Kirkland, Shearman, Simpson Thacher, DLA: Business of Law

Jeffrey C. Hammes has been re-elected as chairman of Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s global management executive committee. Hammes became chairman in 2010, and his second three-year term will start in February 2013.

During Hammes’s first term, the firm opened a new office in Shanghai in 2010 and expanded through the addition of lateral partners.

Last August, the firm hired eight new partners from U.S. and U.K. rivals in Hong Kong as part of a plan to more than double its lawyers in Asia. The new hires included Nick Norris, Dominic Tsun and Li-Chien Wong, who joined from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; David Zhang, Benjamin Su and John Otoshi from Latham & Watkins LLP; and Ashley Young and Douglas Murning from Allen & Overy LLP. The firm now has 55 lawyers in Asia.

Kirkland also went on a real estate lawyer hiring spree last year, adding more than seven high profile real estate lateral partners from May to July. The firm hired three other partners with real estate-related experience around the same time as well.

Last July, Daniel Perlman and Jeffrey Rheeling joined from Paul Hastings LLP in Chicago, where Perlman was the vice chairman of the global real estate practice. The same month, the firm hired Andrew D. Small and Rachel S. Brown in Chicago, previously partners of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP. Small was the co-chairman of Katten’s Chicago real estate practice.

In May, Scott Berger, Jonathan Schechter and Andrew Shiner joined the New York office from White & Case LLP, where Berger was the head of the global real estate practice.

Kirkland also hired corporate and securities lawyer Edward Schneidman and tax attorney William Levy from Mayer Brown LLP’s as well as private-funds lawyer Kelly Ryan. All three have real- estate related practices and joined the Chicago office.

Prior to his tenure as chairman of the global management executive committee, Hammes led the opening of the Hong Kong office in 2006. He also was a founding partner of the San Francisco office, which opened in 2003, and the Palo Alto office, which opened in 2008.

Hammes has concentrated his practice on structuring and negotiating complex business transactions including mergers, acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, private transactions and private-equity compensation and governance matters. Clients include Bain Capital Partners LLC and Golden Gate Capital, according to his web biography.

Kirkland & Ellis is a 1,500-attorney law firm with 10 offices in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

Deals

Best Buy Founder Offers to Buy Chain for Up to $26 a Share

Best Buy Co. (BBY) founder Richard Schulze, who stepped down as chairman in June, offered to take the electronics retailer private at $24 to $26 a share. The stock had the biggest gain in almost a decade.

Shearman & Sterling LLP is representing Schulze while is advising Best Buy.

The Shearman & Sterling team includes New York partners Creighton Condon, Christa D’Alimonte, and Eliza Swann on mergers and acquisitions. Stuart Baskin and Jaculin Aaron assisted on litigation and Joshua Thompson on finance.

From Simpson Thacher, corporate partners Dick Beattie, Alan Klein and Glenn Reiter are helping Best Buy.

Credit Suisse Group AG, Schulze’s financial adviser, is confident it can obtain financing for an offer, according to a letter sent to the board yesterday. The offer is at least 36 percent more than Best Buy’s closing price Aug. 3, and the midpoint of the range gives the company an equity value of $8.5 billion.

Schulze, who held more than 20 percent of Best Buy as of June, plans to contribute $1 billion in equity from that stake, the letter shows. The rest of the money will come from what the letter calls “premier private-equity firms with deep experience in retail who are interested in a possible acquisition of Best Buy” and debt financing. The Richfield, Minnesota-based electronics chain had about $1.7 billion in long-term debt as of May 5, according to regulatory filings.

Best Buy confirmed in an e-mailed statement that it had received the letter from Schulze and said its board would consider it “in due course.”

Through a spokesman, Schulze declined to comment on the letter.

For more, click here.

Haslam Agrees to Buy Browns for More Than $1 Billion

Proskauer Rose LLP is advising James Haslam III, a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who has agreed to buy the Cleveland Browns for more than $1 billion, from Randy Lerner, who is advised by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

The Proskauer team is being led by firm chairman Joseph M. Leccese and partner Wayne D. Katz, who both specialize in sports law. They were joined by partners Amanda H. Nussbaum on tax and Steven D. Weinstein on employee benefits, executive compensation and ERISA litigation.

Wachtell Lipton’s team is led by corporate partners Edward D. Herlihy and Lawrence S. Makow.

The transaction, which requires Haslam to sell his minority stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers, is subject to approval by 24 of the NFL’s 32 team owners. The deal should close shortly after owners vote on it, Lerner said. Until then, all senior executives will remain in place.

Haslam, 58, is president of Pilot Travel Centers LLC, the nation’s largest operator of travel centers and truck stops. He is also the brother of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

Lerner, 50, who also owns English Premier League soccer team Aston Villa, took control of the Browns in October 2002 after his father’s death.

The Browns had revenue of $247 million and an operating loss of $2.9 million after the 2010 season, according to Forbes.

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Moves

Corporate Lawyer Joins DLA Piper in Northern Virginia

DLA Piper LLP said Eric Grossman joined the corporate and finance practice as a partner in the Northern Virginia office. He was previously a partner in the business department of Cooley LLP, the firm said.

Grossman focuses his practice on representing technology companies and private equity investors and their portfolio companies in connection with acquisitions, private equity and growth equity and general corporate and securities matters. He works closely with technology companies in cybersecurity, cloud computing, wireless communications and health care information technology.

