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Foley, Venable, Davis, Weil, Herbert: Business of Law

Foley & Lardner LLP hired labor and employment attorney Jonathan L. Israel in the firm’s sports industry team and labor and employment practice as a partner in the New York office. Israel, who was an assistant general counsel for the National Basketball Association and has represented the New York Jets, was previously a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig LLP, the firm said.

In addition to his sports experience, Israel has provided corporate clients with litigation and counseling services on labor and employment matters, including restrictive covenants and trade secret protection, employment discrimination, wage- and-hour issues and other matters, the firm said.

“As we continue to grow the capabilities of our New York office, Jon’s extensive experience, combined with his deep knowledge of labor and employment law, is an outstanding addition for us on two fronts -- for our nationally prominent labor and employment practice group and for an already strong group of sports attorneys in New York, which includes former Major League Baseball President and Chief Operating Officer Bob DuPuy,” Peter Wang, managing partner of Foley’s New York office, said in a statement.

Foley’s sports practice counts the Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Bucks among its clients, the firm said. Last year, Foley represented Guggenheim Baseball Management in its acquisition of the Dodgers, the firm said.

Foley & Lardner has 900 attorneys in 21 offices in North America, Europe and Asia.

Venable Hires Environmental and Regulatory Team

Environmental and regulatory affairs partner Kathryn Kusske Floyd and of counsel Jay Johnson moved to Venable LLP’s Washington office. Both attorneys, who have practiced together for a decade, were previously at Dorsey & Whitney LLP.

Floyd and Johnson advise companies in the environmental compliance, regulatory and litigation aspects of large infrastructure and development projects. They provide counsel regarding controversial projects that draw attention from regulatory agencies and outside groups threatening litigation or other disruptions, the firm said.

Douglas Green, who heads Venable’s environmental practice group said in a statement that none of the projects the two lawyers have taken on have ever successfully been challenged in court. “That’s an enviable track record, one from which our clients will benefit greatly.”

Venable has seven U.S. offices.

Sheppard Mullin Hires IP Partner in Palo Alto

James W. Soong has joined the Palo Alto, California, office of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP as a partner in the firm’s intellectual property practice group. He was previously at Greenberg Traurig LLP.

Soong counsels clients on worldwide intellectual property strategy, including patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret portfolio procurement and other matters. He advises clients on patent licensing, enforcement and litigation, as well as avoidance strategies, the firm said.

Sheppard Mullin has 30 attorneys based in Palo Alto. The firm’s intellectual property practice group now includes more than 85 attorneys. The firm has 630 attorneys in 16 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Deals

Comcast Will Buy GE’s NBC Universal Stake for $16.7 Billion

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP is advising Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable company, which will buy out General Electric Co.’s ownership of NBC Universal for $16.7 billion, following through on the cable company’s purchase of a controlling stake two years ago. Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP represented GE on all aspects of the transaction. Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP served as FCC regulatory counsel for Comcast.

The Davis Polk corporate team includes partners David L. Caplan and Marc O. Williams. The Davis Polk team partners also included Avishai Shachar and Neil Barr, tax; Thomas Patrick Dore Jr, real estate; Bruce K. Dallas, capital markets advice; and Jason Kyrwood, credit advice.

Weil’s team included partners Howard Chatzinoff, Jackie Cohen, Samuel Zylberberg, Jennifer Bensch and Kenneth Heitner.

Willkie Farr partners on the deal were Michael Hammer and Francis Buono.

The deal also involves buying the properties used by NBC Universal at Manhattan’s 30 Rockefeller Center and CNBC’s headquarters in New Jersey for $1.4 billion, Comcast said today in a statement. The enterprise value of NBC Universal is now $39.1 billion, up from $37.5 billion when Philadelphia-based Comcast bought the stake in 2011.

Comcast, the biggest U.S. cable company, bought 51 percent of NBC on Jan. 29 of that year for $13.8 billion in cash and assets. Since then, the company has benefited from improving ratings at the NBC broadcast network and better-than-expected ad revenue from the Olympics. For GE, the deal turns an asset that didn’t fit with its business into a source of cash.

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Firm News

Herbert Smith Opens German Office With Thaeter From Gleiss Lutz

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP will open a German branch and hired Ralf Thaeter, a corporate partner from Gleiss Lutz, its former alliance partner in the country.

The law firm will open an office in Frankfurt during the second quarter, it said in a statement on its website today. Thaeter will move to the firm in April, he said in an interview.

“At Herbert Smith Freehills I see the chance to expand my practice further on a global and international platform,” said Thaeter, who last year advised Germany in its role as shareholder in European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. during the largest revamp in the company’s ownership since its creation. “Setting up the German presence is a really exciting job.”

Herbert Smith ended a decade-long alliance with Gleiss Lutz after the German firm rejected a merger offer. The London-based firm merged with Australia’s Freehills last year.

King & Wood Mallesons Australia Appoints New Chairman

King & Wood Mallesons (Australia) appointed Stephen Minns chairman of the Australian Board. Minns replaces Tim Bednall, who served as chairman for three years overseeing the firm’s combination with China’s King & Wood last year.

Minns joined the firm in 1986 from investment banking in Sydney and in London. He will continue his practice specializing in public company acquisitions and equity issues, as well as general corporate work, the firm said.

Bednall returns to his mergers and acquisitions, corporate advisory and competition law practice.

“The past year has been an extraordinary one for the firm. The combination to create a powerhouse legal brand in the Asian region coupled with a challenging economic environment has meant that we’ve had to adopt new ways of thinking, and more meaningful ways of engaging with clients,” Tony O’Malley, managing partner, Australia said in a statement. “Tim has been at the center of this drive and I thank him for his support. Stephen’s appointment will bring a seasoned insight into our business and I look forward to working with him to realize the benefits of our combination for both our clients and our people.”

Litigation

Former Mercury Interactive Lawyer Skaer Must Face SEC Case

Susan Skaer, former general counsel of Hewlett-Packard Co.’s Mercury Interactive unit, lost her bid for dismissal of a U.S. lawsuit alleging she took part in a scheme to improperly backdate stock options.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco denied Skaer’s request to throw out U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission claims, according to a court filing yesterday.

“A jury could reasonably find that attorney Skaer was a knowing participant in a scheme by which defendants caused Mercury to issue backdated stock options in violation of Mercury’s internal stock options plans and without reporting compensation expenses,” Alsup said. He also rejected her arguments that the SEC waited too long to sue her.

James Kramer, an attorney for Skaer, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the ruling.

The case is SEC v. Landan, 07-2822, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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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