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Pier 1 Gets New Top Lawyer in Chapter 11 After’s CLO’s Death

Feb. 26, 2020, 3:36 PM

Pier 1 Imports Inc. revealed the name of a new top in-house lawyer in its recent bankruptcy filing following the mid-January death of its former chief legal officer Robert Bostrom.

George “Ray” McKown III, a longtime in-house lawyer at Pier 1, is now senior vice president and general counsel for the Fort Worth, Texas-based home goods and décor retailer. Pier 1 disclosed McKown’s new title in its Chapter 11 petition filed Feb. 17 in Richmond, Va.

McKown confirmed his new role in a brief phone call Tuesday. A LinkedIn profile for McKown shows that he joined Pier 1 in 2005 after working at Fort Worth-based law firm Brackett & Ellis and Sheldon, Jordan & Dunham in Beaumont, Texas. McKown was senior corporate counsel for Pier 1 until he was promoted last summer to vice president, associate general counsel, privacy officer, and assistant secretary.

McKown takes over as Pier 1’s top lawyer from Bostrom, who was hired as chief legal and compliance officer and corporate secretary of the company in January 2019. Bostrom succeeded Pier 1’s longtime in-house legal chief, Michael Carter, who retired in September 2018.

Bostrom’s prior duties included being general counsel at Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and managing partner of the New York office at Winston & Strawn, where he also headed the firm’s financial institutions practice. Bostrom was a high-profile addition by Pier 1, which has struggled in recent years amid increased competition from online retailers.

He died suddenly at 67 on Jan. 18 after only a year at the company.

Pier 1’s Counselors

McKown told Bloomberg Law that Pier 1, which is now preparing to close 450 stores as it mulls a potential sale in bankruptcy court, has permanently installed him as general counsel. Bloomberg data shows that McKown owns Pier 1 stock valued at roughly $115,000.

Kirkland & Ellis restructuring partners Joshua Sussberg, Emily Geier, and AnnElyse Scarlett Gains and Kutak Rock partners Michael Condyles, Peter Barrett and Jeremy Williams, all of whom are advising Pier 1 in its bankruptcy case, did not respond to requests for comment about their role helping the company prepare for bankruptcy amid the general counsel transition from Bostrom to McKown.

Kirkland and Kutak Rock, which have previously worked together on the bankruptcies of retailers Toys “R” Us Inc., Gymboree Group Inc., and Gordmans Stores Inc., have not yet filed billing statements in Pier 1’s Chapter 11 case. Bloomberg Law reported last summer on a Sussberg-led Kirkland team that earned $2.63 million in legal fees from the bankruptcy of Barneys New York Inc., only a few months after the firm was awarded $55.7 million for its work in the insolvency of Toys “R” Us.

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt is serving as Canadian bankruptcy counsel to Pier 1, which is planning to close all of its 67 stores in Canada.

Bloomberg Law data shows that Baker Botts, San Diego-based Klinedinst, and Littler Mendelson have handled most of Pier 1’s litigation work within the last three years. Seyfarth Shaw, Bracewell, and Hunton Andrews Kurth are other law firms that have also been active in court on behalf of Pier 1 in recent years. Bloomberg News reported last year on Pier 1’s hire of Kirkland to advise on talks with creditors.

Bostrom’s Bonafides

Bostrom, who was married for more than 40 years and had four children, was well-regarded in the legal profession. His passing was announced publicly by Veta Richardson, president and CEO of the Association of Corporate Counsel, who met Bostrom during her time as executive director, president, and deputy general counsel of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA).

In a message posted last month to LinkedIn, Richardson lauded Bostrom for being “quick to lend his experience and guidance” to help others and working to open doors “as a leading diversity and inclusion advocate.” Several other in-house lawyers joined Richardson in praising Bostrom, including A.B. Cruz III, who spent more than 13 years on the board of the MCCA.

Bostrom, who left Abercrombie & Fitch in 2018, earned nearly $1.5 million in total compensation from the company in 2017, according to a proxy statement filed by the casual clothing retailer for that year. At Pier 1, Bostrom earned a base salary of $615,000—slightly higher than what he received at Abercrombie & Fitch—and a grant of stock that Bloomberg data shows is now valued at just $60,000.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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