Willkie has all the history you could ask for and then some. The
firm's clients have ranged from inventors to industrial titans to
elite financial institutions, and its attorneys have included
presidential candidates, Supreme Court justices and governors.
While the firm has just under 600 lawyers across the US and Europe,
it has established itself as a New York firm
Politics & Innovation
Tracing its ancestry to 1880s New York City, Willkie began as
Hornblower & Byrne, founded in 1888 by two attorneys and two
clerks. The elder of the two founding attorneys was William B.
Hornblower, a Columbia law grad who attracted such luminaries as
Thomas Edison and Ulysses S. Grant as clients.
Toward the end of the 19th century, the firm picked up a new
name partner who would shape the next 40 years: William W. Miller,
who was primarily responsible for driving business into the 20th
century. During the Miller years, the firm added attorneys of
influence to its ranks (including future Supreme Court justices
Charles Evans Hughes and Felix Frankfurter), worked landmark cases,
and merged with Miller, Otis & Farr-another major New York
firm. A young Iowan named Harold Gallagher joined as an associate
in 1917, made the partnership in 1925, and continued as a member of
the firm for 51 years-the longest any partner has served.
Quality, Not Quantity
In 1941-two years after the firm hired its first female
associate-defeated presidential candidate Wendell Willkie came on
as partner, pursuing a flurry of high-profile engagements. In the
three-and-a-half years before his death in 1944, Willkie defended
Hollywood against a Congressional communist witch hunt, penned a
bestselling treatise on international peacekeeping that influenced
the formation of the United Nations, and defeated the federal
government in a civil liberties case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Despite his brief tenure with the firm, Willkie's accomplishments
ensured that his name would remain etched at the top of the
masthead for the rest of the 20th century and beyond. The firm
became Willkie Farr & Gallagher in 1968.
A Solid Base from which to Grow
The firm evolved into a preeminent East Coast institution, known
for representing railroad and insurance companies, blue-collar
manufacturers and telecoms, baseball teams and oil heiresses,
Kaisers and Trumps. The 1970s brought the arrival of the firm's
first female partner, a merger with a New York municipal bond
boutique, and the reopening of the Paris office. During the late
1980s, Willkie thrived as it handled hostile takeovers, expanded to
London, and built up existing offices stateside and across the
pond. Willkie rang in the new millennium by putting down roots in
Milan, Rome and Frankfurt; a Brussels office followed two years
later. The firm converted to a limited liability partnership in
2003 and formed a strategic alliance with U.K. boutique firm
Dickson Minto W.S. in 2008. This move has allowed Willkie's
European offices, particularly its London location, to increase
services to corporate and commercial clients.
Willkie's impressive client list has included longtime client
Bloomberg L.P., insurance giants Marsh and Zurich, file-sharing
service Lime Wire, and a slew of other notable names, such as Teva
Pharmaceuticals, Alcatel-Lucent, Comcast Corporation, General
Electric, Level 3 Communications, Hallmark Cards, Major League
Baseball, MasterCard, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Robert
IN THE NEWS
In Defense of Facebook
The United States District Court for the Southern District of New
York handed down a decision (In re Facebook, Inc. IPO Sec.
& Derivative Litig., No. 12-md-2389 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 13,
2013)) dismissing the shareholder derivative actions that had been
brought against Facebook and its Board of Directors in the
aftermath of the Company's May 18 initial public offering. Willkie
is serving as co-counsel for the Facebook defendants in the
Facebook IPO-related litigation.
Ketchup at the Bank
H.J. Heinz Company, the iconic maker of ketchup and other food
products, announced that it has entered into a definitive merger
agreement to be acquired by an investment consortium comprised of
Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital in a transaction valued at $28
billion, including the assumption of Heinz's outstanding debt.
Willkie represented BofA Merrill Lynch, financial advisor to Heinz,
in the transaction.
Willkie client Comcast Corporation announced it will acquire
General Electric's remaining 49% common equity stake in the
NBCUniversal joint venture for approximately $16.7 billion. Willkie
served as FCC regulatory counsel to Comcast in the deal. The
acquisition accelerates GE's divestiture ahead of a redemption
period that would have begun in July 2014. In 2011, Willkie advised
Comcast on the regulatory aspects of its $13.75 billion transaction
with GE that created the NBCUniversal, LLC joint venture. Comcast
Corporation is a global media and technology company with two
primary businesses, Comcast Cable and NBCUniversal.
Reinsuring Life Insurance
Willkie client Berkshire Hathaway Life Insurance Company of
Nebraska entered into a reinsurance transaction with Connecticut
General Life Insurance Company (a subsidiary of Cigna Corporation
(Cigna)), pursuant to which Berkshire Hathaway reinsured $4 billion
of guaranteed minimum death benefit (GMDB) and guaranteed minimum
income benefit (GMIB) exposure of Cigna. The GMDB and GMIB
exposures arise out of deferred annuities issued by other U.S.
insurance companies and reinsured by Cigna.
Willkie client K-V Pharmaceutical Co., a women's health care
company based in St. Louis, Missouri, filed for chapter 11
protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District
of New York. In its filing, the company cited its inability to
realize full value on its biggest product, preterm-birth drug
Makena, and a $45 million milestone payment due on a related rights
agreement with Hologic Inc.
Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. announced that it entered into a
definitive merger agreement under which Willkie client Kenneth D.
Cole, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of the company, would
acquire the company in a going-private transaction with a total
enterprise value of approximately $245 million.