Award Chambers & Partners

America's Leading Lawyers for Business 2010: Corporate/M&A & Private Equity

Chambers & Partners has compiled its independent and objective list of America's Leading Lawyers for Business based on comments gathered from thousands of interviews with clients and lawyers from Maine to Hawaii. This guide — which is designed to reflect market opinion — contains a view of the firms and attorneys who are considered leaders in their field.

In Chambers' 2010 review of national legal talent in the area of "Corporate/M&A & Private Equity," our Firm and our lawyers are listed among the best in the country.

Chambers' comments:

Private Equity: Buyouts
Nationwide Ranking: Tier 1

The Firm: Kirkland & Ellis' unmatched profile in the mid-market has seen it receive an impressive flow of work during the economic downturn. Illinois is the heart of the transactional group, but teams in California, New York and Washington, DC contribute to a truly national practice, which represents major names like Bain Capital, CVC and Golden Gate. The firm advises on M&A, going-private transactions, recapitalizations, purchase agreement negotiations and private equity fund formation. The strength of other departments at the firm, such as tax and finance, adds to its value.

Sources Say: "The breadth and quality of Kirkland's team are unsurpassed. Its knowledge of the private equity market is state of the art and the lawyers use their experience to solve clients' problems with ease."

Key Individuals: Kirk Radke is ahead of the pack when it comes to private equity M&A. Clients remark that "if you need to declare war on someone, he's your man," but that he combines this with a "meticulous approach." Kevin Evanich and Jeffrey Hammes advise on the structuring of leveraged buyouts and acquisitions, as well as the formation of private equity funds. Doug Gessner acts on leveraged buyouts, recapitalizations, growth equity investments and startup investments. He handles a lot of work on behalf of Sun Capital Partners.

California Ranking: Tier 1

The Firm: The Chicago-headquartered firm is recognized nationally for its representation of private equity clients, and the California practice plays a key part in this first-class reputation. A healthy stable of mainly mid-sized PE firms from across the country are represented out of the firm's San Francisco and Los Angeles offices, including Golden Gate Capital, Vista Equity Partners, Oaktree Capital Management and The Carlyle Group.

Sources Say: "Extremely user-friendly, very practical, and great on the bigger picture."

Key Individuals: John Weissenbach, practicing out of the Los Angeles office, earns plaudits from peers and clients: he is "a smart lawyer and a good guy with an excellent following in the mid-market," says one. Oaktree is an important client; he recently represented Triton Media Group, a portfolio company of Oaktree and a provider of digital services to the radio industry, in a number of transactions, including its acquisition of marketing and research company Mass2One Media.

Illinois Ranking: Tier 1

The Firm: This is a behemoth of the private equity world, with the largest corporate team in Chicago and an almost unrivaled reputation for sponsor-side work. Current market conditions have seen the team advising on opportunistic activity within the distressed debt area; it has also been advising portfolio companies on restructurings. Its representation of major public companies is preeminent: the group has recently been involved in matters on behalf of Boeing, Molson Coors Brewing and NRG Energy in acquisitions, joint ventures and hostile takeover bids. A recent highlight was advising GTCR Golder Rauner on its all-cash sale of Ovation Pharmaceuticals to H. Lundbeck, in a deal valued at around $900 million.

Sources Say: "Kirkland's breadth and quality in private equity experience are unmatched. There is no issue in my business for which it is not a go-to firm."

Key Individuals: M&A and securities partner Scott Falk is a leading name with an impressive background in public company representation. He recently represented Boeing in its $1 billion acquisition of the operations conducted by Vought Aircraft Industries. "Super attorney" Jeffrey Hammes splits his time between Illinois and California and is frequently called upon to advise on the structuring of complex transactions, while Kevin Evanich is renowned for his "private equity practice of superb quality," which sees him involved in buyouts and fund formation. Of counsel Carter Emerson receives similar praise for his experience and his work on national and cross-border M&A, restructurings and corporate governance matters. Jon Ballis continues to do work on behalf of Bain Capital and its portfolio companies and is held in high regard by clients: "In addition to his stellar legal judgment he is able to take a big-picture, strategic perspective on transactions." Matthew Steinmetz has worked closely with Ballis and is commended as a "technically excellent and detail-oriented" attorney. Acquisitions, restructurings and fund formations are the pillars of his practice. Sanford Perl played a lead role in the GTCR deal. Such high-level experience has led interviewees to acknowledge that "you simply can't go wrong with him by your side." He brings the additional benefit of tax and securities knowledge. GTCR is also regularly represented by Stephen Ritchie. In 2009, he represented it in its $200 million investment in Ironshore. Doug Gessner has been busy advising Sun Capital Partners on several acquisition transactions. Private equity and venture capital sponsors are key clients. Private equity specialist Walter Holzer has most recently been engaged in midmarket acquisitions, spanning a range of industry sectors including construction, pharmaceuticals and satellite technology.

District of Columbia Ranking: Tier 2

The Firm: Kirkland & Ellis is perhaps best known nationally as a private equity powerhouse, but the Washington, DC office has made great strides toward establishing itself as a major player in the public company market. The team has been involved in such high-profile matters as acting for Constellation Energy Group on its well-publicized and ultimately terminated $4.7 billion merger agreement with Warren Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Holdings, followed by a $4.5 billion joint venture with a subsidiary of EDF. On the private equity side, the firm is particularly active in the leveraged buyout area, representing the likes of MidOcean Partners, Arlington Capital Partners, New Enterprise Associates and CVC Capital Partners.

Sources Say: "They have a very proactive approach in terms of helping us structure transactions to fit our specific needs. They also have good ancillary expertise in areas such as employment agreements and noncompete clauses, and can mobilize a team at a moment's notice."

Key Individuals: Mark Director is "a levelheaded thinker, who gets right to the point, and provides practical advice based on a wealth of knowledge," attest commentators. He took the lead acting for MidOcean Partners on its acquisition of The Allant Group. The personable George Stamas is acclaimed as "a highly strategic thinker."

Reprinted with permission from Chambers USA, America's Leading Lawyers for Business 2010 —