Wilson Sonsini, Sullivan, Willkie, Arent: Business of Law

Former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk joined Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP as senior of counsel.

Kirk, who served in the Obama administration until February, will be based in the firm’s Dallas and Washington offices and will provide strategic advice to companies with global interests. Kirk was a member of President Obama’s cabinet and negotiated trade agreements around the world as the president’s primary trade adviser.

“We are delighted to welcome Ron to the firm,” Ken Doran, chairman and managing partner of Gibson Dunn, said in a statement. “Ron’s role as President Obama’s chief trade negotiator provides him with keen perspective and credibility with multinational companies and governments around the world, and his experience and abilities will prove extremely valuable to our clients.”

Kirk’s move was reported earlier by the Financial Times.

Law Firm News

Wilson Sonsini Opens L.A. Office with Former Sidley Partners

Five patent-litigation partners left Sidley Austin LLP last week to join Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

Four of the lawyers -- Edward Poplawski, Paul Tripodi II, Olivia Kim and Sandra Fujiyama -- will open a new office in Los Angeles for Wilson Sonsini. The fifth, Vera Elson, will be based in Palo Alto, California.

Poplawski said in a telephone interview on March 27 that joining the firm was a “unique opportunity to practice in a premier law firm, with a rapidly growing presence in Asia and a stellar worldwide reputation in tech and life sciences.”

Wilson Sonsini has considered establishing a Los Angeles office “for quite some time,” Chairman Larry Sonsini said in a statement.

“They are attorneys of outstanding caliber and will mesh extremely well with our existing top-tier IP practice, which is a field of critical importance to our clients,” he said.

Poplawski was a member of Sidley’s executive committee and head of its West Coast intellectual-property practice. He declined to say whether he was taking any matters that he had worked on at Sidley with him.

The Los Angeles office should officially open this month, according to Courtney Dorman, a Wilson Sonsini vice president.

Thomas Cole, the chairman of Sidley’s executive committee, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the departures.


Willkie Farr and Sullivan & Cromwell on Genworth Deal

Genworth Financial Inc., the life insurer and mortgage guarantor, agreed to sell its wealth-management unit to a venture of Aquiline Capital Partners LLC and Genstar Capital LLC for about $412.5 million.

The sale will yield a loss of about $40 million after tax, with $35 million recognized in the current quarter, Richmond, Virginia-based Genworth said March 27 in a statement. The deal is expected to be completed in the second half of the year, Genworth said.

Genworth Chief Executive Officer Tom McInerney, who took over in January, is seeking to simplify the company and bolster finances after losses tied to insuring U.S. mortgages. Proceeds from the sale, which includes the Altegris asset manager, will be kept at the holding company to repay 2014 debt, at maturity or before, according to the statement.

“This transaction is another step forward in executing our strategy, by generating capital from a non-core business and increasing financial flexibility,” Chief Financial Officer Martin Klein said in the statement.

Genworth’s wealth-management unit oversees about $20 billion in assets and works with more than 6,000 advisers, according to a March 25 statement. Operating income at the segment was $55 million in 2012 and $47 million in 2011, the insurer said in a regulatory filing.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP represented Aquiline, a New York-based private-equity firm investing in financial services, and Genstar, a San Francisco-based firm investing in middle-market companies. Sullivan & Cromwell LLP represented Genworth.

From Willkie are partners Jeffrey R. Poss, Barry P. Barbash, Jeffrey M. Goldfarb, Christopher J. Peters, Jordan A. Messinger, David S. Katz, of counsel Martin R. Miller and special counsel Kim A. Walker and Jonathan J. Konoff.

From Sullivan & Cromwell are partners Mark J. Menting, Whitney A. Chatterjee, Matthew M. Friestedt, John E. Estes and Ronald E. Creamer Jr., along with special counsel Spencer F. Simon.


Cleary’s Buchheit Says Cyprus May Need Second Bailout

Lee Buchheit, architect of debt restructurings in nations including Greece, said in an interview with Bloomberg Law that even with the drastic measures taken, Cyprus may need another round of restructuring. “I’m not sure this is over,” the Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP veteran said.

To watch the interview, click here.


Jefferies Group CEO Sues to Stop Tribeca Roof Deck Construction

Jefferies Group LLC Chief Executive Officer Richard Handler sued to stop construction of a roof deck on a building across the street from his Tribeca penthouse apartment.

Handler, who indirectly owns the penthouse apartment at One York Street, filed a petition in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan on March 25 against the city’s building commissioner, Robert LiMandri, and the owner of 50 Varick Street, seeking to stop a construction project at that address and have its permits revoked.

An elevator vestibule for a roof deck and bar area proposed for 50 Varick Street would block views from the penthouse, whose owners face “significant noise and light impingements from the project and future roof deck use as a late night rooftop bar,” according to the petition.

“The project will significantly obstruct the panoramic river views from petitioner’s apartment,” according to the petition. “In addition, use of the building roof deck as an outdoor event space and its concomitant noise will impair the use and value of petitioner’s apartment.”

Handler became CEO of Leucadia National Corp. this month when the investment firm completed its acquisition of New York-based Jefferies. He still also runs the investment bank.

Jefferies paid Handler $19 million for fiscal 2012 and approved $39 million in restricted stock awards for the next three years. The pay package for the year ended Nov. 30 was a 36 percent increase from the year-earlier period and included a $5 million cash bonus, $13 million in stock and a $1 million salary, the company said in January.

Richard Khaleel, a spokesman for Jefferies, declined to comment on the lawsuit. The city’s Buildings Department didn’t immediately return a telephone message left at its press office.

Y. David Scharf, a partner with Morrison Cohen LLP representing Raesky LLC, didn’t respond to calls seeking comment. The owner of 50 Varick couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The case is Raesky LLC v. LiMandri, 100490/2013, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).

For more, click here.

Pro Bono Work

Arent Fox Partners Assist in Opening Senior Technology Center

Two partners at Arent Fox LLP were instrumental in the March opening of the Senior Partner Exploration Center, a site devoted to helping older New Yorkers learn technology.

Jill Steinberg, a health-care partner in the firm’s New York office, is a member of the board of directors of Older Adults Technology Services, or OATS. She said in a telephone interview March 28 that she believes it is “the first senior center geared toward technology in the country.”

The new 2,500-square-foot storefront site provides free use of desktop and laptop computers, Skype connectivity, smart devices and even gaming consoles for older adults, as well as classes. Andrew Ross, a construction partner, assisted during the facility’s design and build-out, Steinberg said.

The center on West 25th Street will also focus on helping older adults with the intersection of health care and technology, Steinber said.

In addition to their hours donated pro bono, Steinberg said Arent Fox contributed funds to the project. She declined to disclose the amount.

“I’m a health care attorney and interested in technology,” Steinberg said. “This is like getting fixed up on a date -- you know when it’s right. It’s a melding of my skills and my interests. I don’t know if it’s unusual to find this in pro bono work, but it’s terrific when you do.”

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