Stephen Hertz, Debevoise M&A Lawyer, Dies at 55 in Building Leap

Stephen R. Hertz, a law partner in the mergers and acquisitions and private equity groups at New York-based Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, where he worked for almost three decades, has died. He was 55.

He died on May 16 after jumping from his 22nd-floor apartment opposite Central Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, according to police. His body was found in a tree in the courtyard of 455 Central Park West by the property manager.

In his career at Debevoise, Hertz advised clients on a variety of M&A transactions and published articles about legal issues in deal-making. He led a Debevoise team that advised Landstar System Inc., a Jacksonville, Florida-based global transportation services provider, on the sale in December of its Michigan-based supply chain units to XPO Logistics Inc. for $87 million.

Another client, Cambrex Corp., a life-sciences company in East Rutherford, New Jersey, used acquisitions to transform itself from its origin as a chemical maker.

“We are shocked and deeply saddened by the passing of our partner and friend Steve Hertz,” the firm said in an e-mailed statement. “Steve was an exceptionally warm and caring person, extraordinarily dedicated to our clients, and generous to his colleagues. He will be profoundly missed.”

Debevoise, a 650-lawyer firm, has offices in eight cities including London, Hong Kong and Moscow.

Stone Point

Hertz worked on several transactions by Stone Point Capital LLC, the Greenwich, Connecticut-based private-equity firm run by former Goldman, Sachs & Co. executives Charles A. Davis and Stephen Friedman, investing primarily in the financial services industry.

In 2012 Hertz guided a Debevoise team that advised Stone Point in joining with KKR & Co., the New York-based investment firm run by Henry Kravis and George Roberts, to create what is now Merchant Capital Solutions LLC, or MCS, a New York-based lender and underwriter that also includes the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Also in 2012 he led a group of Debevoise attorneys in advising Cunningham Lindsey Group Ltd., an insurance claims processor majority-owned by Stone Point, on its acquisition by London-based private equity firm CVC Capital Partners Ltd. The deal valued Cunningham at $900 million to $1 billion including debt.

‘Outstanding Lawyer’

Hertz was “an outstanding lawyer and trusted adviser” who was “routinely called for our most complex transactions,” David Wermuth, senior principal and general counsel at Stone Point, said yesterday in an e-mail.

“He had a broad range of legal expertise that allowed him to counsel on acquisitions, financings, restructurings, regulatory matters and even the occasional dispute,” Wermuth said. “His advice was always well considered and valued.”

In an article for the spring 2012 edition of the Debevoise newsletter Private Equity Report, Hertz and David Innes, a partner in the firm’s London office, wrote that differences between U.K. and U.S. law were becoming increasingly important in M&A deals.

“As developing economies host more private equity transactions, U.S. private equity professionals are learning that it is increasingly common for acquisition agreements for targets outside of the U.K. to be governed by U.K. law,” they wrote. “This is true not only for deals where the seller is based in the U.K., but also even where neither of the parties nor the target has any real connection with the U.K. For instance, a Dutch seller of Asian assets is likely to use a U.K. agreement.”

English Advantage

Reasons for that choice include familiarity with English law in international transactions, “concerns over U.S. litigation and costs” and, most particularly, “the perceived advantages of the U.K. approach for sellers,” they wrote.

Stephen Richard Hertz was born on April 18, 1959, according to the website of Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in New York.

He joined Debevoise in 1985, after receiving his law degree from the University of Chicago, and became a partner in 2000. He earned his undergraduate degree in 1982 from Middlebury College in Vermont.

The legal blog said Hertz was an old friend of television producer Aaron Sorkin and that their friendship was why the Debevoise firm was referred to on his television show, “The West Wing.”

Hertz was married to Debra Condren, a psychologist and author of “Ambition Is Not a Dirty Word: A Woman’s Guide to Earning Her Worth and Achieving Her Dreams” (2008). He had a son, Jake, from a previous marriage.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.