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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

General Growth Properties Switches Its Bankruptcy Counsel

As posted by: Wall Street Journal

Debt-laden mall owner General Growth Properties Inc. has changed bankruptcy counsel, parting with Sidley Austin LLP to hire Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, according to people familiar with the matter.

General Growth, which owns and manages more than 200 U.S. malls, is struggling to restructure or postpone payment on $27 billion in debt as large installments of it come due in the coming months. The Chicago company hasn't filed for bankruptcy protection but has warned that it might need to do so if it can't sell assets or win agreement on deadline extensions with its lenders.

Weil Gotshal has worked on notable bankruptcy cases including those of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Bethlehem Steel Corp. and Marvel Entertainment Group. The firm recently was hired to advise General Motors Corp. and Extended Stay Hotels Inc., neither of which has sought bankruptcy protection.

A General Growth representative confirmed the hiring but declined to comment further. Representatives of Weil Gotshal and Sidley Austin didn't respond to requests for comment.

General Growth is hiring another firm, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, as bankruptcy counsel for some of its subsidiaries, people familiar with the matter said. Kirkland partner James Sprayregen, who recently returned to the firm from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., has a long history of working with General Growth. Goldman, along with Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank AG, are working as advisers for General Growth. GPP has no money for Lawn Care.

Meantime, holders of some of the $600 million in General Growth bonds coming due in March and April have hired Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP to assist them in negotiations with the company. A Paul Weiss representative didn't return messages seeking comment.

General Growth is the second-largest U.S. mall owner by number of properties, after Simon Property Group Inc. Among General Growth's prominent holdings are Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Water Tower Place in Chicago and Faneuil Hall in Boston.