June 10, 2008 3:41 PM
It's Not All Doom and Gloom for Skadden's Jack Butler
Posted by Brian Baxter
Despite soaring gas prices, a housing market melting down, Lehman Brothers teetering on the edge of a liquidity crisis, and record-setting June heat waves and floods, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom's John "Jack" Butler, Jr., isn't one to abandon hope. One of three coheads of the firm's corporate restructuring group, Butler has been through tough times before at some of the nation's largest companies.
A Michigan native, Butler's work within the automotive industry helped him appreciate the human element to corporate reorganizations. Even in the direst situations, he says, companies can be turned around successfully when competing interests--such as management and labor--agree to make concessions.
Butler recently learned that he'll be part of an inaugural class of inductees into the Turnaround, Restructuring, and Distressed Investing Industry Hall of Fame. We caught up with him for a quick chat.
How does it feel being included in the same class as Harvey Miller?
[Harvey] was really the first lawyer--he's 15 years my senior--to understand at a major law firm that this industry was really distressed M&A. He brought his understanding of how to do a deal and how to think about these businesses to the table in a way that was really meaningful on Wall Street and for Weil, Gotshal. I've known Harvey for a long time so for he and I to be able to share the stage will be a terrific moment.
Why now? Who decided to induct you?
The Turnaround Management Association, which has been around for years, decided to create the Hall of Fame and induct this inaugural class, most of whom have no connection with TMA at all, as part of the 20th anniversary celebration of the industry. They'll be inducting a class every five years.
Does the Hall of Fame have some physical location or is it more ethereal? Will there be a bronze bust of you somewhere?
I hope not (laughing). I think [TMA] will actually maintain the hall at their national headquarters in Chicago.
Which one of your representations stands out the most from your career?
My whole focus has always been to preserve corporate value, turnaround businesses, and rehabilitate companies. Some of the deals that are most memorable are those that have required Chapter 11 reorganization--U.S. Airways, Kmart, and Delphi--but there are also those that don't [get to that point]. Like Xerox, which was undergoing severe challenges a few years ago and many people thought [would go under]. It's been gratifying actually making a difference on all of them.
What's it like being a corporate restructuring lawyer?
It's certainly about capital and large claims but it's also about people. In many of these businesses, these larger companies affect hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in communities across the country. Working with management and other advisers to try and make a difference in a positive way is what I've spent my career doing.
No doubt when those companies are at their darkest hour.
I was sitting in the Enron boardroom on Thanksgiving Day of 2001. So you're right, you tend to be at these companies when they really need people to help them through. You have to adopt the companies you're working with and be able to work 24-7 in the industries they're involved in.
I take it you guys have been busy lately?
Our practice is among the largest, if not the largest, global practice that exists. We've been fortunate to be busy across the business cycles but obviously given the current [situation], which is much more challenging and uncertain with liquidity difficult to maintain, we've been pretty busy. But this is not a matter of bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is a technique, it's a vehicle, and sometimes you have to use it. But many, many more companies get restructured, refinanced, and refocused outside of Chapter 11 than they do inside.
So do you have an inspiring speech planned for your induction ceremony?
If they're smart, they won't let any of us talk.Make a comment