The Interesting Tale of Harvey Miller and WLRK

by lawshucks on December 23, 2008

Pic: Weil Gotshal

Pic: Weil Gotshal

Bankruptcy Superman (a/k/a Weil Gotshal‘s Harvey Miller (Brooklyn BA ’54, Columbia JD ’59)) is currently leading GM’s and Lehman’s windups.   The yeoman job he’s been doing was well documented by the NY Times a few weeks ago in a fascinating article.  That article is chock-full of goodies, including tales of Lipton grabbing opposing counsel by the collar in chambers and making a snide comment that Dewey & LeBoeuf‘s Marty Bienenstock, with whom Lipton worked for something like 25 years, didn’t understand a deal.

The Times also (erroneously, it seems) reports that Miller’s first firm was Seligson & Morris “an eight-laywer firm that also employed Martin Lipton, Leonard Rosen and George Katz, who went on to be co-founders of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.”  Am I the only one who wonders who the other four were?

The Times’s mistake and the identity of the fifth founding partner after the jump.

Anyway, I was curious about that question and did a little research.  In 2003, Miller gave a speech presenting the American College of Bankruptcy’s Distinguished Service Award to Len Rosen.  He recounts the story of meeting Rosen, then Professor Charles Seligson’s bagman (literally and metaphorically), at a bankruptcy hearing and Rosen inviting him to join Seligson & Morris a year later.  Like many of us, Miller has coveted Wachtell’s skyrocketing profits per partner over the years.

Rosen (along with Lipton and Katz) left to start that moderately successful firm two years later, but Miller obviously continued to work closely with him over the years.  When they first met in 1960, the roles in which we know them so well were reversed: Miller represented the creditors’ committee and Seligson and Rosen represented the debtor.  Miller has continued to do work for both creditors and debtors, but the W.T. Grant Company’s bankruptcy in 1975 was the last time Rosen did debtor work.  It was also the first billion-dollar Chapter XI proceeding.

Of course, our favorite Lehman bankruptcy deal to date is the sale of Banque Lehman Brothers, its French investment-banking unit to Nomura for a whopping ONE EURO (ok, fine, plus assumption of “unspecified liabilities”).

Oh, and that fifth WLRK founder?  According to The Titans of Takeover, by Robert Slater, the firm’s Pete Best is Jerry Kern, who made the classic jump to investment banking a few years after founding the firm (a move Miller also made in 2002, but regretted and rejoined Weil in 2007).  For what it’s worth, Kern went on to a career in telecom on both the law and business side, including turns at TCI and Baker & Botts.

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