Legal Business

With one hand they give… Greenberg promotes Maher but the name goes in London

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It was an unusual gesture when Greenberg Traurig put Paul Maher’s name in the title of its London practice, even for one of the City’s best known deal lawyers, but the Florida-bred giant has confirmed that it is dropping Maher from its City brand.

The move comes in a governance shake-up that sees Maher elevated to global vice chair at Greenberg Traurig. Maher, who had quit a senior role at his nearly namesake Mayer Brown to launch the US firm’s London arm in 2009 under the name Greenberg Traurig Maher, takes on one of three new vice chair roles. The new management roles were created earlier in the year, when Brian Duffy replaced Richard Rosenbaum as chief executive, but had not been filled until now. Rosenbaum moved to executive chairman on 1 January 2016.

Maher – regarded as one of the City’s most driven deal lawyers – told Legal Business: ‘It’s time. It lasted longer than I thought it would. It was a transitional thing. It was my decision and it’s the right decision. I’ve got my name back!’

Greenberg said in a statement that the name change is ‘intended to emphasise the unified and collaborative nature of the firm in today’s world’.

The changes follow Greenberg Traurig’s annual mid-year leadership meeting, and see Maher’s fellow co-chair of the global corporate and securities practice, Patricia Menéndez-Cambó, and New York litigation chair Richard Edlin also made global vice chairs.

Rosenbaum said: ‘When we created the executive chairman role, we contemplated adding vice chairs who would assist with the firm’s strategic direction as well as high-level selling and recruiting, while they continue to lead their busy legal practices.’

The tweaks in London come after Greenberg held much-publicised merger talks with Berwin Leighton Paisner earlier this year, which were abandoned. Greenberg currently has nearly 50 lawyers based in London.

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Comment: The tiger that came to eat BLP’s culture for breakfast and other sorry tales

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These are tough times for another house that Stanley Berwin built, with exhibit B being the acrimonious end of merger talks between Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and Greenberg Traurig. While the practice fit between the two looked both convincing and distinctive, these were two firms with plenty of strong characters.

Summing up the prospect of the proposed deal recently, Legal Business noted that proceeding with a union would be holding ‘the proverbial tiger by the tail’. So it quickly proved, as on 16 March the pair officially called time on the discussions amid some discontent from the US firm, which was unhappy at the messages being put out by BLP at the end of the talks.

It was the US firm that walked away, in part because it saw the merger as too heavily weighted towards real estate, but there was a more personal breakdown in chemistry as well. This dynamic was amplified in a 538-word statement issued by Greenberg’s executive chair Richard Rosenbaum, which aside from noting that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ drowned its former suitor in faint praise beyond some warm words for BLP’s real estate team.

The US firm subsequently indicated it was generally unimpressed with BLP’s management and handling of the talks. It was a substantial break from the well-established protocols for bland post-talks flannel law firms usually adhere to. But given the iconoclastic, thrusting style for which Greenberg is well known, such an outcome was hardly a shock.

The bigger issue for BLP is where to go from here. Not because merger talks with one suitor went nowhere – that’s just business – but because the firm has committed itself to a real estate-heavy strategy that looks very hard to execute without a US merger and because BLP is still an institution uncomfortable in its skin.

What was once one of the most assured mid-tier players in the City – indeed, through the 2000s BLP was one of the most influential law firms outside the Magic Circle – has been beset by conflicting views and factions since its troubled 2012/13 year. The use of guaranteed pay deals for lateral hires has now taken on a symbolic weight beyond all proportion to its historic use at the firm for those who see the tactic as evidence of an ‘us and them’ culture.

While financial performance has more than stabilised in the last two years, it’s not apparent that has been enough to heal its divisions or how credible it is to regroup around real estate once again after more than a decade of talking up its transactional business.

BLP has a lot going for it still but so do many other major UK law firms that have spent the last ten years drifting unhappily. BLP made its reputation by standing out during the 2000s against a backdrop of underwhelming City peers.

It is now competing against a range of mid-pack players that are some of the strongest performers in the UK. It will need to find a message to galvanise the whole firm.

alex.novarese@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

‘Not enough common ground’ – BLP and Greenberg call off transatlantic merger bid

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It promised to create a property and disputes giant across the Atlantic and one of the most distinctive law firms in the global market but in the end the mooted union between Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and Greenberg Traurig has been called off.

