Scoring the lead role for Sony Music on its acquisition of Bertelsmann’s 50 per stake in Sony BMG is a feather in the cap for Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison.
The firm is known primarily for its stellar litigation expertise, but in this case it was Sony relationship partner James Schwab who secured Paul Weiss a place on the Japanese company’s list of preferred firms.
Paul Weiss is in good company. There is a select group of US firms and lawyers Sony Music turns to regularly, including the likes of Robert Sugerman at Weil Gotshal & Manges for IP matters, Mort Pierce at Dewey & LeBoeuf for M&A and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati for IP and technology.
“The firm we choose to instruct comes down the type of transaction we’re doing,” says an inside source. “We’ve built up strong relationships with a group of firms that we will go to for a range of deals.”
Without a formal panel Sony Music has flexibility when selecting firms for a wide range of matters.
As the source puts it: “Sony has many different divisions and we use different firms for a number of different purposes. For example, Sony Pictures is a separate division and it uses its own set of law firms, which may differ to Sony Music’s. We don’t need to have a formal panel and having flexibility is very important to us.”
Schwab first worked with Sony in 1991 when Paul Weiss advised Time Warner on the deal establishing music club Columbia House as a joint venture (JV) between his client and Sony.
The lawyer and the firm clearly made a lasting impression. Schwab has since won scores of mandates advising the music group on high-profile deals, such as the Sony/ATV restructuring in 1995.
More recently Schwab led the firm advising on the original JV between Sony and Bertelsmann.
“We have a very good relationship with Sony that’s developed over the years,” says Schwab. “It says a lot about the firm when we’re instructed after advising on the other side of a deal.”