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Los Angeles–Loeb & Loeb has become the latest L.A. law firm to expand beyond its traditional practice of representing entertainment businesses and talent, such as Woody Allen and the Beastie Boys. The firm has formed a new mergers and acquisitions practice group to handle a rising tide of deals in the media and Internet industries. In the first six months of 2006, nearly 15% of Loeb & Loeb’s revenues came from mergers and acquisitions, more than double the percentage in 2005. The firm has 30 lawyers who make up the mergers and acquisitions group, many in its New York office. The firm’s leaders expect the new practice area to reach 50 lawyers in the next few years. “We’ve designated this as one of the areas where we think we have tremendous opportunity for growth, and we’re going to look to grow it,” said Andrew Ross, chairman of the mergers and acquisitions practice area. The move is similar to that of Los Angeles-based Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, which recently began moving away from talent clients toward entertainment institutions with corporate work [NLJ, Aug. 21]. Legal experts say firms that previously focused on representing talent in the entertainment field are shifting toward media and Internet clients, which have increased their deal flow as they consolidate or grow. “They’re looking for niche markets,” said Ward Bower, a principal at legal consulting firm Altman Weil Inc. “What they’re finding here is a convergence of two industries, in effect the computer and Internet industry and the traditional entertainment industry. Anytime there is that connection of industries, there is a potential to create a lot of value.” Seeking wider range Founded in 1909, Loeb & Loeb opened a New York office in 1986, followed by small offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Chicago. Now with more than 240 lawyers, the firm grossed $146.5 million in revenues last year, up about 20% from 2004, according to a survey by The American Lawyer, an affiliate of The National Law Journal. John Frankenheimer, partner in the Los Angeles office and co-chairman of the firm, said that the growth has come in several practice areas, including intellectual property and entertainment transactions for motion pictures, television, music, live events and talent. “We still have talent,” Frankenheimer said, “but now we represent a whole panacea of sophisticated financial institutions, including large private equity firms and hedge funds.” The firm already has a corporate group and a private equity group, flush with a recent spate of film financing. But in announcing the new mergers and acquisitions group last month, Loeb seeks to represent a wider range of buyers and sellers in middle-market transactions, primarily in the media, communications and Internet industries, Frankenheimer said. “They’ve got solid M&A expertise and the uniqueness of having specialized expertise in entertainment and media,” said Barry Mehlman, a former attorney with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission who joined Loeb’s New York office in April. “You put the two together and you look a little different than every other guy on the block.” Among the firm’s clients are Accoona Corp., a Jersey City, N.J.-based search engine, and a21 Inc., an online holder of digital stock images based in Jacksonville, Fla. Albert Pleus, chairman and chief executive of a21, said he was first attracted to Loeb three years ago because its lawyers had media expertise and were accustomed to working with midsized companies. “We were a startup company at that point in time, and now we’ve completed three acquisitions with them,” he said. Midsized law firms like Loeb and Manatt increasingly are turning away from talent representation to take advantage of the rapidly changing world of new media, which is rife with transactions and deals. “The clients are more predictable, more business-oriented,” Bower said. “There’s not the foils and idiosyncrasies of talented individuals.”

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