In 2015, the practice was very busy on M&A deals, with highlights including advice to Hudson Pacific Properties in its $3.7bn acquisition of a portfolio of 26 Bay Area properties, and assisting Digital Realty Trust with the $1.8bn acquisition of The Telx Group. The team was reinforced by the recent promotion to partner of San Diego-based Michael Sullivan.

Sidley Austin LLP is well known in the REIT sector and is regularly involved in high-profile capital markets deals for issuers and underwriters. The team has an outstanding portfolio of clients, including Simon Property Group, PennyMac Mortgage Trust, Ventas, Rouse Properties and Health Care REIT (now Welltower). High-profile transactions included assisting Strategic Hotels & Resorts in relation to its all-cash purchase by affiliates of Blackstone Real Estate Partners VIII for about $6bn. Other notable mandates included advising Recall on its $2.6bn acquisition by recently converted REIT Iron Mountain, and assisting Aviv REIT with its $3bn acquisition by Omega Healthcare Investors. Edward Petrosky, J Gerard Cummins and Christian Brause lead the practice form the New York office. Bartholomew Sheehan III and James O’Connor, also at the New York office, are noted.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP has a strong real estate capacity and is especially active in the REIT area, advising on domestic and cross-border transactions from its offices in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. ‘Terrific lawyer’ John Rayis in Los Angeles is assisting Darden Restaurants with a strategic plan to separate a portion of its real estate assets through a combination of selected sale and leaseback transactions and the transfer of a portion of its remaining real estate assets to a new independent and publicly traded REIT. Chicago-based David Polster acted for Windstream in a first-of-its-kind tax-free spin-off of select telecoms network assets into Communications Sales and Leasing, creating the first publically traded telecoms REIT. Polster also represented the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation in several matters, including its co-investment with Global Logistic Properties to acquire IndCor Properties (the largest pure-play US industrial REIT) from Blackstone Real Estate Advisors. Other clients include Pinnacle Entertainment, Fortress Investment Group and Lone Star Funds. New York-based David Goldschmidt is also recommended.

DLA Piper LLP (US) is best known for its expertise in the non-traded REIT space, where it represents clients and their sponsors regarding securities, corporate governance, M&A, tax, ERISA, real estate, litigation and other matters. Raleigh-based Robert Bergdolt heads the team and led recent corporate, securities and tax advice to KBS Strategic Opportunity REIT II and Resource Real Estate Opportunity REIT II on their respective private offerings. The team also operates in the publicly traded REIT market, and in one notable example it assisted W.P. Carey with implementing a $400m at-the-market offering program. Minneapolis-based Robert LeDuc is a ‘bright, well-versed and service-minded lawyer’ and is a ‘pleasure to deal with’. Kerry Johnson joined the New York office from Hunton & Williams LLP. New clients include Corporate Capital Trust, Crossroads Capital Group and CNL Healthcare Properties Trust II.

Hunton & Williams LLP’s practice is spread across seven offices in the US and is well regarded for its work in real estate financing and capital markets transactions, in which it represents issuers, underwriters, sponsors and lenders. The team is particularly active in the hospitality sector, and recently acted for Chatham Lodging Trust in the $1.1bn acquisition of a 52-hotel portfolio from Inland American and in its joint venture with NorthStar Realty Finance. Other clients include Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, New York Mortgage Trust and American Residential Properties. Richmond-based George Howell and David Wright are the key contacts. Kerry Johnson is now at DLA Piper LLP (US).

At Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP, Atlanta-based Lauren Prevost and Heath Linsky co-head the practice, which specializes in assisting clients access the capital markets, particularly through REITs. Highlights included representing Nexpoint Multifamily Realty Trust in its $1.1bn IPO, and Griffin-American Healthcare REIT IV in its IPO, valued at $3.15bn. The Atlanta team was boosted by the return of former judge Charles Beaudrot, following several years at the Georgia Tax Tribunal, and the arrival of Amie Singer Piccola from Jones Day. In Washington DC, the team welcomed Carol Weld King from Hogan Lovells US LLP.

The REIT practice at Proskauer Rose LLP assists clients with the evaluation, structuring and execution of real estate securities transactions. In a notable mandate, New York-based Steven Lichtenfeld represented non-listed REIT American Realty Capital Healthcare Trust in its merger with Ventas, while Peter Fass, also in New York, was in charge of American Realty Capital Healthcare Trust II’s $2bn initial ‘best efforts’ public offering. Other clients include Lightstone Value Plus Real Estate Investment Trusts and American Finance Trust. Chicago-based Michael Choate and Leslie Loffman in New York are also noted.

The ‘fierce advocates’ in Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP’s REIT practice are ‘capable of doing complex deals on tight timelines’. The team is very active in this space and is best known for representing Blackstone, which in 2015 the firm advised in relation to its acquisition, alongside Wells Fargo, of GE Capital Real Estate for roughly $23bn; the highly recommended Gregory Ressa led the advice. The team also advised Glimcher Realty Trust on its acquisition by Washington Prime Group in a stock and cash transaction valued at $4.3bn. Also recommended are Brian Stadler, Erik Quarfordt and Nancy Mehlman, for their ‘sound REIT experience and good deal skills’. All the attorneys are based in New York.

