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February 29, 2012 7:39 PM

Sidley, Chadbourne Claim Crown as Tribune Bankruptcy's Biggest Billers

Posted by Brian Baxter

It's been more than a year since The Am Law Daily last checked in on the Tribune Company's escalating bankruptcy bills, and according to a monthly operating report filed by the debtor this week, the company has been keeping its outside lawyers plenty busy in the interim.

Court filings show that two of the more than 20 law firms being paid by the Tribune estate since the company's Chapter 11 case since began in December 2008 have racked up a combined total of roughly $111 million in fees and expenses in that time.

Lead debtor's counsel Sidley Austin has been paid almost $69 million, while Chadbourne & Parke, lead counsel to the company's creditors' committee, has received $42.2 million, according to court records. (Bloomberg first reported news of the fees on Wednesday morning.)

The amount paid to the two Am Law 100 firms is roughly half the $233.3 million paid by the Chicago-based media company—which was purchased in an ill-fated $8 billion leveraged buyout in 2007—to its outside lawyers, accountants, and other professional advisers after entering bankruptcy.

Since filing for Chapter 11 protection, Tribune has sought to push through several reorganization plans, most recently seeing a bankruptcy judge in Delaware reject a previous proposal last fall. The company and a group of senior creditors filed a third revised bid to exit bankruptcy in November, a process that has proceeded in fits and starts over the past three years.

A service list for the Tribune bankruptcy shows that attorneys from nearly 100 firms are representing clients in the case. Stuart Maue, who court records show has been paid $1.9 million for his work in the case, has been appointed as fee examiner in the proceedings.

Other firms receiving payments from Tribune include:

Zuckerman Spaeder, special litigation counsel: $11.8 million

McDermott Will & Emery, special counsel: $10 million

Landis Rath & Cobb, Delaware counsel to creditors' committee: $5.5 million

Dow Lohnes, special regulatory counsel: $4.1 million

Cole, Schotz, Meisel, Forman & Leonard, Delaware counsel: $4 million

Seyfarth Shaw, special employment litigation counsel: $2.2 million

Jenner & Block, special counsel: $1.8 million

Paul Hastings, special real estate counsel: $1.4 million

Reed Smith, insurance and employee-related counsel: $1.1 million

Davis Wright Tremaine, special domestic legal counsel: $706,079

Levene Sullivan Koch & Schultz, First Amendment counsel: $808,452

Novack and Macey, special litigation counsel: $106,168

Jones Day, whose entry into the Tribune bankruptcy as counsel to special committee of the company's board of directors we reported on two years ago, has received $2.2 million in the case.

Kenneth Klee of Los Angeles bankruptcy boutique Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern, issued his examiner's report in the case almost two years ago. His firm has been paid $5.2 million for its services, according to Tribune's latest monthly operating report. Receiving $3.4 million for its role in the case is Saul Ewing, which worked with Klee on his report.

The Tribune fees are fairly comparable to those submitted in the ongoing bankruptcy of Washington Mutual, whose own $7 billion reorganization plan received approval from a bankruptcy court in Delaware this month.

The Am Law Daily reported in December on the nearly 25 firms being paid by the bankruptcy estate in that case. A monthly operating report filed in January by WaMu shows that lead debtor's counsel Weil, Gotshal & Manges has seen its total tab in the matter increase to almost $71 million, while Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, counsel to the bank's creditors’ committee, has been paid $26.2 million.

The bills submitted in the WaMu and Tribune bankruptcy cases still pale in comparison to the mother lode of all Chapter 11 cases: Lehman Brothers. The Am Law Daily reported last month that Weil's total bill as counsel to Lehman in that case had reached $375 million, while the tab for the creditors' committee's lead counsel from Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy stood at $133.7 million.

 

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