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Topgolf’s Top Lawyer Departs for Mortgage Giant Mr. Cooper

Aug. 10, 2020, 10:40 PM

Mr. Cooper Group Inc., the largest nonbank mortgage servicer in the U.S., has hired Topgolf International Inc. general counsel Eldridge Burns Jr. to lead its in-house legal group.

Burns joins Mr. Cooper after more than four years at Dallas-based Topgolf, a privately owned operator of driving ranges with a party vibe, many of which have been closed in recent months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bloomberg News reported in July that Topgolf could go public through a merger with Churchill Capital Corp. II, a special purpose acquisition company formed by former Citigroup Inc. banker Michael Klein that raised $690 million through an initial public offering last year. Topgolf selected financial advisers in January for an IPO that would’ve valued it at $4 billion.

Topgolf didn’t respond to a request for comment about whether the company has named a replacement for Burns.

Texas-based Mr. Cooper said Monday that Burns would become part of its executive leadership team in his new role as chief legal officer. The company adopted its name two years ago following the completion of a merger between Nationstar Mortgage Holdings Inc. and former Washington Mutual parent WMIH Corp.

Burns said he’s looking forward to supporting Mr. Cooper as “the company further strengthens its position as an industry leader, while continuing on the journey of keeping the dream of homeownership alive,” according to a statement announcing his hire. He was not immediately available to comment further.

Burns replaces former Nationstar and Mr. Cooper general counsel Anthony Villani, who retired in October 2019, and brings to Mr. Cooper more than 25 years of capital markets, financial services, and regulatory compliance, the company said.

Prior to Topgolf, Burns spent a decade as legal chief for auto finance company Santander Consumer USA Inc., which he helped take public in 2014, and before that was senior corporate counsel at now-defunct home video rental giant Blockbuster Inc. He began his legal career as an associate at Vinson & Elkins.

Tough Times for Mortgage Companies

Mr. Cooper, which has faced regulatory scrutiny in recent months over unspecified enforcement matters, is one of several nonbank mortgage companies struggling due to an ailing U.S. housing market.

Still, billionaire Dan Gilbert’s Detroit-based Rocket Cos. Inc., parent company of mortgage giants Rocket Mortgage and Quicken Loans, raised $1.8 billion in an IPO this month. The listing generated $7.6 million in legal fees and expenses for Rocket’s lawyers at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, according to securities filings, which also revealed that the company’s longtime legal chief Angelo Vitale earned more than $400,000 in 2019. Paul Weiss has also handled IPOs for Klein’s Churchill Capital SPACs.

Recent notable in-house additions in the mortgage space include:

  • Velocity Financial Inc., a Westlake Village, Calif.-based mortgage solutions provider that owns Velocity Mortgage Capital, announced July 7 its hire of Roland Kelly as general counsel and corporate secretary. Kelly joined Velocity after serving as an associate general counsel at Jefferies Financial Group Inc. and general counsel at HomeFed Corp., a real estate developer acquired by Jefferies last year.
  • Altisource Portfolio Solutions SA, which provides information to the mortgage and real estate sectors, hired Majorie Winters last month as director of legal, marketplace. Winters was most recently senior counsel at Foley & Lardner in Austin, Texas, where the former Gunderson Dettmer associate advised startup companies on corporate finance and intellectual property issues.
  • Primary Residential Mortgage Inc. said May 19 it promoted associate general counsel Richard Armstrong to general counsel. Armstrong succeeded former chief legal officer Darryl Lee, who retired after 20 years at the Salt Lake City-based mortgage lender.

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

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