The ‘up-and-coming’ Boston-based practice at Sullivan & Worcester LLPdoes an outstanding job on all fronts’. It excels at representing clients converting to REIT status and is well regarded for its tax expertise. Ameek Ashok Ponda and Harry Ekblom are advising Ovation Acquisition I on the purchase of a utility transmission and distribution business from Energy Future Holdings. In other matters, Equinix retained the team to assist on its REIT conversion and related global restructuring. David Kaplan and William Curry are also recommended. Ashley Brooks was promoted to partner.

Venable LLP is ‘the best Maryland REIT firm in the market’, say clients. The ‘absolutely first-class’ practice is best known for assisting publicly traded an non-traded REITs on matters of Maryland corporate law relating to IPOs, follow-on equity offerings, debt offerings, M&A and other transactions. In a recent matter, the firm acted as Maryland counsel to Macerich in connection with the unsolicited hostile takeover attempt by Simon Property Group, and to InvenTrust Properties in its spin-off of much of its hotel portfolio into Xenia Hotels and Resorts. James Hanks is ‘the dean of the Maryland REIT’, and Sharon Kroupa is ‘knowledgeable and user friendly’. Carmen Fonda and Christopher Pate are also recommended.

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz’s practice is ‘exceptionally good at M&A REIT transactions’ and is headed from New York by Adam Emmerich and Robin Panovka. The team advises clients on strategic domestic and cross-border transactions across the real estate, hospitality and gaming sectors. Recent highlights included assisting Sears in the formation of new REIT Seritage Growth Properties, which will enter into a $2.7bn, 235-store sale-leaseback transaction with Sears, and advising Sears on strategic joint ventures with Simon Property Group, General Growth Properties and Macerich. Elsewhere, it advised the special committee of Starwood Waypoint Residential Trust on its merger with Colony American Homes, creating a company that will manage over 30,000 homes. Other clients include Klépierre, Ventas, Gaming and Leisure Properties and Gramercy Property Trust.

The team at Greenberg Traurig, LLP provides advice to clients in the real estate business on capital market transactions, M&A, construction, development, disposition and financing activities. Recently, it assisted SL Green Realty with its $2.25bn acquisition of 11 Madison Avenue. It also acted for Kimco Realty in its acquisition of the remaining 66% interest in the 39-property Kimstone portfolio from its joint venture partner, a subsidiary of Blackstone Real Estate Partners VII; the portfolio consists of 5.6m sq ft of shopping centers and power centers in New York, Virginia, Texas, Florida, California and Maryland. New York-based practice chair Judith Fryer is praised as ‘an institution in the REIT area since its inception’. Other clients include General Growth Properties, Strategic Hotels & Resorts and Raymond James.

The team at Morrison & Foerster LLP has grown thanks to the recent arrival of Lauren Bellerjeau from Hogan Lovells US LLP to the firm’s Washington DC office, which boosts its corporate finance and M&A capabilities. Recent matters include practice chair David Slotkin advising Global Logistic Properties on its $4.55bn acquisition of a US logistics portfolio from Industrial Income Trust, and on its co-investment with Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Private to purchase Blackstone’s US industrial real estate portfolio for $8.1bn. Other clients include Equity Residential, Whitestone REIT and MedEquities.

At Paul Hastings LLP, the practice is best known for representing issuers, underwriters and investors in public and private debt and equity offerings, with focus on REITs. Recent work includes assisting longstanding client Strategic Hotels & Resorts with its acquisition of the 49% interest in JW Marriott Essex House Hotel previously held by affiliates of KSL Capital Partners. Its expertise in the Latin American REIT market is evidenced by its representation of FHipo, the first Mexican mortgage REIT, in its $633m IPO. Michael Fitzgerald and Arturo Carrillo are the key contacts for Latin America work, and Michael Zuppone is the overall head of the practice; all are based in New York.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP assist clients with the formation, funding and operation of REITs and other real estate investment entities, and is well regarded for its expertise in relation to DownREITs. Key clients include Boston Properties, Lowe Enterprises and Federal Realty Investment Trust. Robert Robbins and Jeffrey Grill in the Washington DC office are the names to note.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP has broad experience representing issuers and underwriters in public and private REIT securities offerings, including IPOs, secondary and follow-on offerings, and debt offerings. Recent work includes advising MGM Resorts on the formation of a controlled REIT, MGM Growth Properties, and the implementation of a master lease structure. Elsewhere, it advised the board of directors of Sears in a REIT spin-off to form Seritage Growth Properties. Michael Bond and Philip Rosen in New York are the key names. Other clients include KTR Capital Partners, Iron Mountain and Herald Square Properties.

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