The Firms

June 14, 2011 1:42 PM

Milbank Global Corporate and Securities Chair Moves to Dewey

Posted by Brian Baxter

Fitzgerald Michael Fitzgerald, the chairman of the global securities, corporate, and Latin American practice groups at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy in New York, has joined Dewey & LeBoeuf along with three partners and a team of associates.

Dewey confirmed the hires on Tuesday morning. Joining Fitzgerald in the move are partners Taisa Markus, Joy Gallup, and Arturo Carrillo, along with several associates. (Carrillo, who joins Dewey as a partner, was a senior associate at Milbank.)

"Milbank is a great firm and the profits per partner there are extremely high, so I would never say anything negative about my experience there," Fitzgerald says. "But there were a number of attractive aspects to the move to Dewey. The firm has a bandwidth and platform that over the long-term will allow for a successful global presence."

Fitzgerald says that in recent years his practice has become increasingly global, with about 80 percent of it dedicated to international and cross-border finance and M&A work. Fitzgerald began his legal career at New York's Brown & Wood. When the firm merged with Sidley Austin in 2001, Fitzgerald left for Milbank.

It was at Brown & Wood that Fitzgerald started handling domestic underwriting work for Merrill Lynch, which in turn led to relationships with many of New York's investment banks. While doing such work, Fitzgerald says he gradually gravitated to handling cross-border matters for clients in Latin America and Europe.

"I'm a little bit reluctant to admit that I did most of the Icelandic bank bond deals for the underwriters there," he says half-jokingly, noting his work representing Citigroup in Scandinavia, as well as his wealth of experience in Latin America.

Fitzgerald was among the first U.S. corporate lawyers to venture into Latin America 20 years ago for capital markets work out of Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil. Today, work in the region accounts for a large part of Fitzgerald's practice.

"The emerging market has become the place to be--Brazil and Mexico have GDP growth of 6 or 7 and 4 or 5 percent, as compared to 1 percent for the U.S.," he says. "Brazil and Mexico are two of the five largest emerging markets in the world. This is where all the law firms want to be."

Fitzgerald points to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and many other Am Law 100 firms as ones that have invested heavily in Latin America to "try and buy market share" in the region, he says.

At Milbank, Fitzgerald was part of a team advising Grupo Mexico, one of the world's largest copper producers and largest mining company in Mexico, on its years-long quest to reacquire former subsidiary Asarco out of bankruptcy. Fitzgerald also recently advised Banorte, Mexico's largest bank, on an $800 million stock offering, and HSBC on a number of high-profile loans, one involving Mexican conglomerate Alfa on its $600 million acquisition of Eastman Chemical assets.

Fitzgerald hopes his experience--he says he enjoys the personal relationships he's developed over the years with owners of Latin America's largest companies--will bolster Dewey's presence in Latin America, where the 1,045-lawyer firm currently has no offices. Dewey has a solid presence in project finance, a strong practice in the region. The firm also has many associates who are bilingual in Spanish and Portuguese, and Fitzgerald says they have expressed interest in joining a Latin American practice group.

Personal relationships are, in part, responsible for Fitzgerald's move to Dewey. The firm's former chairman, 92-year-old Leonard Joseph, is his father-in-law. Also, Fitzgerald's son, Reid, spent three years as a college intern at Dewey and will attend Columbia Law School in the fall.

A number of firms approached him about leaving Milbank, Fitzgerald says, but Dewey was the only place he seriously considered. He did not work with a legal recruiter in making the move. The team joining him at Dewey currently has five initial public offerings in Mexico on its plate, and four high-yield deals in Latin America. All of those deals will transfer to Dewey.

The move of Fitzgerald and his team is the latest high-profile lateral group to join Dewey. The Am Law Daily reported in February on Dewey's hire of ten lawyers from Los Angeles-based bankruptcy boutique Hennigan Bennett & Dorman, including former name partner Bruce Bennett.

In January, Dewey added former Howrey vice-chairman Henry Bunsow and two other IP partners in San Francisco. Bunsow now serves as cochair of Dewey's IP litigation group and is a member of the firm's litigation department policy committee.

Two years ago Dewey recruited former Cooley M&A chair Richard "Rick" Climan and several partners to the firm's office in East Palo Alto. (Climan and his team recently advised eBay on its $2.4 billion acquisition of online marketing services company GSI Commerce and computer giant Dell on its $960 million purchase of data storage provider Compellent Technologies.)

Those hires, along with the successful completion of an integration process begun after the merger that created the firm nearly four years ago, showed Fitzgerald that Dewey could attract key laterals and was a "firm on the ascendancy," he says.

According to the most recent Am Law 100 financial data, Dewey saw gross revenue hold steady at $910 million in 2010, while profits per partner increased 9.6 percent to nearly $1.8 million. Milbank saw gross revenue increase 3.4 percent last year to $622 million, while profits per partner at the 574-lawyer firm increased 11.7 percent to nearly $2.5 million.


 Photo courtesy of Dewey & LeBoeuf

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