Hot 100: Douglas Nordlinger, Skadden

For much of its post-colonial history, Sudan has been ravaged by war. Sadly, the hostilities didn’t end with the secession of the south on 9 July 2011.


While it is not uncommon for new states to arise from civil wars, it is unusual for one of those states to be oil-rich. Indeed, tensions surrounding the ownership of the oil resources in the former Sudan, now split into the north and south, have been to the fore ever since.

At the heart of the ongoing negotiations is Skadden’s Douglas Nordlinger (scroll down for video interview). The energy industry and infrastructure projects partner represented the government of South Sudan in its negotiations with the Republic of Sudan (now North Sudan) and the oil companies on his client’s secession.

South Sudan possesses the majority of the state’s oil resources, although the infrastructure and pipelines to take the oil to market only currently exist through North Sudanese territory. Indeed, oil production makes up approximately 98 per cent of South Sudan’s economy, so regularising the contractual and regulatory position of the oil companies operating within its territory was important.

Nordlinger is leading the team advising the government on two key issues: the extent to which the legacy oil companies’ (CNPC, ONGC and Petronas) contracts with the now-defunct Republic of Sudan continue to bind the new government; and the use of North Sudan’s transport infrastructure.

These negotiations were held in Addis Ababa under the supervision of the African Union High Implementation Panel, chaired by former South African president Thabo Mbeki. They involved uniquely complex and politically sensitive issues. An agreement between the two countries was finalised in September 2012. Nordlinger was one of the key figures involved in the deal behind the scenes.