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Alfred Pepin Jr., Pillsbury Winthrop’s former chairman, is coming out of retirement to rejoin his old firm in what some view as an attempt by Pillsbury to shore up its relationship with client ChevronTexaco. Reached at his home in California’s Napa Valley on Wednesday, Pepin confirmed that he was heading back to Pillsbury and said he would begin practicing as of counsel there Thursday. Pepin said he plans to work on miscellaneous Chevron matters, as well as commercial and international projects. “The same type of work I’ve done my whole career,” said Pepin, a corporate attorney who served as Pillsbury’s main billing partner for Chevron during much of the 1990s. The move was interpreted by some former Pillsbury partners as an attempt by the firm’s management to brace its relationship with ChevronTexaco, one of the firm’s largest and oldest clients. The long-term bond has suffered some cracks recently. On April 22, Robert Mittelstaedt, one of the firm’s three prime liaisons with ChevronTexaco, announced he was jumping ship to Jones Day. And in November, ChevronTexaco appointed its first general counsel in memory not to come from Pillsbury’s ranks when it tapped Charles James for the job. James, who was the U.S. Justice Department’s top antitrust lawyer, is a former Jones Day partner. Pillsbury spokeswoman Crystal Rockwood would not comment on the timing of Pepin’s return to Pillsbury. She said Pepin will be working on various projects with the firm’s ChevronTexaco team. “We’re very happy and enthusiastically embrace his return,” said Rockwood. Pepin’s return is “a big surprise to me,” said one former Pillsbury partner, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “And it probably indicates the seriousness of what they feel their relationship is with Chevron.” “It sounds to me like almost a move of desperation,” said another former partner. “It seems to me like putting a brave face on something.” Pepin said his move is unrelated to recent developments at Pillsbury or ChevronTexaco and said instead that he was simply not suited for retirement — Pepin retired in January 2000 at age 58. It’s not the first time Pepin has been drawn back to the legal world. A few months after leaving Pillsbury, he temporarily came out of retirement to assist with the $43 billion merger between Chevron and Texaco. In that instance, however, Pepin did not officially rejoin Pillsbury’s ranks. Some question how much influence Pepin can have at ChevronTexaco now that James is in charge of the company’s legal division and Kenneth Derr, the oil giant’s chairman during Pepin’s stint as billing partner, is no longer at the company. Pepin said he met James for the first time three weeks ago at a dinner. “Hopefully he’ll like my work,” said Pepin. “I’ve always worked well with other attorneys, whether in the firm or outside.” He also disputed any suggestions that Pillsbury’s relationship with ChevronTexaco is in any need of repair. “I don’t think that the loss of one individual, even a very good individual, or a change in a general counsel, will necessarily affect the firm,” said Pepin. Pillsbury has “such a long background with the company, such a reservoir of experience, as well as good lawyers, there’s nothing to shore up.”

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