ALM Properties, Inc.
Page printed from: http://www.law.com
Select 'Print' in your browser menu to print this document.
Dewey & LeBoeuf Heavy Hitter May Guide GM Through BankruptcyAs General Motors moves closer to a possible bankruptcy filing, it's turning to a Weil Gotshal alum who predicted he was done representing the auto giant when he left the firm in 2007. When Martin Bienenstock left Weil to launch a restructuring practice at Dewey & LeBoeuf, he brought all his clients over except one: GM. With a June 1 deadline to restructure and a bankruptcy filing "probable," GM may follow streamlining plans Bienenstock has been drawing up alongside restructuring financial adviser Jay Alix.
The American Lawyer2009-04-30 12:00:00 AM
As General Motors Corp. moves closer to a possible bankruptcy filing, it is turning to a Weil, Gotshal & Manges alum who predicted he was done representing the auto company when he left the firm a year and a half ago.
After more than 30 years at Weil, Martin Bienenstock, 56, moved on in November 2007 to launch a restructuring practice at Dewey & LeBoeuf. He took some Weil lawyers with him and at the time said he brought all of his clients over except one -- GM.
"In hindsight, I would say it's the only client who didn't come originally," Bienenstock says.
The Detroit auto giant faces a June 1 deadline to restructure, and GM executives have called a bankruptcy filing "probable." Should that happen, Weil Gotshal would represent GM in bankruptcy proceedings. But much of the bankruptcy could also be guided by plans Bienenstock has been drawing up alongside restructuring financial adviser Jay Alix.
Those plans, an option that has emerged in news reports in recent weeks, entail forming a new company to quickly buy up GM's good assets out of bankruptcy through what’s called a Section 363 sale to create a streamlined automaker.
Bienenstock, who represented GM in the Delphi Corp. bankruptcy while at Weil, won't address whether or not GM would follow such a plan. He simply calls what he's working on "a discreet project."
"We're just about completing that," he says.
Suitably, GM's surgeon was once on a path to becoming a doctor rather than a lawyer. Bienenstock was pre-med at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1970s. But he also considered business, attending UPenn's Wharton School. He ultimately settled on the latter. Meanwhile, Bienenstock's father urged him to attend law school, so he did. He received his J.D. from University of Michigan in 1977 and shortly after joined Weil Gotshal as an associate.
Restructuring piqued his interest early on as something "more adventurous, fun, less structured than other businesses," he says. His first bankruptcy was Fidelity Mortgage Investors, just one of many real estate investment trusts that ran into trouble in the 1970s.
Over the years, the bankruptcies Bienenstock worked on grew, as did his role at the firm. He opened Weil's Houston office in 1985 and for a time lived there. Bienenstock was the lead lawyer for Enron Corp., whose Chapter 11 filing in 2001 eventually came to earn Weil $149.4 million in fees. He also co-chaired the restructuring department after bankruptcy legend Harvey Miller left Weil in 2002 to join boutique investment bank Greenhill & Co., LLC. (Miller rejoined Weil in 2007, a few months before Bienenstock left.)
Bienenstock is "super smart and an extremely quick study," says George Davis, a former Weil partner now at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. "The other thing is he's an aggressive lawyer for his client, and one that is not afraid to litigate and frankly is an exceptional litigator."
Dewey & LeBoeuf came knocking shortly after completing its merger in 2007. "He very much saw his practice moving from pure bankruptcy to what he calls business solutions," says Dewey litigation partner Jeffrey Kessler, who helped recruit him. That incorporates not just advice on restructuring but also on corporate governance as a means to avoid trouble, Bienenstock says.
Bienenstock -- whose book of business by some estimates tops $20 million -- is keeping busy these days. Besides GM, he's counseling Chrysler Financial on its reorganization and the MGM Mirage-Dubai World joint venture CityCenter on its restructuring. He also represents creditors in the Lehman Brothers and Bally Total Fitness bankruptcies.
Despite that workload, he still makes it home to his wife and two children. "I went through a time in my career when I was on the road, especially in the Southwest, two or three times a month," says. "Now, as hard or long as the work is, it doesn't take you too far out of New York. And it's easy getting into Detroit."
This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily blog on AmericanLawyer.com.