“Eric has broad experience that will enhance our strong private equity, venture capital and mergers and acquisition capabilities in a key region for technology companies and private equity investors,” Jay Smith, global co-chairman of DLA Piper’s corporate practice, said in a statement.

DLA Piper has 4,200 lawyers in 31 countries and 77 offices in the Americas, the U.K., Continental Europe, Middle East, Asia and Australia.

Barz Joins SNR Denton’s Corporate Practice in New York

SNR Denton LLP announced that Michael R. Barz has joined the firm’s New York office as a partner in its corporate and business transactions practice. Barz joined from DLA Piper LLP, the firm said.

Barz concentrates his practice on domestic and international infrastructure financings utilizing public, project, leveraged lease and other structured finance techniques as well as Islamic finance. During his years in private practice, Barz has represented governments, financial institutions, developers, owners and insurers in the development and financing of a wide variety of assets including sports stadiums and arenas, power plants, petrochemical facilities, toll roads and other infrastructure improvements. Barz has worked on financings for teams such as the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys and the University of Louisville Cardinals.

“Mike Barz is a tremendous complement to the growing global project finance practice we offer clients,’’” Margaret Kavalaris, head of SNR Denton’s corporate and business transactions practice, said in a statement. “His particular strengths in energy and infrastructure in Central Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific is ideally suited to the type of cross-border work that has become the norm in those regions.”

SNR Denton has more than 60 locations worldwide, through offices, associate firms and special alliances across the U.S., the U.K., Europe, the Middle East, Russia and the CIS, Asia Pacific and Africa.

Bankruptcy and Restructuring Shareholder Joins Butzel Long

Andrew D. Shaffer, an attorney who concentrates his practice on bankruptcy and restructuring, has joined the law firm Butzel Long as a shareholder in its New York office. Shaffer was previously a partner at Mayer Brown LLP, the firm said.

He has represented creditors in U.S. bankruptcy proceedings as well as liquidations and rehabilitations of banks, brokers, future commission merchants and insurance companies.

Shaffer has also represented clients on transactional matters including mergers, acquisitions, entity creation and the structure of debt instruments. He counsels clients on the choice of transactional structures that maximize their legal rights and remedies when an obligor becomes subject to bankruptcy or similar proceedings, the firm said.

Butzel Long has 140 attorneys and offices in Michigan, New York City, Washington, Mexico and China.

News

Dewey ‘Wind Down’ Consultants to Complete Their Work by Aug. 31

Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP’s consultants advising the law firm on its liquidation will finish their work on Aug. 31, they said in a federal court filing in Manhattan. Dewey asked them to stay on beyond Aug. 3, when they were due to complete the job, they said.

Dewey failed on May 28 owing more than $225 million to secured lenders, after piling on debt to expand and pay partners.

The team winding down the firm’s bankruptcy has extended the deadline for former partners to sign on to an agreement that would avoid clawback litigation, Reuters said yesterday. The new deadline for the agreement, which asks for 672 former partners to give back $90.4 million, is Aug. 13, according to the wire service.

The case is In re Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, 12-12321, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

N.J. Towns Blame State for Letting Part-Timers Accrue Pensions

Part-time work for the New Jersey towns of Leonia, Saddle Brook and Elmwood Park helped attorney Brian Giblin rack up pension credits worth $33,143 a year, even after a 2007 state law made contractors like him ineligible.

Giblin was among five attorneys singled out in a July 17 audit by Comptroller Matthew Boxer that found 202 people improperly enrolled in the state pension system. The potential cost of retirement payments to those attorneys, engineers and other professionals is at least $1.9 million annually, Boxer said, and probably much more because his office surveyed only 159 of New Jersey’s more than 1,000 towns and school districts.

The audit suggests that New Jersey has more work to do to end pension-system abuses that have contributed to it having $42 billion less in assets than needed to cover promised benefits. Lawmakers banned professionals from the system five years ago after a task force declared the rolls rife with “non- deserving” and “politically well-connected” people. The state has done little to enforce the law.

“Every quarter we’re required to send reports to the pension system,” Karen Chamberlain, Saddle Brook’s mayor, said in a July 27 telephone interview. “They should have been able to pick it up and say, ‘OK, Saddle Brook, here’s a person who’s not supposed to be in, and what are you going to do about it?”

New Jersey’s pension deficit reached $53.9 billion in 2010 after the state expanded benefits and skipped payments over a decade. The gap fell to $36.3 billion after Governor Chris Christie signed bills in 2011 that boosted employee pension and health-care contributions, raised the minimum retirement age for new workers and froze cost-of-living adjustments.

The unfunded liability swelled to $41.8 billion by June 2011 after Christie, a Republican, skipped a $3 billion pension payment. The deficit would have been more than $61 billion without his benefits overhaul, the state treasury estimated. Christie’s budget for this fiscal year included a $1.03 billion payment under a 2010 law that requires the state to phase in full contributions over seven years.

Saddle Brook, 8 miles (13 kilometers) west of New York City with a median household income of about $83,000, pays Giblin $6,516 a year to be its municipal prosecutor. He also is borough attorney in Elmwood Park and Leonia, with annual compensation from those towns of $128,840. All three towns were giving him credits toward a pension, Boxer’s audit found.

Giblin, 56, who lives in Paramus, declined to comment when reached by telephone the day Boxer’s audit was released, saying he hadn’t seen it. He didn’t respond to subsequent messages left at his Oradell private law firm. A reporter who visited the office yesterday seeking comment was told he wasn’t there.

For more, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Amon in Brooklyn, New York, at eamon2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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