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Bankruptcy trustee tells the Rangers to get new lawyers

Jul 7, 2010, 10:07 AM EDT

Many people thought it problematic when it was revealed several months ago that Tom Hicks was both (a) selling the Rangers; and (b) part of the ownership buying the Rangers.  Different capacities, sure, in that Tom Hicks the individual was buying from an entity — Hicks Sports Group — that Hicks just so happened to own and run, but it is the kind of thing that raises eyebrows among those who are not used to the often convoluted and incestuous world of closely-held corporations.

But public perception may not be the only problem. The trustee overseeing the Rangers’ bankruptcy has a problem with at least one aspect of the overall arrangement, and that involves the law firms.  Take it away Barry Shlachter:

U.S.
Trustee William Neary asserted that all of the work – and millions
in fees – Weil Gotshal & Manges received from team owner Tom Hicks
jeopardized the fairness and transparency expected by the
public, including Rangers fans. Attorneys for the baseball
franchise are charged with acting in its best interests, not that
of the outgoing ownership.

“Undoubtedly, Weil
Gotshal & Manges’ role evolved and shifted as events
transpired before the bankruptcy case, but it was WGM’s responsibility
to focus on the conflicts issue,” Neary said in the filing with a
U.S. bankruptcy court in Fort Worth.

Weil Gotshal denies any suggestion that it was conflicted, of course.

My view: I’m just a dumb litigator who nobody ever let near the table when a complicated deal was being negotiated, but it’s not like having the same law firm all over a transaction like this has never happened before. There are a lot of ways to guard against conflicts when you have hundreds and hundreds of lawyers you can throw at a deal, many of whom don’t even know one another.  Best practice in the world? Nah, but it’s not, in and of itself, fatal.

In light of that my guess is that there was something specifically troublesome that either Hicks or the law firm was doing during the course of this deal that raised the ire of the trustee. These things tend to get ironed out pretty quickly, however, and my guess is that the law firm problem doesn’t cause any big hiccup in a deal that has enough other hiccups.

  1. dlf - Jul 7, 2010 at 11:09 AM

    The US Trustee’s supplemental brief suggests that it is not just the $7m in fees Weil has been paid by Hicks affiliated entities, its that they specifically represented both buyer and seller of the Emerald Diamond property, a $15m transaction that the unsecured creditors are allegeding is part of the pattern of stripping value from the estate. Over 300 Pacer entries for this simple, prepackaged plan. Fun stuff.

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