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 U.S. and
Europe, it has established itself as a New York firm through and
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 justice
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 partner 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 one-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, TimeWarner, and
a slew of other notable names such as Men's Warehouse, Teva
Pharmaceuticals, Alcatel-Lucent, Comcast Corporation, General
Electric, Level 3 Communications, Major League Baseball,
MasterCard, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Robert DeNiro.
IN THE NEWS
Shop til You Drop
Willkie represented Hudson's Bay Company, the Canadian owner of
Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and other leading department
stores, in its €2.82 billion cross-border deal to acquire German
department store chain Galeria Kaufhof, Galeria Inno (Belgian
subsidiary) and Sportarena from METRO AG. HBC is one of the
foremost retail operators in North America and its longest
continually operated company. The transaction is an extension of
HBC's strategy to grow through mergers and acquisitions, and
positions the company as a premier international retailer. The deal
was handled by a multidisciplinary Willkie team from the firm's
offices in Frankfurt, New York, Paris and Brussels.
Challenging Lethal Injection
Willkie is serving as counsel (pro bono) for the Innocence Project
as amicus curiae in the lethal injection case from the Tenth
Circuit currently before the United States Supreme Court,
Richard E. Glossip, et al. v. Kevin J. Gross, et al. The
petitioners in the case are challenging Oklahoma's proposed
three-drug lethal injection protocol, which they argue violates the
Constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and
unusual punishment. The Innocence Project argues that scientific
evidence should not be admitted unless it follows scientific
principles of testing and validation. The court's decision could
potentially impact countless cases where courts must determine
whether expert scientific testimony is sufficiently reliable to be
admitted into evidence.
Would You Like Fries With That?
Willkie represented Select Equity Group, L.P., a major shareholder
in Shake Shack, in connection with Shake Shack's initial public
offering. Shake Shack Inc. announced the closing of its IPO of
5,750,000 shares of its Class A common stock at a public offering
price of $21.00 per share. Shake Shack® is a modern day "roadside"
burger stand known for serving high-quality food at a good value.
The company seeks to create a fun and lively gathering place, and
emphasizes the use of premium ingredients, progressive hiring
practices, environmentally responsible designs and deep community
Making REIT History
The firm assisted long-time client Paramount Group, Inc., a
prominent real estate investment trust (REIT), in its
record-setting initial public offering of 131,000,000 shares of
common stock at a price of $17.50 per share. The transaction was
profiled in The Wall Street Journal as the largest REIT
initial public offering in U.S. history. Upon completion of its IPO
and related formation transactions, the company's portfolio
includes 12 Class A office properties aggregating approximately
10.4 million square feet.
A Well-Heeled Representation
A New York appellate court dismissed an action against Willkie
client Kenneth Cole in which minority shareholders challenged the
fashion designer's going-private transaction. This is the first
appellate decision under New York law to apply the business
judgment rule (and reject the "entire fairness") standard to a
going-private transaction where the transaction has the dual
protections of a "majority of the minority" voting provision and
the transaction is approved by a committee of independent
Put On Your Power Suit
In October 2013, Willkie represented Men's Wearhouse in its
rejection of the $2.3 billion unsolicited buyout bid from Jos. A.
Bank, which the company's board of directors determined to be an
undervaluation of the men's retailer and not in the best interest
of the company's shareholders. In January 2014, Men's Wearhouse
proposed to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Jos. A. Bank
common stock for approximately $1.6 billion, as well as nominated
two independent directors for Jos. A. Bank's board. In February
2014, Men's Wearhouse raised its bid to approximately $1.78 billion
and commenced a lawsuit, successfully handled by a Willkie
litigation team, to block Jos. A. Bank from its pending deal to
acquire Eddie Bauer. The deal ended a six-month merger battle,
resulting in a combined company with more than 1,700 stores in the
U.S. and approximately 23,000 employees.