Award Chambers & Partners

America's Leading Lawyers for Business 2011: 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' 2011 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:

California Ranking: Tier 1

The Firm: This private equity powerhouse fields over 70 specialist lawyers. They are largely based in San Francisco, but there are also corporate attorneys working from Los Angeles and Palo Alto offices. The group represents many top West Coast private equity firms, as well as funds, public companies and private entities. Recent highlights for the firm include the representation of Francisco Partners in its sale of Numonyx to Micron Technology. Other representative clients for the team in the north of the state include Huntsman Gay Global Capital and Silver Lake. The Los Angeles group represents Oaktree Capital Partners and The Carlyle Group, among others.

Sources Say: "Kirkland & Ellis brings a unique ability to understand the broader business context and also is able to work on an autonomous basis to move things forward."

Key Individuals: Head of the practice in Los Angeles, John Weissenbach is a "very talented and thoughtful attorney who is thoroughly commercial on both legal and business aspects." His broad practice encompasses leveraged buyouts, mezzanine and venture capital investments, M&A, recapitalizations, private placements and fund formation. His clients include Oaktree Capital Management and Star Avenue Capital. David Breach is co-head of the San Francisco practice, and sources say he is "creative, insightful, and a tireless adviser to his clients." He represented Vista Equity Partners in the $1 billion sale of Ventyx to the Swiss power and engineering company ABB.

Illinois Ranking: Tier 1

The Firm: Kirkland & Ellis is a corporate titan in Chicago. The firm is frequently involved in the most significant deals in the Midwest and the Chicago team is a go-to firm for private equity transactions worldwide. A recent highlight saw the team act as lead counsel for private equity house Madison Dearborn Partners as it bought BWAY Holdings for $915 million, one of the largest go-private transactions of 2010. The group also represents major public companies and oversaw Boeing's acquisition of Argon ST via a $775 million all-cash tender offer and merger.

Sources Say: "The practice is full of smart, top-level lawyers - they always do a fantastic job."

Key Individuals: Scott Falk comes highly recommended by clients, who hail him as a "remarkably responsive man with an encyclopedic knowledge of the law and acres of knowledge about our business." He focuses on M&A work and securities offerings, and handled the Boeing deal cited above. Kevin Evanich concentrates on M&A deals, LBOs and private equity fund formations. Sanford Perl is considered a knowledgeable and accomplished attorney for advising on the corporate, securities and tax aspects of complex business transactions. He led the team which advised ARYZTA in its acquisitions of Fresh Start Bakeries and Great Kitchens for a combined value of $1.08 billion. Matthew Steinmetz handles all manner of acquisitions, divestitures, restructurings and private equity fund formations. He worked alongside Jon Ballis in advising FCI Group, a portfolio company of private equity house Bain Capital, on the sale of its electrical division to Hubbell for $360 million. Ballis has broad expertise and is lauded for his pragmatic approach to transactions. Stephen Ritchie is an acknowledged private equity expert who represented Code Hennessy & Simmons in the $815 million sale of The Hillman Companies. Douglas Gessner is another private equity specialist. He handles the firm's Sun Capital Partners account and recently advised on a number of distressed business acquisitions. Walter Holzer joined the firm from Jones Day in May 2010. An experienced market figure, he adds particular depth to the fund side of the private equity practice. A giant of the private equity world, Jeffrey Hammes has management commitments as chair of the firm's worldwide executive committee but continues to practice and remains a much-valued member of the team. Michael Paley is a "knowledgeable lawyer whom both sides of the table like to work with." He represented CME Group as it bought a 90% stake in the Dow Jones Indexes business for $1.2 billion. The esteemed Carter Emerson focuses on complex international and domestic transactions, including M&A deals and public and private share and securities offerings.

District of Columbia Ranking: Tier 1

The Firm: Kirkland's stellar DC office represents private equity firms and public companies in all types of transactional, securities and corporate governance matters, and possesses expertise in LBOs and private equity investing. Recent work includes acting for Constellation Energy Group on its $4.5 billion joint venture with a subsidiary of EDF, and representing longstanding client MidOcean Partners in the creation of two new credit funds.

Sources Say: "The firm seems to have stars working in every position; Kirkland not only provides a great legal service, but helps you actually get deals done."

Key Individuals: George Stamas "has a zest for the game. He is a world-class deal-maker and an old-fashioned generalist – his wide range of clients gives him a breadth of vision you don't see every day," say clients. He represented Monumental Sports and Entertainment Partners in its bid to acquire Washington Sports & Entertainment, a company whose portfolio includes the Washington Wizards, the Verizon Center and the Ticketmaster franchise in Baltimore and Washington. Mark Director is "an extraordinary business lawyer with great judgment – he can parachute in whenever the situation demands it and inspires a lot of confidence," according to clients. He represented Constellation Energy Group in the $365 million acquisition of Colorado Bend Energy Center and Quail Run Energy Center, two natural gas facilities. Andrew Herman concentrates on advising private equity funds, recently counseling MidOcean Partners in the abovementioned matter. Sources describe him as "a strong coordinator who is readily available, has prompt turnaround, and can always figure out a compromise when issues arise."

Private Equity: Buyouts
Nationwide Ranking: Tier 1

The Firm: This national private equity heavyweight is primarily known for its representation of mezzanine lenders and midmarket funds. Kirkland's extensive resources and strength in more traditional areas, including tax, bankruptcy and corporate law, make it a first choice for many industry leaders. The team has continued to expand its international reach to reflect the increasingly global nature of the private equity market. Recently the firm represented 3G, a Brazilian equity fund, in its $4.4 billion acquisition of Burger King, and was retained by Bain Capital in its purchase of Dow Chemical's Styron Division for $1.6 billion.

Commercial Awareness: "This team offers an incredible depth of experience and a vast international platform to a number of the country's most prestigious and active midmarket funds."

Key Individuals: Kirk Radke is based in New York and has more than 25 years of experience in complex corporate and private equity transactions. He handles high-stakes transactions, fund formations and spinouts of institutional private equity units for industry giants such as Apax Partners, Avista, Bain Capital, Madison Dearborn Partners and Warburg Pincus. As chairman of the firm, Jeffrey Hammes maintains a broad private equity and corporate practice, and divides his time between the firm's San Francisco and Chicago offices. He represents Bain and Golden Gate Capital on an international basis. Douglas Gessner operates out of the firm's Chicago office and has built an active practice in a range of private equity matters, including LBOs, recapitalizations, growth equity investments and fund formation. He regularly represents Sun Capital Partners.

Reprinted with permission from Chambers USA, America's Leading Lawyers for Business 2011—