Joel Sanders, the longtime Dewey & LeBoeuf chief financial officer, has a new job with Fort Lauderdale-based Greenspoon Marder.
Sanders, who functioned as a member of Dewey’s ruling triumvirate in the years leading up to the firm’s high-profile demise, assumed the same post at Greenspoon about six weeks ago, according to Greenspoon co-managing shareholder Michael Marder. Sanders is in the process of relocating to South Florida from New York and will work at the firm’s headquarters, Marder said.
Confirming the firm hired Sanders, Greenspoon executive director David Lane said the firm, which has about 140 lawyers, was eager to expand its finance office after its late-2011 acquisition of the remnants of Ruden McClosky, a Fort Lauderdale-based firm that went bankrupt in November amid a stream of partner departures hastened by the collapse of South Florida’s real estate market.
Emerging as the lone bidder in an auction for Ruden — a rare example of a failed law firm attracting a buyer — Greenspoon paid the estate $5.8 million in exchange for assuming $2 million of its liabilities and taking on 140 refugees from the failed firm. By the time Ruden filed for bankruptcy, its attorney head count had dwindled to 66.
The acquisition made Greenspoon, which had gross revenue of $82 million in 2011 and $58 million in 2010, 11th on the Daily Business Review’s list of leading Florida law firms by head count.
Marder, who co-founded the firm in 1981, said Greenspoon hired Sanders following a nationwide search led by an undisclosed recruiting firm. In his new role, Sanders is responsible for overseeing the firm’s entire finance operation. Among those who report directly to him is former Greenspoon finance head Kathryn Bates, who is now the director of finance.
Lane and Marder said they view Sanders’ Dewey experience in a positive light.
“We thought he could teach us some things” about how large firms do business, Lane said. Even with the firm’s recent growth, Greenspoon’s operations are still confined to Florida. The firm’s lawyers — who focus on finance and transactional work, banking, and litigation matters — are spread across 11 offices.
Dewey, which filed for bankruptcy protection May 28, had more than 1,000 lawyers in 26 offices around the world at its peak. It did not have an office in Florida.
“We had to put everything in the proper context. We had to understand the dynamics. We had to look at his career and all of the depth of his experience as opposed to one thing that we don’t believe defined his abilities,” Marder said.
Sanders could not be reached for comment by deadline.
So far, the fallout from Dewey’s implosion has not ensnared Sanders, whose former subordinate Frank Canellas stayed on as part of the team winding down the bankrupt firm’s operations. Attorneys at Hughes Hubbard & Reed are representing Sanders’ interests in the Chapter 11 proceedings, as well as those of Dewey’s former executive director Stephen DiCarmine and former chairman Steven Davis.
The three have been relatively quiet in the proceedings, with the exception of Davis contesting a motion that said he had a contract with the firm. The bankruptcy court removed Davis’s name from a list — which also named Sanders and DiCarmine — of contracts to be rejected.
Court filings show that in the year leading up to the firm’s collapse, Sanders and DiCarmine took home $2.9 million in salary, bonuses and expense reimbursements.
Marder would not comment on how much Greenspoon is paying Sanders.
Dewey’s advisers have suggested in court filings that they plan to sue Davis, DiCarmine and Sanders, none of whom was included in a proposed settlement agreement that, if approved by creditors and the bankruptcy court, would bring the estate more than $72 million from former firm partners in exchange for releasing them from Dewey-related liability.
Marder describes the possibility that Sanders could wind up legally mired in the Dewey bankruptcy as “just facts of life that you deal with as they arise.”
Sanders, who has a law degree, came to Dewey through predecessor firm LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, which he joined in 2000. LeBoeuf merged with Dewey Ballantine seven years later. Earlier in his career, he worked for a decade at Time Warner, Marder said.
South Florida is not unfamiliar territory to Sanders. Marder said Sanders has a home in the area and has chosen to relocate. Property records list Sanders, his wife and DiCarmine as the owners of a two-bedroom condominium at 1100 West Ave. on the Intracoastal Waterway in Miami Beach purchased in 2007 for $1 million.