The talks, which the pair confirmed in February, had enjoyed substantial support in BLP’s muscular real estate practice and had been cited as a means of the City firm achieving its strategy of being the world’s leading property and infrastructure adviser.

BLP managing partner Lisa Mayhew confirmed to Legal Business on Wednesday (16 March) that the merger discussions had ended. Mayhew (pictured) commented: ‘There was no one single thing. There was enough there to warrant proper consideration but in the final analysis there just wasn’t enough common ground to progress the conversation further.’

A deal would have created a firm with 2,700 lawyers and revenues of over a £1bn. Both firms had already made it clear that a deal would have involved full financial integration, which would have led to challenges over unifying their accounting and compensation systems.

There is a gap in profitability between the two firms. PEP at Greenberg stood at $1.424m in 2014, against £661,000 ($1.090m) for the UK firm’s 2014-15 year.

However, Mayhew said that the challenge of putting together Greenberg’s more individualistic partner pay model with BLP’s modified lockstep was not the deal-breaker, adding: ‘There wasn’t one single killer issue.’

However, Greenberg has said that it ultimately walked away from a merger because of its belief that ‘culture eats strategy for lunch’ and its ‘conservative approach to financial risk’.

In a statement, executive chairman Richard Rosenbaum said: ‘Greenberg Traurig is a substantially larger and more diversified firm than BLP. We therefore maintain much broader practice priorities. The core real estate practice which first attracted us is indeed impressive, as are other BLP practices, and we have a great deal of respect for the firm as a whole. Real estate is, of course, a core practice and one of our strongest brands, along with litigation and corporate (M&A, private equity, capital markets, finance), which are our largest areas… For Greenberg Traurig, it was quite exciting to enhance our practices, but not at the risk of materially diluting our cultural, financial and other priorities. This is what our diligence has been all about.’

‘After spending a substantial amount of personal time on this opportunity, visiting nearly every location and meeting so many fine BLP partners, I must admit to some regret in this decision.  But in the final analysis, we are a business. However exciting, we do not grow for growth’s sake and we do not ‘fall in love’ with a story or act on emotion; we run a disciplined operation, and will continue to run it and achieve our stated goals for the benefit of the many families who are dependent on us every day.  We have added many shareholders, practices and offices in the last months and years and must intensely focus on integration and execution, including our continued build-out of a first class London office of an appropriate size in today’s world and the number one global real estate practice.’

The end of the talks leave the thorny strategic issue for BLP of whether to pursue another substantive tie-up in the US as some partners believe the UK law firm should do. Mayhew said BLP retains an open mind on the point but was committed to its ambitious strategy.

alex.novarese@legalease.co.uk

For further comment on the pitfalls hampering merger discussions between BLP and Greenberg Traurig, see Merging BLP and Greenberg Traurig – unique, compelling, bloody difficult

Legal Business

Comment: Merging BLP and Greenberg Traurig – unique, compelling, bloody difficult

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In the age of the anodyne corporate law firm, you can at least say a marriage of Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and Greenberg Traurig would be a distinct beast. If the talks are successful, it would be the first major international deal built on the foundation of real estate.

It would also be the first financially integrated US/UK tie-up of any consequence for years, given that the pair have ruled out a verein-based semi-merger. Both points look in favour of the marriage: there is a place in the global legal market for a real estate-heavy player and on the evidence of the last five years, the multi-profit centre unions have been indifferent performers.

But putting these two together will be grabbing the proverbial tiger by the tail. Both entrepreneurial and individualistic outfits, there is the additional complication of combining the Greenberg Traurig Maher London operation, itself not short of robust characters. Greenberg has long been regarded as one of the most thrusting major firms in the US, deploying an aggressive lateral hire programme to drive expansion beyond its Florida heartlands. Former chief executive Cesar Alvarez once memorably summed up its no-nonsense culture: ‘Everyone likes to argue about the intangible value that they contribute. But I say: “If you want to be rewarded for intangible value, then there’s a hug – that’s intangible.”‘

Still, Greenberg’s been much less expansive than during the 2000s. The firm launched in London to much fanfare with the recruitment of M&A veteran Paul Maher in 2009, but despite substantial hiring, the practice has yet to challenge bigger firms in the Square Mile. For the five years to the end of the 2010 financial year, Greenberg has hardly been in growth mode, with revenues growing just 8% to $1.27bn, even having absorbed a sizeable team from Dewey & LeBoeuf. After relatively modest progress internationally in recent years, Greenberg did last summer make a well-regarded move with the recruitment of a profitable 14-partner team in Germany from Olswang.

