Debevoise, Latham, Weil handle American Airlines merger baggage

Weil Gotshal & Manges has leveraged its relationship with the bankrupt parent company of American Airlines to take the lead role advising on the carrier’s plans to pick a merger partner.

US rivals Debevoise & Plimpton and Latham & Watkins have also won work on the matter, with Debevoise advising as co-counsel to AMR Corporation and Latham acting for one of its potential suitors.

AMR, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year, has lined up five rivals as potential tie-up candidates, with US Airways, JetBlue Airways, Republic Airways’ Frontier Airlines, Alaska Air Group and Virgin America making the list, according to reports.

Weil New York partner Tom Roberts is leading the US firm’s team for AMR, with fellow corporate partner Mary Korby and associate David Gail also advising. Korby and Gail are both based in Dallas, close to AMR’s Fort Worth headquarters. Roberts recently stepped down as Weil’s corporate chairman after leading the department between 2000 and 2011.

The instruction follows Weil’s appointment as AMR’s primary bankruptcy counsel last November, with the team on the case led by New York restructuring partner Harvey Miller alongside fellow Manhattan bankruptcy partner Stephen Karotkin and Dallas restructuring partner Stephen Youngman.

Debevoise, which previously advised American Airlines on the financing aspects of its aircraft acquisition agreements with Airbus and Boeing in July 2011, is also acting for AMR, although Weil is taking the lead. Corporate and restructuring partner Jasmine Ball is leading the Debevoise team for the longstanding client and its subsidiary debtors alongside business restructuring and workouts co-chief Richard Hahn and aviation chair John Curry. All three partners are New York-based.

Debevoise’s current role is to advise American Airlines on the restructuring of its aircraft financing and lease arrangements.

US Airways, which last week announced that it was an AMR creditor, has turned to Latham, with details of the advisory team unclear. The company expressed interest in a deal with American Airlines earlier this year, when news of Latham’s appointment emerged.