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Perelman Taps Mueller Deputy Weissmann as Lawyers Exit Empire

April 18, 2022, 10:55 AM

Lawyers are leaving Ronald Perelman’s shrinking empire, including Revlon Inc., as legal power consolidates around Andrew Weissmann, the former Justice Department official who aided Robert Mueller III’s election interference probe.

MacAndrews & Forbes Inc., Perelman’s privately held holding company, saw chief legal officer Shiri Ben-Yishai and general counsel Timothy Martin depart in January for new roles at Fanatics Holdings Inc. and Kaplan Hecker & Fink, respectively.

At Revlon, where Perelman has a controlling stake, general counsel Cari Robinson stepped down Feb. 1. SIGA Technologies Inc., a developer of antiviral therapeutics also controlled by Perelman, disclosed last month that chief administrative officer and general counsel Robin Abrams would exit April 15.

The moves come after Perelman’s fortune plunged in recent years amid a series of asset sales and other divestitures. Perelman is no longer listed in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which estimated his net worth had dropped by more than three-quarters as of 2020 from more than $19 billion in 2018, Bloomberg News reported in November.

Weissmann is now the top lawyer for a MacAndrews & Forbes, which will more closely resemble a family office than a large holding company, said two lawyers familiar with Perelman’s affairs. The lawyers requested anonymity so as not to jeopardize employment agreements or business relationships.

In Weissmann, Perelman has a top lawyer who is a former FBI general counsel and who once led the criminal fraud section at Justice. He holds a long resume of handling high-profile public matters.

Weissmann worked as one of Mueller’s deputies in the probe of alleged Russian influence in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He also led Justice’s corporate fraud task force in the early 2000’s that prosecuted executives at Enron Corp.

Internet domain data shows that the executive management webpage at MacAndrews & Forbes was revised earlier this year to note Weissmann’s new role as executive vice president for legal and corporate affairs.

Weissmann, most recently a partner at Jenner & Block, didn’t respond to a request for comment. He had rejoined Jenner in July 2020 to co-chair the firm’s investigations practice after writing a book, “Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation.”

A spokesman for MacAndrews & Forbes declined to comment.

Legal Exodus

Bloomberg Law reached out to more than a dozen current and former in-house lawyers working at Perelman-related entities. Most either didn’t respond or declined to discuss their roles working for Perelman, who since the start of the coronavirus pandemic has been streamlining his portfolio.

Global Investigations Review, citing three anonymous sources familiar with the matter, first reported last summer that Weissmann joined MacAndrews & Forbes.

Now he appears to be one of the few remaining lawyers at the company. An in-house legal exodus that began prior to Weissmann joining the New York-based company has continued this year.

Emily Hatch, who spent more than eight years at MacAndrews & Forbes, left this month to take a new position in the family office of billionaire Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive officer at Alphabet Inc.’s Google, two people familiar said.

Hatch most recently served as chief administrative officer for MacAndrews & Forbes, a role she took over from Earl Doppelt, an attorney and former litigation financier who left the company earlier this year to become a senior adviser at Perelman-owned Revlon, said a person familiar with his move.

Samantha Lipton, daughter of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz founding partner Martin Lipton, stepped down in December as a deputy general counsel at MacAndrews & Forbes after spending nearly a half-dozen years at the company.

The legal personnel shuffle at MacAndrews & Forbes began in 2020 when former general counsel Steven Cohen left to assist former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Frances Townsend, former Homeland Security adviser to President George W. Bush who served as vice chair at MacAndrews & Forbes, succeeded Cohen as legal chief but departed in early 2021. She subsequently joined Activision Blizzard Inc. as an executive vice president of corporate affairs and chief compliance officer.

Portfolio Shakeout

The legal group turnover at MacAndrews & Forbes has trickled down to Perelman’s other businesses.

Revlon restocked its law department last year after avoiding bankruptcy.

Robinson, the Revlon legal chief who left Feb. 1, was recruited by the company in 2019 to succeed fellow former federal prosecutor Mitra Hormozi as the personal care company’s general counsel. Robinson had previously spent almost two decades at International Business Machines Corp.

Penny Tehrani-Littrell, a deputy general counsel and corporate secretary who joined Revlon last year, has replaced Robinson as legal chief on an acting basis.

Revlon’s most recent proxy statement for 2020 didn’t list Robinson among its three highest-paid executives. Perelman’s daughter, Debra Perelman, received nearly $6.5 million in total compensation that year in her role as Revlon’s president and CEO.

Robinson’s Revlon exit was followed by that of senior employment counsel Mona Mehta, who left this month to take a similar role at newly public cybersecurity company SentinelOne Inc.

Grace Fu, a former top lawyer at Barneys New York Inc. who was a deputy general counsel and corporate secretary at Revlon, also left last year to become general counsel for travel company Kayak and restaurant reservation service OpenTable.

A Revlon spokesman declined to comment on departures from the company.

Pharma Fallout

Abrams’ departure from SIGA, the Perelman-backed pharmaceutical company, comes a year after the former federal prosecutor stepped aside as the top lawyer at vTv Therapeutics Inc., a Perelman-owned biotechnology company that has suffered setbacks in its drug development efforts.

VTv reported a nearly $18 million loss for 2021 and axed 65% of its workforce in December. David “Trey” Lambert III, who last year succeeded Abrams as vTv’s general counsel, left the High Point, N.C.-based company that same month.

New York-based SIGA disclosed in a proxy statement filed this month that Abrams received more than $1.2 million in cash compensation last year. Abrams also owns SIGA stock valued at roughly $343,000, according to Bloomberg data.

The company cited Abrams’ role in the “achievement of legal objectives within budgetary requirements” in its rationale for her pay package.

SIGA also noted that it paid $100,000 to Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel for legal services in 2021 and another $500,000 to the firm the year prior. Thomas Constance, a co-chairman of Kramer Levin, is a former SIGA board member.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com