Weil Gotshal & Manges’ focal point in the global energy market, which even its own lawyers would admit is not a core sector for the firm, has traditionally been private equity.
That approach is likely to continue to be its strategic driver for the foreseeable future, although the firm is looking to make inroads in the US infrastructure sector with a concerted push headed by New York real estate partner Phil Rosen and corporate partner Fred Green.
“The US is way behind Australia and Europe in terms of its infrastructure needs, such as ports, toll roads and bridges and the public-private partnerships required to develop them,” says Rosen, now co-head of Weil’s infrastructure group with Green. “It’s always exciting whenever there’s a new area of activity.”
Weil also expanded its energy group in June 2011 when it hired Vinson & Elkins partner and upstream oil and gas specialist Rodney Moore in Dallas.
Indeed, Weil is unusual among the elite New York firms for the number of lawyers it has on the ground in Texas – around 80 in Dallas and 40 in Houston. With that amount of legal capability in the state it is no surprise that the primary sector focus of the firm’s practice is oil and gas.
“It’s true that we don’t have the same energy-focused project finance practice that some other firms have,” concedes partner Michael Saslaw, who joined Weil in 1998 from Baker Botts, “but through the combination of our presence in Texas and several key practice areas we see a significant number of energy deals.”
Weil’s private equity client base, its primary entry point to the energy sector, includes Lindsay Goldberg, the Gores Group, Berkshire Partners, Summit Partners, Advent International and Sequoia Capital.
The firm also has relationships with energy companies such as Anadarko, Cez, General Electric (GE) and Kinder Morgan, and infrastructure companies such as Macquarie and Brookfield. For several of these clients Weil has leveraged off its market-leading litigation and bankruptcy practice to feature in the sector.
For example, on the upstream side last year the increasingly high-profile Houston partner Lydia Protopapas acted for the exploration and production company Anadarko when it bought back assets it co-owned with Newfield of bankrupt TXCO Resources.
Weil has also advised on a string of acquisitions for GE, including the $2.8bn purchase of UK-based John Wood’s well service division (alongside Allen & Overy as primary counsel to GE), its $520m acquisition of Lineage Power, and its $1.3bn offer for UK oil and transportation products provider Wellstream.
The midstream oil and gas sector is a particular strength, reflected by its role as co-counsel to Kinder Morgan – one of the largest energy transportation, storage and distribution companies in the US – in its $2.86bn IPO.
A third string to its bow is Weil’s longstanding relationships with prominent banks such as Goldman Sachs and Citi, which regularly serve as lenders and/or lead arrangers on major deals.
Outside the US, Asia is a focus of Weil’s expansion plans generally, while in terms of the energy market, most activity is centred on central and eastern Europe, where the firm anticipates continued strong economic development.
Weil has represented Czech power generation company Cez on several transactions, including the acquisition of stakes in Polish energy company Elcho and Dalkia Czech Republic (both deals closed last year).
Along with its focus on oil and gas, particularly midstream and pipeline deals, Weil expects most of the growth in its energy team to derive from electricity and power, where its longstanding relationships with some of the world’s largest companies should ensure a steady stream of deals, and renewables.
In relation to the latter, Weil is best known for its experience in hydrocarbon and wind power, as well as biofuel, fossil fuel and solar energy sectors.
Phil Rosen, Michael Saslaw, Jay Tabor, Glenn West, Rodney Moore
Top three sectors
Oil and gas
Top three geographical regions
Central and Eastern Europe
Kinder Morgan’s $2.86bn IPO
Client: Kinder Morgan
Lead partner: Alex Lynch (New York)
General Electric’s $2.8bn purchase of UK-based John Wood’s well service division
Client: General Electric
Lead partner: Jay Tabor
Series of deals for Brookfield Infrastructure and associated companies
Lead partners: Elaine Stangland, Shukie Grossman