Joel Sanders has a new job.
Sanders—the longtime Dewey & LeBoeuf chief financial officer who functioned as a member of Dewey’s ruling triumvirate in the years leading up to the firm’s high-profile demise—assumed the same post at Fort Lauderdale–based Greenspoon Marder about six weeks ago, according to Greenspoon co–managing shareholder Michael Marder. Sanders is in the process of relocating to South Florida from New York and will work out of the firm’s headquarters, Marder says.
Confirming that the firm had hired Sanders, Greenspoon executive director David Lane says the firm, which has roughly 140 lawyers, was eager to expand its finance office after its late-2011 acquisition of the remnants of Ruden McClosky, a Florida firm that went bankrupt in November amid a stream of partner departures hastened by the collapse of the local real estate market.
Emerging as the lone bidder in an auction for Ruden—a rare example of a failed law firm attracting a buyer—Greenspoon paid the estate $5.8 million in exchange for taking on 140 refugees from the failed firm and assuming $2 million of its liabilities. (By the time Ruden filed for bankruptcy, its attorney head count had dwindled to 66.) The acquisition made Greenspoon—which had gross revenue of $82 million in 2011 and $58 million in 2010—one of the largest law firms in Florida, according to sibling publication Daily Business Review.
Marder, who cofounded the firm in 1981, says Greenspoon hired Sanders following a nationwide search led by an unidentified recruiting firm. In his new role, Sanders is responsible for overseeing the firm’s entire finance operation. Among those who report directly to him: former Greenspoon finance head Kathryn Bates, who is now the director of finance.
Lane and Marder say they view Sanders’s Dewey experience in a positive light. “We thought he could teach us some things” about how large firms do business, Lane says. Even with the firm’s recent growth, Greenspoon’s operations are still confined to Florida. The firm’s lawyers—who focus on finance and transactional work, banking, and litigation matters—are spread across 11 offices in the state. Dewey, which filed for bankruptcy protection May 28, had more than 1,000 lawyers spread across 26 offices around the world at its peak. It did not have an office in Florida.
Adds Marder: “We had to put everything in the proper context. We had to understand the dynamics. We had to look at his career and all of the depth of his experience as opposed to one thing that we don’t believe defined his abilities.”
Sanders could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
So far, the fallout from Dewey’s implosion has not formally ensnared Sanders, whose former subordinate Frank Canellas has stayed on as part of the team winding down the bankrupt firm’s operations. Attorneys at Hughes Hubbard & Reed are representing Sanders’s interests in the Chapter 11 proceedings, as well as those of Dewey’s former executive director Stephen DiCarmine and former chairman Steven Davis. The three have been relatively quiet in the proceedings, with the exception of Davis contesting a motion that said he had a contract with the firm. The bankruptcy court removed Davis’s name from a list—which also named Sanders and DiCarmine—of contracts to be rejected.
Neither Sanders nor DiCarmine denied having a contract with Dewey, and court filings show that in the year leading up to the firm’s collapse, both men took home $2.9 million in salary, bonuses, and expense reimbursements. Marder would not comment on how much Greenspoon is paying Sanders.
Dewey’s advisers have suggested in court filings that they plan to sue Davis, DiCarmine, and Sanders, none of whom were included in a settlement agreement that, if approved by creditors and the bankruptcy court, will bring the estate more than $72 million from former firm partners in exchange for releasing those partners from Dewey-related liability. Marder describes the possibility that Sanders could wind up legally mired in the Dewey bankruptcy as “just facts of life that you deal with as they arise.”
Sanders, who has a law degree, came to Dewey through predecessor firm LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, which he joined in 2000. LeBoeuf merged with Dewey Ballantine seven years later. Earlier in his career, he worked for a decade at Time Warner, Marder says.
South Florida is not unfamiliar territory to Sanders. Marder mentioned that he has a residence in the area and has chosen to relocate there. Property records list Sanders, his wife, and DiCarmine as the owners of a beachside condominium in Miami Beach purchased in 2007 for $1 million.