BLP, of course, has faced its own reverses, most notably during a torrid 2012/13 that saw its profitability plummet amid over-expansion and controversial use of guarantees. Scars from that period and a subsequent restructuring have endured and were in evidence in a bruising, factional managing partner contest that saw Lisa Mayhew defeat David Collins last year. While the firm spent much of the 2000s talking up its corporate and banking practices, its real estate practice is now more dominant than ever.

Real estate is unsurprisingly positive about the deal, as is the firm’s disputes practice (litigation is Greenberg’s largest business generator). Some are predicting considerable ructions in BLP’s transactional business if the union goes ahead. Also interesting would be the mood at BLP’s much-touted Lawyers On Demand (LOD), which has just secured its first major deal after last month agreeing a merger with Australian business AdventBalance; the fast-growing LOD has in recent years appeared to want more distance from its parent.

Should the deal not go ahead, BLP is left with the challenge of trying to achieve its current strategy of being the world’s top real estate and infrastructure law firm, an aim that looks near impossible to fulfil without something substantive in the US. Some believe that a US deal is the end game.

However this pans out, for BLP this is a going to be quite a show in the next few years. A BLP/Greenberg merger looks compelling on practice and geographic fit, but this is one deal where the challenge won’t be bridging different cultures – it’s what they have in common.

alex.novarese@legalease.co.uk

 

Legal Business

Strong turnover growth in the City as Greenberg Traurig posts 4% revenue rise ahead of potential BLP merger

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Revenue at Berwin Leighton Paisner’s US suitor – Greenberg Traurig – rose 4% to $1.32bn last year as merger talks edge closer.

Turnover was up by around $50m on the $1.27bn the Miami giant generated in 2014, with profits per equity partner (PEP) rising 4% to $1.475m.

Revenue at Greenberg Traurig Maher, the London arm of US giant Greenberg Traurig, rose 10% to £15.7m in 2015 following a string of blockbuster corporate mandates.

The London office was instructed by engineers GKN on its £499m purchase of acquisition of Netherlands-based Fokker Technologies from private equity house Arle Capital, pest control company Rentokil on its $425m acquisition of US rival Steritech and Nomad Holdings on its €2.6bn deal for Iglo Foods, Europe’s biggest frozen foods business and the company behind the Birds Eye brand.

Around 70% of the London arm’s revenue is self-generated work, largely built around corporate and equity capital markets work, with the rest coming from referrals across the Greenberg network.

London head Paul Maher (pictured), who launched the office in 2009 after arriving from Mayer Brown, told Legal Business: ‘Core to our development has been ECM and M&A. Competition and real estate also had good years. We’re exporting so if we’re doing deals for, say, GKN, half of the work is done elsewhere. As we are run on a cash basis, any work done in Amsterdam goes to Amsterdam.’

Maher added: ‘I wanted to build a 100+ lawyer law firm in London. The team over the first six years has done very well. Organic growth is just as hard as a merger. If, and it’s a big if, we do [merge with BLP] then it’s just the next stage of the journey. We are going to get bigger whatever happens.’

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

BLP targets full financial integration with Greenberg Traurig as merger edges closer

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As City firm Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) closes in on its landmark transatlantic merger with Miami giant Greenberg Traurig, the firms have targeted full financial integration.

While most transatlantic unions between law firms result in Swiss verein structures that separate the profit pools shared out between the two partnerships, BLP’s managing partner Lisa Mayhew (pictured) said a merger between it and Greenberg ‘would be full financial integration’. The talks also include Greenberg Traurig Maher, the US firm’s London arm run by corporate heavyweight Paul Maher.

With merger talks having been ongoing for at least four months, Mayhew has lead the discussions for BLP with Greenberg’s executive chairman Richard Rosenbaum. Should the merger be put to a vote, BLP would require 75% of the partnership to approve the combination.

Mayhew told Legal Business: ‘We’ve set ourselves two main targets. First, we want to be a game-changing law firm. We have a strong history of innovation and we want that to continue and set ourselves apart from the competition in the way we deliver and provide services. Secondly, we’ve set ourselves a target to be the world’s number one real estate and infrastructure firm. BLP is performing well, so we’d only do this merger if it expedited our strategic aims.’

