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Billionaire Perelman’s Holding Company Gets New Lawyers for 2021

Jan. 4, 2021, 6:07 PM

Ronald Perelman, the billionaire investor and philanthropist who was busy last year streamlining his business empire, has a new legal team at his holding company.

MacAndrews & Forbes Inc. has parted ways with Frances Townsend, who spent the past decade at the company. The move comes about six months after Townsend was tapped to succeed Steven Cohen as general counsel and chief administrative officer.

Earl Doppelt, a former in-house legal chief at Dun & Bradstreet Corp., Information Services Group Inc., Nielsen Holdings PLC, and Walter Energy Inc., takes over as chief administrative officer at MacAndrews & Forbes. The New York-based company also elevated deputy general counsel Shiri Ben-Yishai and Timothy Martin last month to chief legal officer and general counsel, respectively.

Townsend didn’t respond to a request for comment about her departure, which follows a series of asset sales by MacAndrews & Forbes.

The former Homeland Security Department adviser to President George W. Bush had been an executive vice president for worldwide government, legal, and business affairs at MacAndrews & Forbes prior to replacing Cohen last year. Townsend stepped down in December but continues to serve as an emeritus vice chairman.

Doppelt, who most recently served as a co-founder and managing partner at Jules Kroll’s litigation finance firm BlueWhite Legal Capital LLC, didn’t respond to a request for comment about joining MacAndrews & Forbes.

Ben-Yishai and Martin are now also executive vice presidents at MacAndrews & Forbes. Ben-Yishai previously served as senior vice president of law, while Martin was the company’s chief of litigation. Neither returned requests for comment about their promotion.

Martin moved into his former deputy general counsel and chief litigation role last year following the departure of E. Danya Perry, who spent nearly six years at MacAndrews & Forbes before leaving last year to form a litigation boutique.

Michael Bosworth, another former deputy general counsel and chief compliance officer at MacAndrews & Forbes, joined Latham & Watkins as a partner last year.

MacAndrews & Forbes confirmed the recent legal personnel changes that it and some of its portfolio companies have made but declined to discuss them further.

Strategic Shift

Perelman is looking to streamline his operations, including by unloading millions of dollars in artwork. He said in a statement issued last summer that the coronavirus pandemic helped him appreciate the simplicity of a “less complicated and less leveraged business life.”

Bloomberg News reported in October that Perelman had sold more than $200 million in artwork last year. Among the other Perelman-owned assets to hit the market were his private jet and personal yacht as the billionaire’s net worth slipped with Covid-19 roiling the finances of MacAndrews & Forbes’ portfolio companies.

MacAndrews & Forbes unloaded RetailMeNot Inc., an online coupon company that operates discount drug outfit RxSaver LLC, to J2 Global Inc. in a $420 million deal announced in September.

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, where MacAndrews & Forbes’ new legal chief Ben-Yishai was once an associate, advised the company that same month on a $1 billion deal to sell its nearly 35% stake in gambling services outfit Scientific Games Corp.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, a law firm where Doppelt, Martin, and Perry started their careers, represented MacAndrews & Forbes on the sale of its majority stake in automotive manufacturer AM General LLC to KPS Capital Partners LP. The deal for AM General, a Humvee and heavy vehicle maker, closed in October.

Paul Weiss played a key role counseling Perelman-owned cosmetics giant Revlon Inc., which in November avoided bankruptcy after reaching a debt deal with creditors. The firm has also handled corporate and litigation work for vTv Therapeutics Inc., a High Point, N.C.-based biotechnology company controlled by MacAndrews & Forbes.

Biotech Bust

In a Dec. 30 securities filing, vTv disclosed that general counsel Robin Abrams had become executive chairperson of the company and a member of its board.

Abrams, a former federal prosecutor in New York who spent 14 years at now-bankrupt opioid maker Purdue Pharma LP, joined vTv as legal chief in 2016. Her new role came after vTv’s oral small molecule drug azeliragon flopped in a key trial.

The company announced Dec. 15 that azeliragon “did not meet its primary objective” following the experimental treatment’s use in a study that failed to slow cognitive impairment in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Ahead of the release of those disappointing results, Perelman’s MacAndrews & Forbes increased its stake in vTv to 71%, Bloomberg News reported. Abrams’ executive chairperson role will pay her $250,000 in annual base salary and she will be eligible for additional cash and equity performance bonuses, vTv said.

Abrams has been succeeded as vTv’s top lawyer by senior counsel David “Trey” Lambert III, who also joined the company in 2016 after working as an associate at Latham and what is now Womble Bond Dickinson.

Lambert didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Abrams also serves as general counsel and chief administrative officer for SIGA Technologies Inc., a New York-based developer of antiviral therapeutics owned by MacAndrews & Forbes. Abrams confirmed in an email that she will remain SIGA’s legal chief. She owns nearly $251,000 in SIGA stock, per Bloomberg data.

More Changes

Abrams joins a vTv board that saw former member Edward Taibi resign Sept. 30 after only a month of service. Taibi, a former associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, spent nearly 17 years as an executive vice president at MacAndrews & Forbes, handling business development, capital markets, and finance work.

Taibi is no longer employed by MacAndrews & Forbes, where his duties have been assumed by executive vice president for corporate development Richard Nelson, another former Skadden associate. Taibi’s exit from vTv was not the result of any dispute with the company, according to an Oct. 2 securities filing.

The portfolio company had another board seat vacated Dec. 23 by Jeffrey Kindler, a former general counsel and CEO at drug giant Pfizer Inc. Kindler’s resignation was also not the result of any disagreement with vTv over its “operations, policies, or practices,” the biotech said in a Dec. 30 securities filing.

Kindler previously served as vTv’s executive chairman, a role he stepped down from Nov. 25, 2019, according to a proxy statement filed by the company for that fiscal year. He received more than $277,000 in total compensation from vTv in 2019.

The proxy statement noted that Kindler provided consulting services to MacAndrews & Forbes on matters related to the life sciences industry.

Kindler stepped down from SIGA’s board in May, three months before the Blackstone Group Inc. announced it hired him as a senior adviser on health care matters. Kindler, a former lawyer at General Electric Co. who resigned a decade ago from Pfizer, is now CEO of Boston-based biotechnology company Centrexion Corp.

Kindler didn’t respond to a request for comment about leaving vTv or whether he continues to advise MacAndrews & Forbes. Kindler currently owns more than $927,000 in SIGA stock, according to Bloomberg data.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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