When former Dewey & LeBoeuf partner Stephen Horvath III took on a leading role in the Dewey bankruptcy as the firm sought Chapter 11 protection in May 2012, he expected the assignment to last three months.
But winding down a firm as large as Dewey—and untangling finances as messy as the firm’s had become by the time it collapsed—wound up consuming considerably more time. Now, 16 months after the firm went under and with the bulk of his responsibilities related to the Dewey bankruptcy estate concluded, Horvath can finally move on. Against that backdrop, he is set to join Greenberg Traurig’s London office as a shareholder Tuesday.
At Greenberg, Horvath will be reunited with many former Dewey colleagues, including Frank Adams in London and a group of shareholders in Warsaw with whom Horvath says he has worked for a dozen years. Greenberg’s hire of 50 Dewey lawyers in mid-May 2012 established a Poland office for the firm, its first location in Eastern Europe.
Horvath became acquainted with Greenberg leadership before Dewey’s demise, after he was installed as the firm’s executive partner amid a spate of lateral defections and Greenberg emerged as one of several potential merger partners that firm leaders spoke to in an attempt to stave off collapse. When his work on the bankruptcy finally slowed enough this summer to begin seeking a new professional home, Horvath began speaking to Greenberg about making a move of his own.
Horvath says he expects to resume handling corporate and M&A work as he did at Dewey, but is open to other areas of Greenberg’s practice, including corporate finance. “Practicing is like riding a bike; once you’re good at it, you don’t forget how to do it,” he says, adding that he has gained the perspective of a client after working with Dewey’s outside counsel on the bankruptcy.
In a statement announcing the hire, Paul Maher, cochair of Greenberg’s global mergers and acquisitions group and chairman of Greenberg Traurig Maher—the name under which the firm operates in the U.K.—welcomed Horvath to the firm: “We are excited to have Steve’s broad experience in complex cross-border transactions across many European jurisdictions to add strength and further depth to our London office corporate team.”
After it became clear that Dewey was nearing dissolution in May 2012, Horvath and general counsel Janis Meyer agreed to stay on to serve as the firm’s dissolution committee. “Janis and I were willing to do it because it was the right thing to do,” Horvath says. Once the bankruptcy began, Horvath and Meyer became conduits to Dewey’s outside legal and restructuring advisers. Court records show that, at least for the first several months, a total of $58,000 was set aside each week to pay the duo’s salaries.
For the first several months of the bankruptcy, Horvath and Meyer—working with Dewey’s lead bankruptcy lawyer, Al Togut of Togut, Segal & Segal, and chief restructuring officer, Joff Mitchell of Zolfo Cooper—spent much of their time trying to persuade former Dewey partners to sign on to a settlement plan that proved to be the linchpin of the bankruptcy. “We worked very hard, all day and all night for seven days a week,” Horvath says. “And we got it done.”
Once that $70 million deal won partner, and, ultimately, court, approval, Dewey’s advisers finalized a Chapter 11 liquidation plan. That plan took effect in March, at which point Horvath says he helped with the transition as new advisers took over the day-to-day management of the trust.
The bankruptcy assignment kept him primarily in New York, where he bounced between hotels, and away from his family in London. “Living out of a suitcase is not a life to be recommended to anybody,” Horvath says. A Chicago native, Horvath moved to Europe in 1996, opening a London office for Hunton & Williams three years later. In 2002, he and a group from Hunton lateraled to what was then Dewey Ballantine, which merged with LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae in 2007 to become Dewey & LeBoeuf.
Reflecting on Dewey’s collapse, Horvath says: “It was devastating, it’s a terrible thing that happened. A lot of good people got hurt. . . . We didn’t have a lot of time to sit back and think about how bad it was, because there was always something else that had to be done.”