On September 15, 2008, the largest bankruptcy case in history began when lawyers from Weil, Gotshal & Manges filed a Chapter 11 petition on behalf of client Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan.
Lehman retrospectives were all the rage this week amid the fifth anniversary of the now-defunct investment bank’s stunning collapse, which Weil bankruptcy bigwig Harvey Miller has called a " tragic error" on the part of government regulators who in his mind allowed the financial services giant to fail.
Weil and Miller’s work putting together the Lehman bankruptcy in record time was the subject of a December 2008 feature story in The American Lawyer. Since then the firm has reaped roughly $500 million from its work in the Lehman case, according to a recent report by Bloomberg, and Miller and other key players in the bank’s massive Chapter 11 case have been busy making the media rounds this month to discuss some of the ramifications of Lehman’s failure.
Five years on, the Obama administration continues to defend its role handling the aftermath of the 2008 downturn, with Lehman's demise forever changing the bankruptcy landscape. A dip in big bankruptcy cases in New York has some firms like Weil trimming their ranks, according to sibling publication the New York Law Journal, although the firm still remains near the top of The Deal’s latest bankruptcy league tables.
Below are more of the latest recent bankruptcy filings and their lawyers of note. As usual, hourly billing rates are listed when available.
Anchor BanCorp Wisconsin
The Madison-based parent of Anchor Bank filed for bankruptcy in the state’s capital on August 12, listing $2.3 billion in assets against debts of $2.4 billion. New investors have agreed to pump $175 million in new capital into Anchor BanCorp, a rather novel recapitalization that will allow the bank holding company to slash $180 million in debt, according to The New York Times’s DealBook.
William Rubenstein, cohead of the financial institutions group at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, is leading a team from the firm serving as special counsel to Anchor BanCorp that includes corporate restructuring cohead Van Durrer II, financial institutions and enforcement partner Brian Christiansen, tax partner Stuart Finkelstein, and corporate finance partner Michael Zeidel.
A declaration by Durrer states that Skadden has received more than $2.3 million from Anchor BanCorp in the year prior to its bankruptcy case. Skadden was paid a $250,000 general retainer for its services and has agreed to bundled hourly rates of between $840 and $1,220 for partners, $845 to $930 for of counsel, and $365 to $795 for associates, according to court filings.
Rebecca DeMarb ($400 per hour), Jerome Kerkman ($400), and James Sweet ($500) from Wisconsin firm Kerkman & Dunn are serving as general bankruptcy counsel to Anchor BanCorp. A court filing by the firm states that it has so far been paid $220,000 by the debtor.
Anchor BanCorp’s general counsel is Mark Timmerman, who took a substantial pay cut in 2011 to stick around as the bank’s top in-house lawyer and corporate secretary after stepping down as its president. Duane Morse, a former Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr partner and onetime chief risk and compliance officer at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is an independent member of Anchor BanCorp’s board of directors.
Chatsworth PGA Properties
Elderly assisted living services provider Chatsworth PGA Properties filed for bankruptcy in Delaware on September 19, listing assets of up to $10 million against liabilities ranging from $100 million to $500 million.
M. Blake Cleary, a partner with Delaware’s Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, is listed as lead counsel to the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida–based debtor in its Chapter 11 case. The firm has not yet filed billing statements with the bankruptcy court.
San Francisco–based Ecotality became the latest electric vehicle maker to hit the skids this week, filing for bankruptcy in Phoenix on September 16. The company, which has received roughly $100 million in loans from the U.S. Department of Energy over the past four years, plans to auction off its assets.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld restructuring partners Charles Gibbs, David Simonds, and counsel Arun Kurichety are serving as general bankruptcy counsel to Ecotality, which is also being advised at the local level by Jared Parker ($465) and Lawrence Hirsch ($450) of Phoenix-based Parker Schwartz.
Kevin Cameron, a former attorney at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd & Evans, and former Arizona state senator and law school graduate E. Slade Mead are independent members of Ecotality’s board. Ecotality’s general counsel is Martin Felli, a former in-house attorney at Clear Channel.
In August, reports began circulating about financial problems at Ecotality, which has invested $99.8 million in government funds into building electric vehicle charging stations as part of the Energy Department–backed EV Project. The Deal reported this week that the Energy Department is poised to auction off a $168 million loan to Fisker Automotive, another troubled electric car company.
In May, electric carmaker Coda Holdings tapped White & Case and Fox Rothschild to handle its own bankruptcy case, which concluded in July when the company was sold out of Chapter 11 to a consortium led by Fortress Investment Group.
The publisher of adult magazine Penthouse slipped into bankruptcy in Delaware on September 17, laying bare $465.3 million in assets against debts of nearly $662 million. Formerly known as PMGI Holdings, FriendFinder Networks owns a variety of online dating and adult websites in addition to its famous lad mag, which it absorbed in 2007.
But an unsuccessful $210 million bid to buy archrival Playboy and stiff competition from a bevy of free online adult entertainment options helped send Penthouse to the poorhouse. The magazine, which was founded in 1965 by the late Bob Guccione, has even let the occasional lawyer grace its pages.
