middle-east-2017 – GC Powerlist
Middle East 2017

John Davidson

General counsel | Nakheel

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    Middle East 2017

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    John Davidson

    General counsel | Nakheel

    John Davidson - Middle East 2019

    General counsel | Nakheel

    John Davidson’s move to Dubai in 2006 was preceded by a successful period in private practice with Osler in Canada, which provided a key grounding in corporate legal work that...

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    John Davidson moved to Dubai in 2006, after gaining five years of private practice experience at Osler, one of Canada’s largest law firms. Davidson worked as an in-house lawyer at CA Technologies, before joining his present employer Nakheel Properties, initially as senior legal counsel within the company’s retail business unit and subsequently as general counsel of the group’s entire legal function. Having completed a number of key transactions, Davidson stands out for his impressive work on Nakheel’s $16 billion restructuring. ‘As far as I am aware, this is the largest single restructuring ever completed in the region,’ he says. ‘It was an important transaction on many levels because of the innovative approach to different issues and because of the critical importance of the successful completion of the restructuring to Dubai overall in light of Nakheel’s significant role in the Dubai economy.’ Davidson also steered Nakheel through the weight of a string of litigations against the company, which amounted to several billion dollars. ‘Nakheel had never faced litigation like this before and we had to gear up quickly to address these cases since the company’s future financial viability would have been at risk had significant losses in these cases occurred. In particular, we were very successful in defending numerous unfounded claims by purchasers in the company’s The World islands project. We were responsible for setting much of the precedent in the English language branch of the Emirate’s courts.’ From a functional perspective, Davidson was involved in the centralisation of the company’s legal department at its head office and the cross-training of lawyers across various areas of work. These changes resulted in greater visibility and oversight of the legal work, as well as the opportunity for the team to get experience across a broader range of issues. When asked about the local in-house market, Davidson articulates: ‘Practising law in-house in Dubai is interesting and can be rewarding because of the scale of the projects and the variety of the work but can be extremely challenging and requires careful attention to detail and a good understanding of the commercial issues (as well as legal) since agreements that are negotiated often come up for review and are rarely “left in the drawer” like in many more established markets.’

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