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When he left Salomon Brothers Inc. in 1981, Michael Bloomberg � then just another well-heeled Wall Streeter, cashing out of the firm with $10 million � could have retired to a spacious ranch or seaside villa. But tanning on white-sand beaches for the next 40 years didn’t suit the ambitious 39-year-old. Instead, he wanted to start his own company: a service providing real-time financial data and analysis. Bloomberg rented a three-room office on Madison Avenue, ready to put his plan into money-making action. All he needed was a lawyer. Bloomberg approached friend and fellow Salomon partner Jon Rotenstreich for advice. Rotenstreich recommended his own personal attorney for the job, a young partner at New York’s Webster & Sheffield who had overseen the drafting of his will. Richard DeScherer, then a 37-year-old specialist in corporate and tax work, was perfect, Rotenstreich thought, not only because of his expertise, but also because of his forceful character. “I knew that Dick had the same personality that Mike had � a strong-willed personality,” Rotenstreich recalls. “Dick could listen to that and handle it.” Bloomberg made a good first impression, DeScherer says now: “I remember thinking that he was extremely bright and had lots of good ideas. I hoped very much that he would decide to hire us.” Bloomberg did. Twenty-two years later, DeScherer � enjoying perhaps one of the most remarkable referrals ever to fall into a lawyer’s lap � still serves as primary outside counsel for Bloomberg L.P. He has advised the company as it blossomed from that Madison Avenue office to a multinational powerhouse with 8,000 employees and annual sales topping $3 billion. DeScherer and his client � now number 48 on the Forbes 2002 list of the largest private companies � remain unusually loyal to each other. Wherever DeScherer has gone, Bloomberg has followed, from Webster & Sheffield to Finley, Kumble, Wagner, Heine, Underberg, Manley, Myerson & Casey in 1984, and then to Willkie Farr & Gallagher in 1987, where he still practices. (DeScherer left before the dissolutions of Webster & Sheffield and Finley, Kumble.) Today, Bloomberg is one of Willkie’s ten biggest clients, providing at least occasional work for more than 40 lawyers and paralegals, says DeScherer. And DeScherer himself spends much of his time on this one monster client, a relationship that helps make him one of the five highest-paid partners at a firm that last year averaged nearly $1.3 million in profits per partner. Rotenstreich, now a private real estate investor who is still a client of DeScherer’s, says that clients appreciate DeScherer’s ability to collaborate with businesspeople. “Most lawyers are narrow as hell,” Rotenstreich says. “They leap to the legal solution.” DeScherer, he says, thinks outside the limited intellectual framework of a J.D.: “He is a talented organizer and manager of people. It’s a skill that’s not [abundant] in the legal profession. He could have been a corporate executive.” Unlike most companies that spread their work among various firms, Bloomberg sends almost everything to just Willkie. (Bloomberg does retain its own in-house team of 18 lawyers, headed by general counsel Karl Kilb, which concentrates primarily on drafting contracts for its products, according to DeScherer.) DeScherer has steered virtually all of the company’s major financial and corporate deals � starting from the first sale, in 1982, of 20 terminals to Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. And he was at the table in two other Merrill deals that figured equally prominently in Bloomberg’s history: in 1985, when Merrill invested $39 million for a 30 percent stake in Bloomberg, and in 1996, when Michael Bloomberg bought back 10 percent of the company from Merrill. “The thing that really makes them a valued client is that their business is so interesting and varied,” DeScherer says. Things got especially varied in the 1990s as Bloomberg entered the media market, buying radio stations and launching television programs and financial magazines. As the company grew, the Willkie team’s work ranged far and wide. Besides the usual transactions, the firm has defended its client from claims of sexual discrimination in 1998 and libel in 2001 (both complaints were dismissed) and is handling a new patent infringement case filed against it by the Reuters Group. Though the mogul stepped aside from the daily affairs at the company when he was elected mayor of New York in 2001, he still owns about 70 percent of the company � that $10 million nest egg is now worth an estimated $4 billion. In Bloomberg’s absence, DeScherer serves as a member of the board of directors and the executive committee of Bloomberg L.P. At the same time, he is cochair of Willkie’s executive committee. “The company,” DeScherer deadpans, “has been vitally important to my career.” Rotenstreich is more direct. “Dick expertly managed the mission that Michael gave him,” he says, adding, “He is a counsel. That is what most corporate lawyers should aspire to be.”

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