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Real Estate Billionaires Invest in Big Law for Top Legal Roles

Feb. 25, 2021, 12:16 AM

Two property titans’ real estate development firms, MV Ventures and Turnberry Associates, have picked up a pair of law firm partners to be their top lawyers.

Eagan, Minn.-based MV Ventures, owned by the family of shopping mall billionaire and Minnesota Vikings owner Zygmunt “Zygi” Wilf, hired Matthew Slaven to be its general counsel as of Feb. 15. Slaven was a real estate, environmental, and construction law partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister in Minneapolis.

Slaven’s move came a month after Turnberry Associates, an Aventura, Fla.-based real estate developer controlled by the family of billionaire Donald Soffer, brought on Julian Chung to serve as its general counsel. Chung was a Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson real estate finance partner in New York.

Justin Weinberg, who on Jan. 1 became partner-in-charge of Taft’s Minneapolis office, confirmed Slaven’s departure to Bloomberg Law. The St. Paul Business Journal first reported Slaven’s hire Tuesday. Weinberg said via email that the Wilfs and the Vikings have been longtime clients of the firm.

Weinberg and Slaven were partners at Minneapolis-based Briggs and Morgan, which Taft absorbed on Jan. 1, 2020. Slaven did real estate work for the Wilfs, including advising on a $1 billion deal to build a new stadium for the Vikings.

MV Ventures is developing a 200-acre site in Eagan, a St. Paul suburb, which includes apartments, a hotel, and corporate offices for the National Football League team.

Before joining Turnberry, Chung spent nearly the past six years at Fried Frank, where she was a member of the firm’s diversity and technology committees, as well as co-chair of its associate success and advancement program committee.

At Fried Frank, known for its prominent real estate practice, Chung often had roles arranging financing for major real estate deals, including representing SL Green Realty Co. on its $2.6 billion buy in 2015 of New York’s 11 Madison Avenue.

During her time in private practice, Chung specialized in advising financial institutions, debtors, and borrowers in commercial lending transactions, acquisitions, and corporate refinancing and restructurings.

She previously was a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, and began her career as a Simpson Thacher & Bartlett associate.

Chung confirmed via email that she relocated from New York to Aventura, a suburb north of Miami, to take the top legal job at Turnberry following a corporate restructuring that saw former company legal chief Sheryl Kass become general counsel for Fontainebleau Development LLC.

Fontainebleau is an Aventura-based developer that owns the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, an iconic resort that the Soffer family bought and redeveloped despite a troubled foray into Las Vegas. The Drew Las Vegas, a long-stalled casino and resort project that once bore the Fontainebleau name, was reacquired this month by Fontainebleau and Koch Industries Inc.’s real estate unit.

Jeffrey Soffer, the son of Don Soffer, is chairman and CEO of Fontainebleau. His sister, Jackie Soffer, is chairman and CEO of Turnberry. The Miami Herald reported in 2019 that Fontainebleau was formed by carving some assets out of Turnberry, a split designed to give the Soffer siblings freedom to pursue their own real estate deals.

Turnberry and Fontainebleau share ownership of several properties, including the Solé Mia residential development in North Miami. Bloomberg News, in a 2019 story about that $4 billion project, noted that the Soffer family is one of America’s richest real estate clans.

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
John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com;

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