Now it will be up to a team of lawyers led by Greenberg Traurig bankruptcy of counsel Dennis Meloro in Delaware to help put FriendFinder on firmer financial footing. The Boca Raton, Florida–based company hopes to exit Chapter 11 proceedings by early next year as a privately held entity, no pun intended. (Earlier this week Greenberg Traurig advised two investors on their successful $41.5 million purchase of the Versace mansion at a bankruptcy auction in Miami.)
Akerman Senterfitt, which advised FriendFinder on an initial public offering back in 2011, is serving as special counsel and conflicts counsel to the debtor. Neither Akerman nor Greenberg Traurig has yet filed billing statements with the bankruptcy court. (An SEC filing related to FriendFinder’s IPO two years ago shows it yielded $7.3 million in legal fees and expenses.)
Former Greenberg Traurig and Kutak Rock partner David Geller serves as general counsel for FriendFinder, while the company’s CFO is former Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal associate Ezra Shashoua. Robert Bell, a founder of New York’s Bell, Kalnick, Beckman, Klee & Green, is a member of the company’s board. Bell’s son, Marc Bell, is a former CEO of FriendFinder and current chairman of the board.
Marc Bell bought a stake in Penthouse during the publication’s last stint in Chapter 11 a decade ago, which led to litigation with Guccione. Under the terms of a restructuring plan announced this week, Bell will retain a small ownership interest in FriendFinder as the company seeks to refinance its long-term debt.
Furniture Brands International
Leading U.S. home furnishings manufacturer Furniture Brands International filed for bankruptcy in Delaware on September 9 under a plan to sell itself to private equity firm Oaktree Capital Management in a $166 million deal. Furniture Brands lists $546.7 million in assets against debts of $550.1 million in its Chapter 11 case.
Paul Hastings bankruptcy and restructuring partners Leslie Plaskon ($1,025) and Luc Despins ($1,100) are leading a team from the firm advising St. Louis–based Furniture Brands that includes private equity partner Amit Mehta ($825), employment partner J. Mark Poerio, tax partner Philip Marzetti, finance and restructuring of counsel James Grogan III ($925) and Robert Winter, and corporate of counsel Marc Carmel and Sanjay Thapar ($895). Court records show that Paul Hastings associates are billing the debtor $350–$815 an hour.
In the year leading up to Furniture Brands’s bankruptcy case, Paul Hastings received nearly $2.9 million in fees and expenses, according to a declaration by Grogan, which notes that Paul Hastings has “received a consent and conflict waiver from Oaktree” due to his firm’s previous work for Oaktree. Furniture Brands paid $200,000 in August to formally retain Paul Hastings as its Chapter 11 counsel, according to a copy of the firm’s engagement letter.
Young Conaway’s Cleary ($650) is serving as local bankruptcy counsel to Furniture Brands. The firm has so far received more than $124,000 in payments from the debtor, according to court filings. Young Conaway attorneys are billing between $285 and $975 per hour for their services. (Last year Furniture Brands hired Meredith Graham as its chief administrative officer, general counsel, and corporate secretary.)
Kirkland & Ellis restructuring partners Patrick Nash Jr. and Ross Kwasteniet are advising longtime client Oaktree on its bid to acquire the assets of Furniture Brands. Former Munger, Tolles & Olson partner Todd Molz serves as a managing director and general counsel for Oaktree, which he joined in 2006.
The Los Angeles–based buyout shop is well-stocked with Am Law 100 talent. Former Munger Tolles partner John Frank serves as managing principal, director, and executive officer for Oaktree. Robert Denham, who has spent the past 20 years as a partner at Munger Tolles after serving as chairman of investment bank Salomon Brothers, is a director at Oaktree.
Jay Wintrob, who began his career at O’Melveny & Myers, is an independent director at Oaktree. Another former O’Melveny attorney, Bruce Karsh, made the Forbes list of 400 richest Americans this month as a result of his role as president, principal, and director at Oaktree. Fellow Oaktree principal and director Stephen Kaplan was once a bankruptcy partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Oaktree is entitled to a $6 million breakup fee and the reimbursement of expenses should it be beaten out in an auction for Furniture Brands assets like Broyhill, Drexel Heritage, Lane Venture, and Thomasville, according to The Deal, which noted last month that the process could likely include few suitors.
Oaktree also teamed up this week with Centerbridge Partners on a $542 million financial rescue package for ailing Australian surfwear company Billabong International. The two private equity firms, which are being advised by leading local shop Gilbert + Tobin on the deal, will get a 34 percent stake in Billabong, which is being advised by top Aussie firm Allens.
Irish Bank Resolution Corp.
The Am Law Daily reported earlier this year on the bevy of Am Law 100 and global firms reaping the benefits from advising various Irish government entities in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
The crash of Ireland’s real estate-driven economy put a serious dent in the country’s banking sector. The government’s nationalization of Anglo Irish Bank resulted in the 2011 creation of the Dublin-based Irish Bank Resolution Corp., which filed for Chapter 15 protection in Delaware on August 26.
KPMG restructuring partner Kieran Wallace in Dublin is serving as special liquidator for the IBRC, which lists more than $1 billion in debts and assets.
Skadden’s Durrer, Linklaters insolvency partner Paul Hessler and counsel Robert Trust, and partner Mark Collins and counsel Jason Madron from Delaware’s Richards, Layton & Finger are advising the IBRC in Chapter 15 proceedings. The firms have not yet filed billing statements with the bankruptcy court.