By Noeleen Walder and Leigh Jones
Elite New York law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf has hired a prominent bankruptcy attorney as it struggles with high debt and partner defections, according to two attorneys at other law firms who have knowledge of the matter.
Albert Togut, who has represented several major companies in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, is working with at least one member of the firm's new management team, one of the sources said. Togut did not respond to several messages seeking comment. A spokesman for Dewey, Angelo Kakolyris, declined to comment, saying, "The firm does not comment on speculation."
The 950-lawyer firm, one of the biggest in the United States, has lost some 70 partners, or 23 percent of them, since the start of the year as it negotiates with creditors. In the Middle East, law firm Dechert opened up its first office in Dubai, manned in part by 12 lawyers that had defected from Dewey. The new Dechert team includes former Dubai-based Dewey partners Gavin Watson and Chris Sioufi. London-based capital markets partner Camille Abousleiman, also of Dewey, was named the head of Dechert’s Middle East and Africa practice.
The hiring of Togut does not necessarily mean Dewey is planning a bankruptcy filing. For example, the firm could be looking for legal help to renegotiate its debt.
One partner who recently left Dewey said the firm could be preparing for a so-called prepackaged bankruptcy, possibly involving a merger with another law firm. Under this scenario, Dewey would negotiate with creditors and prepare for a merger prior to filing for bankruptcy, a process that would enable Dewey to reorganize and emerge from bankruptcy quickly.
Togut has served as counsel to General Motors, Chrysler Automotive and Ambac Financial in their Chapter 11 bankruptcies. He also served as trustee in the 1988 bankruptcy of law firm Finley, Kumble. Togut was tapped by Martin Bienenstock, himself a high-powered bankruptcy lawyer who last month was appointed to Dewey's new five-person office of the chairman, a source said.
It is unclear when Togut was hired. Neither Bienenstock nor Richard Shutran, members of Dewey's office of the chairman, responded to requests seeking comment. Dewey is in the process of negotiating with its lenders, including JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup. A spokeswoman for Citi Private Bank referred all inquiries to JPMorgan, which Citi identified as Dewey's primary lender. JPMorgan declined comment.
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