Philip Abelson, left, and David Turetsky
Philip Abelson, left, and David Turetsky (Courtesy photos)

White & Case is bulking up its restructuring practice, adding partners Philip Abelson from Proskauer Rose and David Turetsky from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, amid increasing work in cross-border restructuring and junior creditor representation.

The firm has traditionally promoted partners to its restructuring and insolvency practice from within, and Abelson and Turetsky are the first lateral partners to join the practice in more than a decade, said global practice head Thomas Lauria.

Lauria said he anticipates hiring more partners to the group within the next few months. The firm represents bondholders, bank lenders, companies, investors and ad hoc and official committees in restructuring matters.

Revenue generated by White & Case’s restructuring and insolvency practice grew by about 30 percent each of the last two years, Lauria said. It has continued to grow this year, said Lauria, who declined to provide specific revenue figures.

Before the new hires, the group counted 10 partners in the United States and 40 associates. “We got to a point where the business has grown so rapidly and consistently,” said Lauria, that “we needed to figure out a way to get more senior leadership to be able to handle our current work load and the work that is in the pipeline.”

Brazilian Boon

One driver has been increased cross-border activity and restructuring work across Latin America—and particularly in Brazil, Lauria said, citing the country’s struggling economy and deflated currency.

“If you look at the 10 largest corporate restructurings in Brazil, White & Case is representing seven or eight of them,” he said. “These are huge very complex matters and we need senior leaders to be able to properly handle them.”

The firm is representing OAS S.A., a Brazilian construction company, and Rede Energia S.A., a Brazilian power producer, in restructurings and in Chapter 15 cases. The firm also represents Oi S.A., one of Brazil’s largest telecommunications companies, in a restructuring, as well as Brazilian sugar and ethanol producer Aralco S.A. and Brazilian auto parts maker Sifco S.A.

Meanwhile, Lauria said, the firm has developed a niche in representing junior creditors that are structurally or contractually subordinate to other creditors in large bankruptcies—”the guys at the bottom of the food chain,” he called them.

“That’s a market that never dies,” Lauria said. “Somebody is always getting the short end of the stick, and that’s when my phone rings.”

As examples, Lauria cited the firm’s work representing an hoc group of unsecured noteholders of Texas Competitive Electric Holdings, a subsidiary of Energy Future Holdings. The firm represented an investor group led by Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan and sports attorney Chuck Greenberg purchasing the Texas Rangers baseball club out of Chapter 11 in August 2010. It is currently representing unsecured noteholders in Caesars Entertainment bankruptcy.

Abelson, 42, spent the last five years at Proskauer after arriving with a group from failing Dewey & LeBoeuf in 2012, including prominent bankruptcy lawyer Martin Bienenstock. Abelson, who has represented both debtors and creditors, said he saw growth opportunities for the White & Case group and his own practice.

Abelson’s Chapter 11 representations have included Caesars Entertainment, NewPage, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Adelphia Business Solutions and Wellman Inc.

Turetsky, 40, has spent the last 15 years at Skadden, including the last seven years as a partner. He said he has focused primarily on debtor representations, including Chapter 11 cases and out-of-court restructurings. Turetsky said he was attracted by the diversity of representations involving White & Case and by its role in prominent cases, adding the firm “gives me the best opportunity to have the largest role on the greatest matters of consequence in the industry.”

He has handled restructurings involving DSW Group, Savient Pharmaceuticals, Spectrum Brands, W.R. Grace and others.

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