The Talent

June 26, 2009 5:30 AM

Dealmaker of the Week: N. Lynn Hiestand of Skadden Arps

Posted by Julie Triedman

703 It would be an understatement to say N. Lynn Hiestand has been in demand lately.

In recent weeks, the Skadden partner--whose practice straddles cross-border M&A and restructuring--has been tapped for two high-profile deals. On General Motors's sale of its Saab automobile unit, announced June 16, Hiestand negotiated on behalf of buyers Koenigsegg Group AB, a consortium led by Swedish automaker Koenigsegg Automotive AB. That soon was followed up with leading the team of lawyers representing Nokia Siemens in its acquisition of the advanced wireless technology business of Nortel Networks, Canada's largest telecom. (In addition to GM's bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S., Saab is in bankruptcy in Sweden, and Nortel is in both Canadian and U.S. court-led reorganization.)

Hiestand, cohead of Skadden's restructuring practice in Europe, has legal and business credentials perfectly suited for this post-Lehman Bros.-collapse business world, with 25 years of experience in distressed M&A and several 363 sales to her credit. Even so, she's just one person who found herself shuttling between Europe and New York recently in juggling the two matters. There was even a round-trip to Switzerland in one 24-hour period in early June, as negotiations on both deals heated up, recalls Paul Shim, the Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton lawyer representing Nortel. (Negotiations on the Saab deal occurred in Zurich, while the work on Nortel played out in New York.)

As Shim describes it, the Nortel deal was unusually difficult and emotional. The Canadian telecom had just entered concurrent bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S. and Canada. At the same time as it negotiated with Nokia Siemens, the company faced a rush of bankruptcy motions while it worked to stabilize its business. With the wireless industry struggling worldwide, Shim says, "issues deemed not material a few years ago are being looked at more carefully." Those include retention, integration, and contracts matters.

Saab, meanwhile, has been in bankruptcy proceedings in Sweden since the winter. Parent company General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy June 1, kicking off two weeks of high-speed negotiations. "It was a little crazy," says Hiestand. "Luckily I have great colleagues," she says. The team helped to advance the negotiations on both deals, especially when Hiestand was physically absent.

Both deals are far from over. Either one could be derailed should other bidders come forward or if the deals fail to gain approval in the various jurisdictions in which they are in bankruptcy. The Saab deal is contingent on $600 million in financing from the European Investment Bank that is guaranteed by the Swedish government. Nokia is the first so-called stalking horse bidder--other potential investors have until July 21 to file competing bids. Hiestand negotiated a 3 percent breakup fee if Nokia's bid ultimately is rejected, though the breakup fee must get court approval in both jurisdictions.

"It takes a much more thoughtful corporate lawyer to get through [a distressed deal] than a mega-corporate deal," says Shim. And, he adds, despite the geographical distances between the two matters, Hiestand proved to be a highly effective negotiator who "was always available via phone or BlackBerry and...kept her sense of humor."

Dealmaker of the Week is published Fridays in The Am Law Daily.

Recent Profiles

Alison Ressler of Sullivan & Cromwell, 6/19/09

George Panagakis of Skadden Arps, 6/5/09

Matthew Guest of Wachtell and William Fogg of Cravath, 5/15/09

David Lakhdhir of Paul Weiss, 5/8/09

Joshua Rubenstein of Katten Muchin Rosenman, R. Andrew Boose of Davis Wright Tremaine, 4/24/09

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