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Chicago behemoth Sidley & Austin confirms that it recently settled “unseemly” conflict of interest allegations leveled by former heavyweight champion of the world Mike Tyson for a reported $21 million. But, the fingers may have been pointing at the wrong partner or partners in charge of the fiasco. The legal brawl started two years ago, an internal Sidley memorandum concedes, when Tyson filed a suit against the law firm stemming from “the Firm’s limited role in 1995″ when it prepared documentation “for an agreement which Tyson and his advisors had made while Tyson was still in prison” for his rape conviction. It was at this time that Sidley partners negotiated for Tyson a promotional contract with boxing promoter Don King. “It was one of the most lucrative transactions for an individual athlete in the history of any sport,” the memorandum notes. The problem, maintained a lawsuit filed by Tyson subsequently in a California courtroom, was that Sidley also represented King in various matters at the time as well. Tyson “ironically” raised his conflict of interest allegations, the Sidley memo emphasizes, “Only after he was suspended, following the Evander Holyfield” ear-biting escapade “and was no longer able to obtain those benefits.” The firm strongly “rejects any suggestion that there was merit to the claim or any injury to Tyson.” Yet, settle Sidley did. And, despite a confidentiality agreement, Crain’s Chicago Business was able to peg the accord at $21 million. So, who, then, is to blame? Varying news reports have identified current New York partner Robert W. Hirth and former partner Charles Lomax as key partners involved in the alleged Tyson-King-Sidley triangle. Actually, Lomax is now general counsel for Don King Productions, Inc. based in Florida. Both Hirth and Lomax declined to comment. So did Sidley’s Thomas A. Cole, chairman of the firm’s executive committee, and Charles W. Douglas, chairman of the firm’s management committee. However, a reliable source inside Sidley maintains that neither Hirth nor Lomax are directly tied to the conflict of interest charges thrown by “Iron Mike’s” litigation lawyers. In other words, maybe some other mystery man or woman partner is on the Sidley hot seat. Then, again, maybe nobody is going to lose their ranking at Sidley, at least, if the firm’s internal memo is to be believed: “It is important to note that the uninsured portion of the settlement (i.e., the ‘deductible’) was relatively modest and was, in any event, fully reserved for in our financials and anticipated in our budgeting process.”

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