Seeking to fill a void left by the recent retirement of former practice co-leader D.J. “Jan” Baker, Latham & Watkins has hired O’Melveny & Myers partner George Davis in New York to serve as the new global co-chair of its restructuring, insolvency and workouts practice.
Latham, which recently broke the $3 billion mark for gross revenue in 2017, lands Davis almost five years after he headed to O’Melveny & Myers from Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, where he led that firm’s financial restructuring practice with former colleague John Rapisardi. Davis said that Rapisardi, who moved with him to O’Melveny & Myers, will remain as co-chair of that firm’s global restructuring practice, a role that Davis until recently also used to hold.
A spokeswoman for O’Melveny & Myers, which on Monday announced its hire of corporate partner Li Han in Hong Kong, wished Davis well in his future endeavors. O’Melveny & Myers said earlier this month that its gross revenue had remained mostly flat in 2017, at $738 million, while profits per equity partner rose slightly to nearly $2.1 million. At Latham, equity partner profits hit nearly $3.3 million in 2017.
Davis credited Latham’s capital markets, M&A and international platform as attracting him to the firm. He declined to discuss the name of the legal recruiter who helped broker his move to Latham but did say the firm began recruiting him late last year. He will now co-head a practice group at Latham with current business reorganizations and restructuring co-chair Mitchell Seider in New York, who joined the firm in 2004 from Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel.
Latham, whose rapid expansion and financial growth within the past two decades has helped separate the firm from the rest of the Am Law 100 pack, will install Davis in a practice leadership role previously held by Baker, a veteran bankruptcy lawyer who joined the firm in 2009 from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Baker, now listed as a retired partner on Latham’s website, switched to an of counsel role at the firm in 2017 but has remained active in certain matters.
In mid-January, Baker was one of three individuals tapped to serve as independent managers for the Sherman Oaks, California-based Woodbridge Group of Cos., a real estate developer that filed for bankruptcy in December. (Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Delaware’s Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor and Los Angeles-based Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern are serving as bankruptcy counsel to Woodbridge, which the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has accused of being a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme.)
In moving to Latham nearly a decade ago, Baker sought to transition the firm’s bankruptcy and restructuring practice to more lucrative debtors’ side work, a process that Davis said he expects will continue, although he noted that Latham will continue to do work for both debtors and creditors in bankruptcy court. Davis’ own practice has involved doing work on both sides of the bankruptcy ledger, although his most high-profile assignments have been on behalf of public and private companies finding themselves in Chapter 11. In recent years, Davis has taken the lead on bankruptcy cases for California-based power producer La Paloma Generating Co. and gun manufacturer Colt Defense.
Davis said he was handling eight restructuring engagements at O’Melveny & Myers, which he declined to name, but noted that it would be up to individual clients to determine whether or not they would continue to work with him at Latham.
His move to Latham occurs nearly 10 years to the day that a former team Davis was a part of at Cadwalader was busy preparing Bear, Stearns & Co. for a potential bankruptcy filing ahead of its eventual fire sale to JPMorgan Chase & Co., a transaction that shook up the structure of Wall Street’s leading law firms. Davis joined Cadwalader in March 2007 as part of a high-profile lateral move from Weil, Gotshal & Manges, where he began his legal career in 1990.
Asked about the current state of the bankruptcy market, Davis said that a strong economy and low default rate have business insolvencies at record lows, although the number of cases for struggling corporate clients in the retail and oil and gas sectors continues to be strong.
Davis is the latest in a series of lateral hires by Latham so far this year and the firm’s second addition to its bankruptcy practice in recent weeks.
In early February, the firm welcomed aboard Sidley Austin restructuring partner Jeffrey Bjork in Los Angeles. That move came after Latham brought aboard Alston & Bird’s International Trade Commission litigation chief Jamie Underwood in Washington, D.C., DLA Piper global board member and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in Madrid, Hogan Lovells litigation and dispute resolution partners Jon Holland and Andrea Monks in London, Kirkland & Ellis capital markets partner Benjamin Su in Hong Kong and McDermott Will & Emery tax controversy co-chair Jean Pawlow in Silicon Valley and the nation’s capital.
Latham has also seen two notable partner defections so far this year.
Christopher Brearton, a former O’Melveny & Myers entertainment industry partner and head of the firm’s office in Century City, California, who joined Latham in late 2014, recently left the firm to become COO of movie studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Kirkland also raided Latham last month for Jennifer Perkins, the former co-head of Latham’s global private equity practice.