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December 1, 2010 6:11 PM

More BP, ExxonMobil Asset Sales Yield Work for Outside, In-House Lawyers

Posted by Brian Baxter

ExxonMobil’s $1 billion sale of assets in the Gulf of Mexico and BP's divestiture of its Pan American joint venture aren't the only recent energy deals keeping corporate lawyers busy.

BP announced a week ago that it had agreed to sell its stakes in several fuel marketing businesses in southern Africa to Puma Energy for $296 million. Puma is a unit of London-based Trafigura, a privately-owned company that serves as the world's third-largest independent oil trader.

A BP spokesman declined to name the British oil giant's outside legal advisers when contacted by The Am Law Daily. London-based BP has turned to several different firms in recent months for asset sales in Argentina, Colombia, the Gulf of Mexico, and Canada, Egypt, and the U.S., as the company seeks to raise nearly $30 billion to meet rising cleanup and legal costs from the Deepwater Horizon disaster earlier this year.

According to a Trafigura spokesman, Puma was advised by DLA Piper project finance and infrastructure partner Charles Morrison, who is leading his firm's drive to expand its influence in Africa. This year DLA has forged a strategic partnership with Kenyan firm Iseme, Kamau & Maema and launched the Juris East Africa alliance with several other regional firms. (Like ExxonMobil and BP, Trafigura has had to rely on outside lawyers to deal with environmental missteps.)

On Tuesday, ExxonMobil announced that it would sell western Canada oil and gas properties to Calgary-based Husky Energy for $841 million. Husky, which is Canada’s third-largest oil production and refining company, is owned by entities controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing. (Husky is also a joint venture partner with BP on some Canadian projects.)

A Husky spokesman tells The Am Law Daily that the transaction was handled by in-house lawyers for both companies. He declined to name the Husky attorneys involved. James Girgulis serves as corporate secretary and vice president of legal for the company.

ExxonMobil's general counsel is S. Jack Balagia, Jr., who ascended to the position in March after the retirement of former chief in-house lawyer Charles Matthews, Jr. A company spokeswoman did not respond to a request for the names of ExxonMobil in-house attorneys that worked on the deal. The general counsel of ExxonMobil Canada is Brian Livingston.

Irving, Texas-based ExxonMobil also has another lawyer in its top ranks. Kenneth Frazier, a member of the company’s board of directors and a former general counsel at Merck & Co., was named the new CEO of the pharmaceutical giant on Tuesday. Frazier, who was elected to ExxonMobil’s board in May 2009, takes over at Merck on January 1.

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