Paul Basta is headed to Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, where the former Kirkland & Ellis bigwig will co-chair his new firm’s bankruptcy and corporate reorganization practice.
In July, Basta left Kirkland’s New York office, where he was a member of the firm’s 15-person management committee. He rose to prominence in the bankruptcy world after joining Kirkland at 40 in 2006 from Weil, Gotshal & Manges.
At the time of his departure this summer, Basta did not announce where he was headed, other than to say he was “excited to explore new opportunities ahead of me.”
“We are thrilled to welcome one of the nation’s most accomplished and respected restructuring lawyers to our firm,” said Paul Weiss chairman Brad Karp in a statement. “The addition of Paul enhances the pre-eminence and breadth of our bankruptcy practice and fits squarely into our strategic plan.”
At Kirkland, Basta represented a long list of distressed companies, including most recently Caesars Entertainment Operating Co., which Basta and Kirkland helped steer through a grueling two-year Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Kirkland made more than $70 million for its work in the case.
Other debtor-side restructuring representations under Basta’s belt include: luxury retailer Barneys New York Inc., telecommunications companies Charter Communications Inc. and Global Crossing Inc., aerospace manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft Corp., energy companies Linn Energy LLC, Sabine Oil & Gas Corp. and Samson Resources Corp., Reader’s Digest and supermarket giant The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.
On the creditor side, where Paul Weiss has traditionally done the majority of its bankruptcy work, Basta’s past clients include creditors of Nextel International, Roust Inc. and Six Flags Entertainment Corp.
“We have worked extensively with Paul over the years and admire the quality and depth of his work and his unwavering commitment to clients,” said a statement by Alan Kornberg, the current chair of Paul Weiss’ bankruptcy and corporate reorganization department. “Paul’s broad experience advising debtors, creditors and investors complements our team and further strengthens our diverse restructuring practice.”
For Basta, it is his second high-profile career move. He headed to Kirkland shortly after the brief departure of brand-name bankruptcy partner James Sprayregen in 2006. Sprayregen, who is perennially one of the most active restructuring lawyers in the country, returned to Kirkland in late 2008 after a two-year stint at The Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Basta was recruited at the time by Richard “Rick” Cieri, a then-leading partner of Kirkland’s restructuring practice who retired in early 2015 after a distinguished 35-year career. Two years after Basta joined from Weil, Kirkland lured another bankruptcy partner from the same competitor in Christopher Marcus, who remains a partner at Kirkland in New York.
“I am excited to join Paul Weiss’ world-class bankruptcy practice,” Basta said in a statement. “I have long admired the firm’s team of professionals, as well as their culture and record of success. It is a perfect fit for me.”
For Paul Weiss, Basta will be the second lateral in as many years to lead a major practice group. In April 2016, the firm recruited Cravath, Swaine & Moore dealmaker Scott Barshay to head its global M&A practice from New York. Paul Weiss, no stranger to star lateral hires, also brought on Dechert litigation partner David Bernick in New York last year and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett corporate partner Alvaro Gomez de Membrillera Galiana in London earlier this year.
As for Kirkland, its bankruptcy group is still humming. The firm recently picked up a lead role representing struggling toy retailer Toys R Us Inc. in its bankruptcy case, while also disclosing in court papers that it had received $47.5 million within the past year from Seadrill Ltd., a Bermuda-based offshore driller that sought Chapter 11 protection in September.