Legal Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal Business

Clifford Chance’s New York office loses corporate duo to Greenberg Traurig

Clifford Chance’s New York office loses corporate duo to Greenberg Traurig

Clifford Chance’s (CC) ambition to build its New York office have suffered a setback with the loss of M&A duo Ivan Presant and Joseph Cosentino to US firm Greenberg Traurig.

Greenberg, has had a particularly busy first half-year for hires and new office launches, and this latest addition will see its New York partner headcount increase to 30 corporate partners.

Both Presant and Cosentino joined the Magic Circle firm in January 2012 from Dewey & LeBoeuf. The move will see Presant return to the firm he left in 2008 for Dewey, having been a partner there since 2004. He originally joined having been an associate at both Sullivan & Cromwell and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. Cosentino became a partner at the now defunct Dewey in 2009 having been there as an associate from 2000.

Presant said: ‘Having now practiced elsewhere, and gained considerable experience in my practice, with clients and in other legal environments, I now see that today’s Greenberg Traurig is the place that will best support the kind of growth I envision personally and professionally in these times.’

Both Cosentino and Presant have worked on a range of corporate work with Cosentino having particular experience in TMT, pharmaceutical, insurance, and energy and utilities sectors.

The hires in New York follow the addition of real estate teams from both Allen & Overy and Norton Rose Fulbright in Warsaw last month with 12 new lawyers joining in a serious bid to grow and integrate its real estate network outside the US.

This came after the firm also launched a new office in Tokyo with a three-partner team from DLA Piper and White & Case at the beginning of the year.

CC voted through changes to its remuneration system last month, to use a more flexible lockstep by stretching the top of its ladder in a bid to retain star partners. The changes will mean leading partners can be moved from 100 points up to either 115 or 130 points while other partners may be brought down from the 100-point plateau to 70 points.

jaishree.kalia@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Greenberg Traurig builds European real estate team with 12-lawyer hire from A&O and Norton Rose

Greenberg Traurig builds European real estate team with 12-lawyer hire from A&O and Norton Rose

In a bid to enhance its real estate offering in Central Europe, Greenberg Traurig last month recruited 12 lawyers to its Warsaw office from Allen & Overy (A&O) and Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF).

Joining Greenberg is A&O’s Warsaw real estate head Radomił Charzyński and NRF’s Warsaw real estate head Agnieszka Stankiewicz. Charzyński brings with him three others, including senior associate Karol Brzoskowski, who becomes a partner at Greenberg, and two senior associates, while Stankiewicz, named a leading individual in The Legal 500 for Polish real estate, brings with her local partner Magdalena Życzkowska-Jóźwiak, one senior associate and five associates.

Legal Business

Targeting Warsaw: Greenberg takes A&O and NRF former Polish real estate heads in 12-lawyer hire

Targeting Warsaw: Greenberg takes A&O and NRF former Polish real estate heads in 12-lawyer hire

Greenberg Traurig has hired real estate teams from both Allen & Overy (A&O) and Norton Rose Fulbright as it bolsters its practice in Warsaw with 12 new lawyers.

In a serious bid to grow and integrate its real estate network outside of the US, Greenberg Traurig has added 12 lawyers to its Warsaw office to create ‘one of the largest and most diversified real estate practices in the region’, according to the firm.

The firm has recruited Norton Rose Fulbright partner and former property team head in Warsaw Agnieszka Stankiewicz. She was named a leading individual in The Legal 500 for Polish real estate and recently advised ING on several major deals in the country. Stankiewicz brings with her local partner Magdalena Życzkowska-Jóźwiak, one senior associate, and five associates.

The firm has also hired A&O’s Radomił Charzyński, counsel and former head of real estate in Warsaw. He brings with him three others including local partner Karol Brzoskowski and two senior associates.

Both Charzyński and Stankiewicz join Greenberg as partners, and will work alongside Warsaw partner and head of the real estate group Marek Grodek. The new additions take Greenberg’s real estate team in Central Europe to a total of 30 lawyers while, with the arrival of the four-partner property team, the Warsaw practice will house 12 partners in total, headed by Jarosław Grzesiak and Lejb Fogelman. The office includes a seven-partner corporate team that covers M&A, private equity and capital markets, and one tax partner.

Grzesiak told Legal Business: ‘When I joined from Dewey & LeBoeuf in 2012, Greenberg had ten lawyers; we now have 80. We are top-tier in M&A but the modern day real estate practice is becoming multi-faceted and now includes capital market and finance aspects. Greenberg is building an international real estate practice and no other firm in Warsaw is stronger in real estate, given our offering in related practices.’

jaishree.kalia@legalease.co.uk