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Steptoe Gets New Leader in Phil West: Business of Law

Phil West is now the leader of Steptoe & Johnson LLP as chairman of the firm’s executive committee. He succeeds Roger Warin, who was chairman for a decade and has taken emeritus status.

Steptoe’s partners also re-elected Phil Malet as vice-chairman of the committee.

West, who heads the firm’s tax group, first joined Steptoe in 1993 as of counsel. From 1997 to 2000, he worked as the U.S. Treasury Department’s senior international tax lawyer before rejoining the firm as a partner in 2002. 

His practice focuses primarily on international tax issues for both domestic and foreign clients.  

“I am looking forward to building on Roger’s success and to continuing his tradition of leadership that has served the firm and our clients,” West said in a statement.

During Warin’s tenure as chairman, Steptoe opened offices in New York, Century City, California, Chicago and Beijing.

He will continue to act as an ambassador-at-large to some clients. He will also work with the insurance litigation group to help map the direction of that practice, the firm said. Warin will continue practicing law as a full-time partner.

Steptoe has more than 500 lawyers and other professionals in offices in Brussels, London, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Washington

Deals

Suntory to Buy Beam in $16 Billion Deal to Gain Maker’s Mark

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP is advising Suntory Holdings Ltd., the closely held Japanese whiskey and beer maker that agreed to buy Beam Inc. (BEAM) in a $16 billion deal to gain brands such as Maker’s Mark whiskey and create the world’s third-largest premium spirits company.

Sidley Austin LLP advised Beam.

Cleary Gottlieb’s M&A team was led by partners Paul Shim and Benet O’Reilly, who are both based in New York.

Investors in the maker of Jim Beam and Canadian Club liquor will get $83.50 a share in cash, Osaka, Japan-based Suntory said yesterday in a statement. That’s 25 percent above Beam’s closing price Jan. 10. The shares topped the offer in early New York trading, indicating some investors expect competing bids.

Suntory, the maker of Yamazaki whiskey and the Premium Malt’s beer, is seeking to boost overseas growth as the population in Japan shrinks and ages. The company in 2012 explored an offer for Beam alongside Diageo Plc. (DGE)

Beam, whose largest shareholder is activist investor Bill Ackman’s hedge fund, in 2012 got 59 percent of its revenue from North America and 21 percent from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The takeover is the largest this year and the sixth-largest ever in the beverages industry, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Beam was formed during the breakup of Fortune Brands Inc. in 2011. Since then, the company acquired Pinnacle Vodka & Calico Jack Rum Brands in 2012 and sold Select Brands last year.

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Moves

K&L Gates Adds Two Partners in Tokyo Office

The Tokyo office of K&L Gates LLP added Takahiro Hoshino and Takahiro Tsumagari as partners in the commercial disputes and real-estate investment, development, and finance practices respectively.

Most recently, Hoshino was founder and managing partner of his own firm, Hoshino & Partners in Tokyo. Tsumagari joins K&L Gates from Atsumi & Sakai, where he led the international trade and tax team.

Hoshino advises on disputes including domestic and international labor law, commercial litigation, and judgments, as well as on corporate legal matters such as strategic restructurings, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, leasings, financings and other transactions. Previously, Hoshino was a judge at the Tokyo and Utsunomiya District Courts. He’s joined by a team of four associates.

Tsumagari advises and represents Japanese and foreign corporations on real estate and structured financings and matters including cross-border antitrust cases and mergers and acquisitions, as well as international and domestic commercial trade.

K&L Gates has lawyers at 48 offices in the U.S., Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and South America. 

McDermott Expands Private Client Group in Silicon Valley 

McDermott Will & Emery LLP said Laurelle M. Gutierrez joined the firm’s private client group in Silicon Valley, California. She was previously a director at Carr, McClellan, Ingersoll, Thompson & Horn. 

Gutierrez’s work involves tax planning and wealth transfer strategies. She advises clients on domestic and multinational estate planning issues, ranging from the preparation of wills and revocable trusts, to the creation and implementation of complex irrevocable trusts for lifetime gifts, among other matters. 

“Laurelle is a talented and seasoned lawyer with considerable experience advising high-net-worth individuals and multigenerational families,” Carol Harrington, head of McDermott’s private client practice group, said in a statement. “We see tremendous opportunities for our private client team in Silicon Valley and believe that Laurelle will contribute greatly to our success in this area.” 

McDermott has more than 1,100 lawyers at offices in the U.S., Europe, Asia.

Withers Bergman Adds Three Partners in the U.S.

Withers LLP, known as Withers Bergman in the U.S., announced the hiring of three new partners last week.

They include Louis Mezzullo, who joined as a consulting partner in Rancho Santa Fe, California, from McKenna Long & Aldridge. David J. Moise, a partner who will work in the New York office, and Seth G. Cohen, a partner who will work in the New Haven, Connecticut, office, joined the firm from Hass & Hecht.

Mezzullo has written on taxation, estate and business succession planning, and employee benefits issues, the firm said.

Moise has more than 25 years of experience in the tax procedure and controversy area. His practice focuses on federal, state and local tax examinations and appeals, tax court litigation and voluntary disclosure agreements.

Cohen has experience in tax controversies, including tax examinations and appeals, criminal tax matters, tax litigation and voluntary disclosure agreements. He also has experience in tax collection defense, including collection administrative appeals, installment agreements and offers in compromise.

Withers Bergman and its affiliated entities, Withersworldwide, has about 350 attorneys in 11 offices in Europe, the U.S., the Caribbean and Asia.

News

Citigroup’s Private Bank, Hildebrandt Forecast Better 2014

The law firm group at Citigroup Inc.’s Citi Private Bank and Hildebrandt Consulting are predicting better times for law firms in 2014.

“While we do not project a return to pre-2008 levels of performance, we believe we have witnessed a fundamental shift in the market for legal services, resulting in a changed and more muted demand environment for law firms,” Dan DiPietro, chairman of the private bank’s law firm group, said in a statement.

In a client advisory released yesterday, the private bank and Hildebrandt said that while negative trends for law firms persist, momentum from the second half of 2013 will continue as firms find growth opportunities and find ways to deliver legal services more efficiently.

The companies said they talked to about 208 U.S.-based firms, including 84 of the 100 richest in the country, 54 of the next 100-richest, and 70 other firms through Thomson Reuters’ Peer Monitor Index, among others.

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

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

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