March 14, 2012 5:25 PM

The Am Law 100, the Early Numbers: Profits, Revenue Up at Hughes Hubbard

Posted by Brian Baxter

Hughes Hubbard Reed—one of the Am Law 200’s leaders in lateral hiring so far this year after adding a trio of Paris-based partners and opening an office in Kansas City, Missouri—saw its gross revenue, profits per partner, and revenue per lawyer all rise in 2011, according to The American Lawyer‘s reporting.

The firm’s gross revenue increased 7.5 percent between 2010 and last year, going from $298.5 million to $321 million. Profits per partner, meanwhile, jumped 8.5 percent, from nearly $1.6 million to more than $1.7 million, while revenue per lawyer rose 6 percent from $995,000 two years ago to almost $1.1 million in 2011. The latest figures continue a series of strong financial performances for the 305-lawyer firm, which topped The American Lawyer‘s A-List last summer.

On the heels of those robust results, Hughes Hubbard lawyers are advising a pair of well-known, longtime clients—restaurant chain operator Benihana and liberal literary bastion The New Republic—as they position themselves for the future.

Benihana announced Tuesday that it has hired investment bank Jefferies  Company as a financial adviser to help the 48-year-old company evaluate its strategic alternatives, including a potential sale.

A spokeswoman for Miami-based Benihana tells The Am Law Daily that Hughes Hubbard is standing outside counsel to the company. The firm advised Benihana in 2010 when it previously explored a possible sale before deciding against such a move and changed its stock structure instead.

But that decision by Benihana, founded in 1964 as a Japanese-style steakhouse by former Olympic wrestler Hiroaki “Rockyâ€� Aoki, spawned a proxy fight over the proposed reclassification of the company’s stock into a dual-class structure. Hughes Hubbard corporate practice cohair Kenneth Lefkowitz took the lead advising Benihana at the time.

Lefkowitz and Hughes Hubbard MA cochair Ellen Friedenberg and securities and capital markets chair Gary Simon are advising Benihana in its latest review of its strategic options. The company said in a statement that its financial and operational performance have improved in the past year.

Prior to his death in 2008, Benihana founder Aoki had been involved in a high-profile fight with some of his children about who would inherit his fortune. Benihana sued Aoki’s widow Keiko last year, accusing her of scuttling a sale of the company. In 2010, Keiko Aoki prevailed in a related fight with her late husband’s kin to take control of a trust that owns a 38 percent stake in Benihana.

Cristina Mendoza serves as Benihana’s general counsel. Darwin Dornbush, a name partner at New York’s Dornbush Schaeffer Strongin Venaglia, is a member of the company’s board of directors.

Lefkowitz, who also serves as deputy chair of the firm, recently led a team from Hughes Hubbard representing The New Republic and its shareholders on the sale of the politically minded magazine to Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes.

Hughes Hubbard tax chair Andrew Braiterman and corporate counsel Daniel Litowitz are also working on the deal for The New Republic. The proposed sale is the fourth major transaction Lefkowitz and Hughes Hubbard have handled for the magazine in the past 10 years. (Lefkowitz, a veteran media deal lawyer, was returning from a trip to Europe and unavailable for comment Wednesday.)

Lefkowitz and Braiterman represented a group of private investors led by longtime New Republic editor-in-chief Martin Peretz—a controversial media personality who first owned the publication from 1974 to 2002—and former Lazard investment banker Laurence Grafstein that bought The New Republic back in 2009 from CanWest Global Communications, according to our previous reports.

Davis Polk Wardwell corporate partner Francis Currie, a founding partner of the firm’s Silicon Valley office in Menlo Park, California, is representing Hughes on the acquisition of The New Republic. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Hughes, the 28-year-old former Harvard roommate of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has an estimated net worth of $700 million. Facebook itself filed in February for a $5 billion initial public offering, which is expected to price sometime in May. By purchasing a majority stake in The New Republic, Hughes will become its publisher and editor-in-chief. He has vowed to uphold the century-old title’s traditions.

Founded in 1914, the Washington, D.C.-based magazine is now published twice monthly, having fallen on hard times in recent years. The publication’s reputation suffered greatly after one of its budding stars, Stephen Glass, was revealed to be a plagiarist in 1998.

Full-length magazine stories and feature films about the Glass saga further damaged The New Republic brand. As it happens, Glass himself, currently employed as a paralegal by Beverly Hills-based Carpenter, Zuckerman Rowley, is still trying to put his troubled past behind him as he fights for admittance to the California State Bar, according to a report by The Am Law Daily earlier this year.

This report is part of The Am Law Daily’s early coverage of 2011 financial results of The Am Law 100/200. Final rankings and full results for The Am Law 100 will be published in The American Lawyer’s May 2012 issue and on The Am Law Second Hundred will be published in the June issue. An interactive chart of the financial results reported so far is available here. The chart will be updated as additional data is reported.

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