Restructuring Practice Running, Akin Gump Partner Leaves Firm

LAW
by Amanda Bronstad

Jeffrey Krause, the Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP partner who built the firm's financial restructuring group two years ago, is heading home.

Krause will re-join Stutman Treister & Glatt PC, where he was a senior shareholder for 20 years.

"I believe I will be able to get my life back to a point where I have more balance and can work hard but not be the person who needs to address every problem," Krause said.

Krause helped create Akin Gump's financial restructuring practice just before the firm merged with Troop Steuber Pasich Reddick & Tobey LLP last year. Those in the industry anticipated some fall-out at Akin Gump as a result of the merger, which boosted Akin Gump's L.A. practice from 75 to 136 lawyers.

But Krause said the merger had nothing to do with his departure.

Robert Greenfield, senior shareholder of 30-lawyer Stutman Treister, said the firm rarely hires a partner from another firm, but it made an exception in Krause's case. The only other exception was the hiring of Gary Klausner, who joined a year and a half ago from coincidence? Troop Steuber.

Strong M & A; Showing

Despite a slight falloff in business in 2001, two Los Angeles firms climbed in Thomson Financial's national rankings of annual mergers and acquisition activity.

During a year that saw M & A; deals decline in both number and overall value, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP gained two spots, to No. 3 nationwide, in number of M & A; deals completed in 2001, even though its 163 deals were six fewer than in 2000.

Latham & Watkins wasn't far behind, participating in 118 deals, down from 123 last year, but jumping in rank from No. 9 to No. 6 in the nation.

Worldwide, both firms did more deals in 2001 than 2000. Gibson Dunn did 198, seven more than in 2000, to rank No. 5 internationally. Latham & Watkins went from No. 17 to No. 11 with 151 deals, compared to 138 in 2000.

And while it participated in the biggest deal of the year, Latham & Watkins fell off the list of closed deals ranked by value. Paul Tosetti, co-head of the global M & A; practice, said the firm was sure to make the list next year when the $15.8 billion merger of Amgen Inc. and Immunex Corp. closed.

On the value list, Gibson Dunn climbed to No. 20 from No. 28 with a total M & A; deal value of $84.4 billion, up from $60.8 billion last year.

Worldwide, the firm moved to No. 23 from No. 29, even as total M & A; deal value fell to $92.1 billion, down from $112.5 billion in 2000.

Those values, however, do not reflect penetration in the market, said Jonathan Layne, corporate mergers and acquisitions partner at Gibson Dunn.

"It doesn't illustrate on the value side how active a firm is in the M & A; world and how far they've penetrated the market," Layne said. "It's a function of the number of transactions you're involved in. Deals beget deals."

Gavel Greats

A jury award in Los Angeles Superior Court was the largest in the country in 2001, according to Lawyers Weekly USA, a national publication for small law firms.

The $3 billion verdict in Boeken v. Philip Morris Inc. topped the list of the top 10 verdicts in the country. The verdict, which was reduced to $100 million in August, was handed down to the tobacco giant in a case involving a Los Angeles man dying from lung cancer. The verdict was the largest against a tobacco company filed by an individual.

The next-largest jury verdict in Lawyers Weekly USA's list for 2001 was for $1.06 billion in a Louisiana case.



Staff reporter Amanda Bronstad can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 225 or at abronstad@labusinessjournal.com


Duke Suit:


The foundation built from the $1.2 billion estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke has sued the L.A. office of Katten Muchin Zavis, which drafted her 1993 will.

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is claiming the firm committed professional negligence and breach of contract.

The $5.8 million suit, filed Dec. 20 in L.A. Superior Court, alleges attorneys at Katten Muchin drafted the will in a way that allocated $3 million to The Duke Endowment, established by her father, James Buchanan Duke, that should have gone to the foundation. The $2.8 million balance sought includes estate taxes and attorneys' fees the foundation was forced to pay, according to Bruce Ross, partner at Holland & Knight LLP representing the foundation.

"If you were owed $6 million and you were a charity established to promote the public good and you have a fiduciary duty, why would you give away $6 million to anyone, let alone a private law firm?" Ross said. He said efforts to resolve the matter out of court failed. Katten Muchin executives did not return phone calls.

Duke's estate has hardly gone a year without some contention. In 1996, a New York Surrogate Court judge ruled the Duke estate should go toward the newly created Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and doled out to the charities named in her will.

In the ruling, however, the judge approved allocations to The Duke Endowment, a group with which Doris Duke had "a strained and distant relationship and little involvement," according to the Dec. 20 lawsuit. Though the will does not name The Duke Endowment specifically, it describes the foundations to receive a share of the estate as those "in which I am a member, director, trustee or officer at my death." She was an endowment trustee when she died.

Ross said The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation waited until Katten Muchin billed for its fees before filing the suit.

Amanda Bronstad

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