Alitalia Jet
Alitalia Jet (wikimedia)

A pair of recent lateral hires by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have helped the Magic Circle firm swoop in for a lead role on the bankruptcy of Alitalia SpA. The ailing Italian airline sought Chapter 15 protection Monday in the Southern District of New York.

Freshfields bankruptcy partners Madlyn Primoff and Scott Talmadge are advising Alitalia in its U.S. restructuring, which comes a little more than a month after the company filed for bankruptcy in Italy. The U.S. bankruptcy proceeding seeks to safeguard Alitalia’s assets in this country as it prepares to sell itself abroad.

Neither Primoff nor Talmadge responded to requests for comment about their work on behalf of Alitalia. Both lawyers joined Freshfields in April with colleague Mark Liscio, having previously worked together at Kaye Scholer. Earlier this year, Kaye Scholer agreed to merge with Arnold & Porter and form Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer.

Liscio, Primoff and Talmadge joined Kaye Scholer in 2005 from Clifford Chance, which at the time was still digesting a mega-merger from a few years prior with New York’s Rogers & Wells. Clifford Chance advised Alitalia on its $2.35 billion sale in 2014 of a 49 percent stake in itself to Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Etihad Airways, which turned to DLA Piper for outside counsel on the deal.

Etihad also turned to DLA Piper in 2013 to advise on its $379 million purchase of a 24 percent stake in India’s Jet Airways Ltd. DLA Piper was the firm tapped in May by Etihad-backed Alitalia to handle its Italian restructuring. Former DLA Piper partner Matteo Mancinelli, who advised on Alitalia’s negotiations with Etihad, became the airline’s general counsel in early 2015.

Alitalia, which has long history of financial problems, has continued operations despite its administration in Italy, although the company now faces certain payment deadlines in the U.S. in order to preserve its access to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Alitalia states in court documents that U.S. flights make up about 30 percent of its global revenue.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane in Manhattan is presiding over Alitalia’s Chapter 15 case. Freshfields, which has been counseling Etihad this year as it examines strategic options for its stake in Air Berlin plc, has not yet filed billing statements with the bankruptcy court detailing its work on behalf of Alitalia. Primoff, the Freshfields lawyer handling the case with Talmadge and senior associate Scott Eisman, once had the unfortunate experience of becoming one of the first individuals to go viral on Twitter.

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