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White & Case Restructuring Team Grows With Ropes & Gray Duo (1)

Dec. 7, 2020, 5:28 PMUpdated: Dec. 7, 2020, 8:44 PM

White & Case has hired a pair of partners from Ropes & Gray, including the co-chair of the firm’s restructuring practice, Keith Wofford, furthering recent efforts to bulk up its bankruptcy firepower through lateral pickups from rivals.

Former New York state attorney general candidate Wofford, who also served as managing partner of Ropes & Gray’s New York office, and Stephen Moeller-Sally will join the firm’s growing global financial restructuring and insolvency practice.

In October, the firm hired a trio of partners from Sidley Austin, including the co-leaders of its bankruptcy practice, Jessica Boelter and Bojan Guzina. It also hired litigator Michael Andolina, deputy group head of Sidley’s Chicago litigation group and picked up Sidley bankruptcy partner Andrew O’Neill and associate Matthew Linder in Chicago.

New York-based Wofford and Boston-based Moeller-Sally are predominantly creditor-side lawyers, representing asset managers and investment funds, a key focus as businesses seek bankruptcy protection in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Creditor-side practice has been a big part of what White & Case has been known for in the restructuring space, Wofford said. There’s a desire by the firm to add senior level strength in that practice because of what’s happening in the larger market, he added, but also to take advantage of the synergy that occurs when you have both a strong creditor and debtor practice. The firm is representing Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. in its Chapter 11 restructuring.

“Our expectation is that we’re going to continue to build the restructuring department at White & Case to be the premiere platform,” Wofford said. “We have a number of fine competitors out there, but we’re focused on growth and on execution and doing the absolute best for our clients,” he said.

Wofford was a Republican candidate for New York state attorney general in 2018 and lost to Letitia James. During that campaign he reported between $4.35 million and $4.45 million in 2017 income from his position at Ropes & Gray, according to ethics disclosures obtained by City & State.

Wofford primarily works with investment funds, specializing in distressed debt and potential acquirers of assets of distressed companies. He also has worked on inter-creditor disputes, credit-bidding transactions, and other acquisitions of company control through debt positions.

His clients have included Elliott Management Corp. on restructuring issues related to a $1.62 billion equity investment in FirstEnergy as well as its position as the largest unsecured creditor in Chapter 11 cases of Energy Future Intermediate Holding Company. He also represented an ad hoc group of unsecured noteholders on GenOn Energy Inc. and GenOn Americas Generation, LLC.

Moeller-Sally’s work includes Chapter 11 cases, cross-border insolvencies distressed sales and acquisitions, and insolvency-related litigation.

He’s represented financial sponsors, including Apax Partners, Bain Capital, Charlesbank Capital Partners, TPG Capital, and TSG Consumer Partners and their portfolio companies in bankruptcy and insolvency-related matters. He has also worked with creditors and creditors groups, like Reebok Ltd. and adidas AG in The Rockport Company’s Chapter 11 cases.

Foreign-based clients are increasingly coming to the U.S. to do complete reorganizations, Moeller-Sally said. And he expects that trend to increase and accelerate in the coming years so being at an international firm like White & Case “is a great place to take advantage of that.”

Ropes & Gray has also added its restructuring ranks in recent weeks, bringing on former Weil Gotshal & Manges partner Ryan Dahl in Chicago and New York, and Kirkland & Ellis special situations partner Samuel Norris in London last week.

Despite the pandemic, White & Case has focused on its strategic expansion goals.

Earlier this year the firm added a four-lawyer group from Winston & Strawn that specializes in now highly-popular special purchase acquisitions companies, or SPACs. The firm also picked up former co-chair of the national trial practice at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Tara Lee, and former Holland & Knight M&A partner Germaine Gurr.

(Updated with comments from Wofford and Moeller-Sally throughout)

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at mtribe@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Tom P. Taylor at ttaylor@bloomberglaw.com

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