With the US by far the world’s largest legal market, and BLP absent of any presence in the Americas, a tie-up with real estate heavy Greenberg would accelerate that plan.

BLP’s three core sectors, as laid out by Mayhew who undertook a strategic review after taking the top job last spring, are financial services, private wealth and energy and natural resources. The firm’s real estate group, which has driven growth in recent years under the leadership of practice head Chris de Pury, has so far achieved the best penetration among those sectors and is expected to benefit the most from a merger with Greenberg.

Real estate is core to both firms, with the practice contributing around 30% of BLP’s revenue, and Greenberg employing more than 300 property lawyers globally.

Another heavily talked of benefit from the potential merger is the addition of BLP’s well-regarded international disputes team to Greenberg’s team in the States. Despite Greenberg’s disputes practice in the US being its biggest revenue generator, the firm refers all its contentious work outside the US to other firms as it has no overseas disputes presence.

Some of the obstacles to overcome in the merger talks include easing concerns among Greenberg’s US partners that BLP’s London headquarters, home to 600 lawyers, would become the combined firm’s largest office.

The plan for full financial integration is ambitious and creates some issues. A frequent headache in transatlantic law firm merger discussions, Greenberg operates on a cash accounting system favoured by many US law firms, while BLP operates on a more complex accrual basis. The difference is that Greenberg only reports cash when it comes in the door, whereas BLP records cash when it is received but reports in the period the payments relate to.

BLP remains underweight internationally, with around 75% of its lawyers based in the City, whereas Greenberg has 39 offices around the world but has had an uneven impact on the City market since launching in 2009 with the arrival of Maher. Greenberg’s London office has about 50 lawyers.

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

 

Legal Business

‘An absolute match’: Former Mayor Giuliani to join Greenberg Traurig in New York

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Former New York Mayor and the face of Bracewell & Giuliani, Rudolph Giuliani (pictured), is leaving the firm for Greenberg Traurig as the latter firm moves to bolster its crisis management and white collar practices.

Giuliani, who founded Bracewell & Giuliani’s New York office a decade ago, joins Greenberg as global chair of the firm’s cybersecurity and crisis management practice and will become senior adviser to Greenberg executive chairman Richard Rosenbaum.

Rosenbaum said the appointment will bring to the firm Giuliani’s unparalleled experience in all areas of legal problem-solving and crisis management, as well as his unique geopolitical insights.

He added: ‘While many other firms hold on to old business models or follow strategies premised on global growth for growth’s sake, for years we have focused on maintaining our uniquely empowering and collaborative, one-firm culture while delivering elite quality in our core practices along with extraordinary value not possible in traditional elite firms.’

Giuliani said he looked forward to joining a firm which addressed the complex needs of multinational clients.

‘This comes at a time when my practice and Greenberg’s particular focus on cybersecurity and related counseling, investigations and litigation is an absolute match. Data privacy and security risks are on the top of the mind of every chief executive, general counsel and corporate board I speak with, and Greenberg is clearly positioned as a top-tier and highly sophisticated player in this space.’

Greenberg announced Giuliani’s appointment along with the hire of prosecutor Marc Mukasey who will serve as global co-chair of the firm’s white collar defense practice. Mukasey had worked at Bracewell & Giuliani alongside the former mayor for more than a decade, and was recently lead trial counsel for executives in the Countrywide mortgage fraud trial. He has also defended one of the three Nomura executives facing charges over mortgage-backed securities, acted on the Deepwater Horizon blowout and major league baseball steroid investigations.

Meanwhile, Houston-based Bracewell & Giuliani will become Bracewell from now onward. The firm’s managing partner Mark Evans said: ‘Our New York office and our white collar practice will continue to have tremendous leadership through our long-time New York managing partner, Daniel Connolly, who joined the firm with Rudy in 2005, and has substantial prosecutorial experience.’

victoria.young@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Greenberg makes a splash in Europe after two mass summer hires in Berlin and Warsaw

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Greenberg Traurig has made a concerted push into Europe this summer. Having recruited a 12-lawyer real estate team in May from Allen & Overy and Norton Rose Fulbright in Poland, including both firms’ former local real estate heads, in July Greenberg acquired Olswang’s entire Berlin office, comprising a 14-partner team, to launch its first German outpost.

