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Richard Gitlin maintains offices in New York and Hartford, Conn., but that doesn’t tell you where you’re likely to find him. Gitlin, a partner at Boston’s Bingham Dana, says he racked up “about a billion” frequent-flier miles last year. Blame a global bankruptcy deluge, which saw the 59-year-old international bankruptcy specialist tackling huge debt restructurings in Singapore, Japan, England and the United States, and advising parties in Argentina, Korea and Thailand. Chief among his projects: Cobbling together an ad hoc creditors committee in the $14 billion Asia Pulp & Paper Company Ltd. debt restructuring. Says Gitlin: “This was as complex a debt picture as you can imagine,” involving an Indonesian-owned company based in Singapore with 16 plants across Asia. “There were levels of debt at every level, some secured, some unsecured … and all of this in Indonesia, where rights of action are extremely limited.” Gitlin’s task was to smooth out the wrinkles between numerous bondholder groups, which held $7 billion in company paper and had been at odds with both the company and each other. “I had spent three or four years handling cases in Indonesia,” Gitlin says. “I knew that the bondholders’ best chance was to stay together.” Gitlin established a steering committee, with himself as its counsel, by joining his clients with three other bondholders groups, represented by New York’s Shearman & Sterling. The arrangement streamlined negotiations by allowing the bondholders to be served by a single financial adviser, KPMG Consulting Inc. When he wasn’t in Indonesia, Gitlin could be found in Tokyo, advising the Development Bank of Japan on coping with Japan’s bad-debt and bank loan problems. In January 2002, the Japanese government implemented a $1 billion de-leveraging fund suggested by Gitlin. Or you could find him in London: There, Gitlin represented a bondholders committee seeking a share of $2 billion in debt from telecommunications conglomerate Marconi. It wasn’t always this way. Gitlin’s dream of a global bankruptcy practice, born in the early ’80s, took a long time to catch fire. In 1972, soon after completing law school at the University of Connecticut, Gitlin cofounded Hartford’s Hebb & Gitlin, a bankruptcy and finance firm focusing on local insurance clients. In 1982, Gitlin told his incredulous partners that global bankruptcy was the wave of the future, and that he wanted to position the firm as a player in that specialty. It was a big risk for the 14-lawyer firm, requiring a significant reallocation of staff, time, and money. Eight years passed before the firm’s breakthrough case, the bankruptcy of Maxwell Communication Corp., in 1991. “Everybody was very patient with me,” Gitlin recalls. “But before Maxwell, every year I’d have another partner approach me and gently ask, ‘Gitlin, is this international approach of yours going to work, or is it going to be a boondoggle?’” The case involved the estate of British media mogul Robert Maxwell, whose death unveiled $3 billion in hidden debt. It began as a bureaucratic nightmare. Maxwell’s corporation had filed for bankruptcy in both the United Kingdom and the United States, but injunctions in each jurisdiction had frozen the proceedings. Gitlin was appointed as the case’s examiner. “My job was to blend the two jurisdictions — create a private treaty between the courts — and then oversee a bankruptcy plan,” Gitlin says. The case was the first to involve parallel British and American proceedings, and the protocol Gitlin developed was used as a model in later cases. “I was a bit skeptical because [Gitlin] was from Hartford — I said, ‘Why aren’t they getting someone from New York?’ ” says Tina Brozman, the New York-�based federal bankruptcy judge who presided over the Maxwell case. (She is now a partner at Bingham Dana.) Part of the answer was Gitlin’s years of cultivating contacts. Retired New York chief federal bankruptcy judge Burton Lifland says that Gitlin has “ the best Rolodex in the business.” By 1999, when Hebb & Gitlin merged into Bingham Dana, history had caught up with Gitlin’s vision: Bingham Dana says that the size of its international bankruptcy practice has nearly tripled in the past two years. And thanks to the recession and what Gitlin calls “the Argentina and Enron factors,” 2002 looks to be another brisk year. That’s just fine with Gitlin — and his travel agent.

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