The Talent

January 17, 2012 6:21 PM

Pillsbury Adds Trio of New York Bankruptcy Partners from Cadwalader

Posted by Victor Li

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman announced Tuesday that it has snagged three bankruptcy partners from Cadwalader Wicksham & Taft, including former Cadwalader financial restructuring cochair Deryck Palmer. Joining Palmer in making the move are Andrew Troop and Christopher Mirick. All three will continue to be based in New York.

Palmer's departure ends what had been a swift rise at Cadwalader. A little more than a year after joining the firm in March 2007 from Weil, Gotshal & Manges—a move he made with Troop and fellow Weil partners George Davis and John Rapisardi—Palmer became cochair of the firm's bankruptcy group, serving alongside Bruce Zirinsky. (Zirinsky himself left Cadwalader for Greenburg Traurig in June 2009.)

Along the way, Palmer served as one of the U.S. Treasury Department's lead counsels in the General Motors restructuring, represented Detroit's school system in its recent restructuring, and led Cadwalader's team on the lucrative LyondellBasell Chemical bankruptcy. (Court filings show that Cadwalader collected roughly $90 million in fees and expenses on the Lyondell case, with Palmer billing at $1,050 an hour, Troop getting $850 an hour, and Mirick collecting $700 an hour.)

Pillsbury chairman James Rishwain says the firm has wanted to bolster its New York insolvency practice for some time and that Palmer, Mirick, and Troop "are an elite, dynamic group, and position us to compete to secure the most significant bankruptcy and insolvency matters that arise in the country." The move, Rishwain adds, was in the works for several months, and Pillsbury was not the lone firm bidding for the trio. "It was a competitive landscape to get them," he says. "They were highly pursued by many firms."

For his part, Palmer says he was drawn to Pillsbury's focus on energy, real estate, and health care matters because he believes all three sectors will be extremely active on the restructuring front over the next few years.

"That's not meant as a comparison to any other firm," says Palmer. "Pillsbury is a firm that's up and coming, and it's exciting to be involved in a firm that's growing and expanding its platform." Palmer declined to comment on which other firms he considered before choosing Pillsbury, adding that discussions are continuing about which clients he will be bringing to his new firm.

"Apollo Health Street announced that they'll be coming over [to Pillsbury]," he says. "I'm sure there will be others." (Last May, Palmer and Troop succeeded in having an involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition against Apollo Health Street dismissed in Newark bankruptcy court.)

In trading Cadwalader for Pillsbury, Palmer, Mirick, and Troop are leaving a firm that, according to the most recent Am Law data, had average profits per partner of $2.39 million in 2010 for one that had average profits per partner of $1.05 million. Palmer says he isn't concerned about that gap: "If you're looking at things long term, which I am, [Pillsbury] provides an exciting opportunity for me to do challenging work and to be compensated fairly."

Cadwalader issued a statement wishing Palmer, Mirick, and Troop well and thanking them for their service. Perhaps girding for the trio's departure, the firm elevated Davis to cochair of the financial restructuring group alongside Palmer and Rapisardi two weeks ago. In addition to working with Palmer, Mirick, Rapisardi, and Troop on the LyondellBasell bankruptcy, Davis helped secure the company a record $8 billion in debtor-in-possession financing in March 2009.

According to Rishwain, Pillsbury may not be done hiring in New York. "We have a huge focus on New York, and we've done a really solid job of positioning ourselves there," says Rishwain, who pointed to the high-profile hiring of 14 corporate and finance lawyers from Nixon Peabody—headlined by Nixon's former head of global finance, Mats Carlston—in 2010. "I think we've elevated our group across all fronts."

Sara Randazzo contributed reporting.

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