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If there’s one thing Howard Stahl knows, it’s business. Clients and colleagues alike point to the Steptoe & Johnson partner as a rare mixture of legal smarts and business acumen. “He doesn’t just come up with the normal, ABC-type solutions to problems,” says David Osnos, who is in a unique position to know, as both counsel at D.C.’s Arent Fox and a board member for real estate holding company Pentagon Plaza Inc., one of Stahl’s clients. In planning legal strategy, Osnos says, what Stahl comes up with “is something that makes sense from a business point of view.” Over the course of 34 years at Steptoe, Stahl, 59, has handled the gamut of commercial litigation, from contract and tort disputes to securities, real estate, fraud, and product liability cases. His clients have included Chase Manhattan Bank, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and the Blackstone Group, and he’s as comfortable litigating overseas as he is in his own backyard. “It’s not that he can just hit the fastball. He can hit the slider and the curve as well,” says Roger Warin, chairman of the D.C.-based Steptoe. Although another high-profile case could be thrown his way tomorrow, the litigation that will likely define Stahl’s career — it consumed much of his professional life from 2001 to 2005 — is an ongoing international fraud dispute involving a Turkish phone company and billions of dollars. “It’s a �once in many, many lifetimes’ case,” says Stahl, who is lead counsel for the plaintiff, Motorola Inc. The case, which he also compares to “a John Grisham novel,” began in the late 1990s, when Motorola loaned $2 billion to Telsim, a Turkish cell-phone company owned by the Uzan family. The Uzans turned around and embezzled more than $1 billion, even as Telsim defaulted on its loans. Motorola filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York charging the family with fraud, and Stahl and his Steptoe team won a $2.1 billion judgment in 2003. The case then leapfrogged across the Atlantic to several European countries, where the Uzan family has battled to retain its assets using a host of high-profile attorneys and creative legal tactics. Closer to home, Stahl is lead counsel in a complex piece of litigation for Pentagon Plaza. Five lawsuits, expected to go to trial this year, have been filed in D.C. Superior Court and the Circuit Court in Fairfax, Va. Underlying the many-armed dispute is a tussle between the Cafritz family trust and the Tompkins family trust over ownership of several D.C.-area properties, with a merger thrown in for good measure. Osnos, the Pentagon Plaza board member, credits Stahl with some serious detangling: “Instead of dealing with bits and pieces, we were dealing with all the problems raised by the lawsuits as an integrated whole,” he says. When Stahl graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 1972, he had no idea what type of law he wanted to practice. But over the years — first clerking for Judge Samuel Roberts on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, then landing a job with Steptoe — he has managed to merge his love of advocacy with his aptitude for business. “Somehow the two sort of married,” says Stahl.

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