Law 360 "How They Won It" Series – November 2011

Willkie was selected to be featured in Law360’s monthly “How They Won It” series for its victory on behalf of real estate developer Harry Macklowe and his company WH Rome in a lawsuit brought by billionaire investor Carl Icahn. The profile, published November 16, includes a joint interview with Willkie’s Stephen Greiner and Roger Netzer, who led the Willkie team handling the case.

Last month, at the end of a two-week jury trial in New York State Supreme Court, Willkie defeated a claim by Icahn’s Meadow Star LLC, seeking $60 million in damages from Mr. Macklowe in an intricate contract dispute. The case arose from Icahn and Macklowe’s joint effort in 2006 to acquire multibillion-dollar REIT Reckson Associates Realty Group via a topping bid, following Reckson’s announcement that it would be acquired by S.L. Green.

Law360 examines Willkie’s decision to rely on a jury to understand the legal language of the complex business transaction in question. Mr. Greiner explained, “We felt our best strategy was to show that the intent of the parties was reflected in the language that they used. We needed to show that to the jury, and we did it as many times as we could with as many witnesses as we could.” Mr. Netzer added, “This was an intelligent jury. It felt good to be able to present the case exactly as we saw it, without compromising or sensationalizing.”

Law 360 highlights that “Relying on legal language in a contract to convince a jury is not a common tactic in their usual practice, both attorneys said. That made their decision, if not risky, at least unique.” The profile concludes, “In the end, a case that had gone over two years was decided quickly.”