Greenberg’s German base will open its doors on 1 October 2015, as the firm’s fourth European office after London, Amsterdam and Warsaw. The group hire included taking Olswang’s managing partner in Germany, Christian Schede, who will serve as the German managing shareholder for Greenberg, as well as a team that Olswang has been building since it first set up shop in Berlin in 2007. It had hired from Magic Circle firms Linklaters and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to build a practice that was ranked second tier for real estate in The Legal 500.

Legal Business

Going south of the river: Greenberg Traurig Maher set for The Shard as it looks to boost City headcount

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Greenberg Traurig Maher is moving its London offices to the EU’s tallest building, The Shard of Glass, as the firm plans to bulk up its main practice areas in a wider pan-European push.

The US outfit will join a handful of firms with locations outside of the City and Canary Wharf by taking up the eighth floor at The Shard, occupying 20,000 sq ft of space as the firm revisits plans to grow in the City.

According to Paul Maher, chairman of Greenberg’s London office, the larger space accounts for an expected 60% headcount increase in London over the next five years. The London practice will move from its current location on Gray’s Inn Road in April 2016 after the lease expires. The firm will join others in the area including Norton Rose Fulbright, Howard Kennedy and Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co – though Wragges also has an office in Holborn.

‘Our business plan has always been to expand,’ Maher added. ‘We are in the next phase of our business cycle and are currently looking to build out our core practice areas – real estate, corporate and finance.’

In Legal BusinessGlobal London in March, the firm had 47 fee-earners in its City practice – 27% higher than the headcount the previous year. Of the total, 19 were partners. Now, the firm has 21 partners of which nine or 43% are female including co-managing partners Fiona Adams and Cate Sharp, while its practice heads of both finance and antirust are also women.

While gender diversity is high in its London practice, the firm has not met targeted headcount growth since its City launch in 2009 after it announced plans to have over 100 lawyers in three years. Nevertheless, the office did make a notable revenue gain in 2014 with income rising 12% from £13m to £14.5m. The firm has added six new partners to its London office in the last 12 months including the headline-grabbing hire of Slaughter and May tax partner Graham Iversen in October last year – the first partner from the firm to leave for another practice in the City.

Greenberg Traurig also recently made a significant coup as it launched its first office in Germany with the mass hire of Olswang’s 50-strong lawyer team in Berlin – a move which saw the firm take on 14 partners.

jaishree.kalia@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Greenberg Traurig lands Olswang’s Berlin office to open in Germany

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Greenberg Traurig has launched its first office in Germany with the mass hire of Olswang’s 50-strong lawyer team in Berlin.

Some 50 lawyers including 14 partners, with current senior associate Henrik Armah being made up in the move, and all current staff from Olswang’s office joining the US firm in the German capital as its launches its 38th international outpost.

The new German base will open its doors on 1 October 2015, as the firm’s fourth European office after London, Amsterdam and Warsaw. The Berlin-based team focuses on corporate, M&A, finance, and restructuring, and has experience of advising on real estate, technology, telecommunications, media, and infrastructure matters. 

The office hire and launch comes as Greenberg aims to combine the German real estate group with its existing real estate practices in the US and Europe. In Warsaw, Greenberg improved its real estate offering in May this year by bringing in partners from Allen & Overy and Norton Rose Fulbright as part of a 12-lawyer hire.

Christian Schede, who will serve as the German managing shareholder for Greenberg, said: ‘Greenberg Traurig’s award-winning corporate, M&A, real estate, technology, media, and telecoms practices are a perfect fit with our top-ranking German offering. Greenberg Traurig’s entrepreneurial focus, its growth strategy, and its international network enable us and our emerging talent to shape our future.’

Greenberg’s chief executive Richard Rosenbaum added: ‘We waited patiently for years to find the right time, the right place, and especially the right people, and we could not be more pleased with this opportunity. With empowered leadership on the ground, we are confident this will be an important enhancement to the firm’s global platform.’

The news comes after the TMT firm announced in June that 13 equity partners were set to exit the Berlin outpost in a ‘decoupling’ alongside the entire 50-strong lawyer office. At the time, Morrison & Foerster and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, among other firms, were understood to be frontrunners in the race to land the team.

Olswang first opened its Berlin office in 2007 and built its team with hires from Linklaters and Freshfields, a move which included the hire of Schede. The Berlin split relates to ongoing unrest in the firm’s City headquarters which first surfaced after the firm’s former chief executive David Stewart stood down last October. He recently reappeared six months later as a partner at offshore Turks and Caicos firm Griffiths & Partners.

jaishree.kalia@legalease.co.uk