Debevoise & Plimpton has picked up Sidney Levinson from Jones Day as a partner and co-chair of its restructuring group as the firm positions itself to aid clients in sectors growing more vulnerable to bankruptcies.
Levinson was previously the co-head of Jones Day’s New York restructuring practice.
He will co-chair Debevoise’s restructuring practice alongside Natasha Labovitz, who joined the New York firm in 2011 from Kirkland & Ellis.
Levinson has represented bondholders, secured lenders, debtors, trustees and creditors’ committees in bankruptcy and restructuring proceedings over a career spanning more than three decades.
He has worked with Debevoise lawyers on cases and matters before. He told Bloomberg Law he wasn’t initially looking to move from Jones Day, but when he received a call from Debevoise he was intrigued by its brand, quality and reputation.
Particularly intriguing was the work Debevoise does on both the debtor and creditor side of restructurings that has both the transactional and litigation component, Levinson said. He also noted the strength of the firm’s other practices, like its private equity and capital markets groups, which support the restructuring work as another key reason for his move.
“You put it all together [and] for me, it just seemed like it would be a great fit,” Levinson said.
From 1992 to 1995 Levinson was a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice where he specialized in bankruptcy and commercial litigation. He later spent over a decade at Hennigan Bennett & Dorman before decamping to the now-defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf in 2011. Levinson joined Jones Day in May 2012.
Prior to joining Jones Day, Levinson represented the Los Angeles Dodgers in their Chapter 11 case and represented the Chapter 11 trustee for Hawaiian Airlines as well as bondholders of NorthPoint Communications and Premier Entertainment Biloxi in their respective bankruptcy proceedings.
He also served as lead trial attorney in several high-profile cases including Hawaiian Airlines’ $80 million judgment against Mesa Air Group in 2007.
At Jones Day, Levinson represented term lenders of J. Crew Group and Fontainebleau Las Vegas as well as noteholders of distressed retailers like Bon-Ton Department Stores and Hot Topic.
Labovitz lauded Levinson as both an “accomplished litigator” and one who is “great at getting deals done outside of court.”
Gearing Up for A Downturn
With Levinson’s addition, Labovitz said the practice seeks to continue providing quality restructuring expertise to clients across industries and sectors. But the firm also wants to provide a depth of experience and the right number of lawyers to handle clients’ needs if and when there’s an economic downturn, and bankruptcies result.
“It’s wise to be prepared and we counsel our clients to be prepared,” Labovitz said, “We want to be prepared too.”
The firm isn’t merely waiting for the work to roll in once a downturn happens, she said, it’s already busy working on a variety of matters for its clients in liability management.
The retail and midstream oil and gas sectors continue to be stressed while there are other sectors that are beginning to see strains, some of it regulatory, other times litigation driven, she added.
Levinson noted that over the last several months creditors have become more reactive and sensitive to any kind of news or events.
“I think that’s indicative of the fact that there’s concern in the marketplace about exactly where a lot of these businesses are going to go,” he said.
The Debevoise team will focus attention on where the trouble spots are on both the debtor and the creditor side, according to Levinson, and make sure clients are properly positioned to react to market changes and take advantage of opportunities.
“We think that Sid is going to help us to continue to provide that sophisticated and excellent client service to, frankly, keep doing what we’re doing for our clients,” Labovitz said.