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Lawyer Who Helped Build Skadden Bankruptcy Practice Headed to Hilco

Feb 05, 2014

By Mike Spector

Jack Butler, a bankruptcy lawyer who was instrumental in the 2013 merger of American Airlines and US Airways, is jumping to a firm specializing in liquidations, real estate and private equity after more than two decades at law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

Mr. Butler, 57 years old, will become executive vice president of Hilco Global effective May 1, reporting to Chief Executive Jeffrey Hecktman, according to an internal memo. He’ll be tasked with expanding Hilco’s client Rolodex and other broad growth goals at the firm, the memo said.

Hilco runs about 20 businesses and specializes in a variety of areas, most notably liquidation sales for retailers and acquisitions of brands and other intellectual property tied to defunct companies. It also does appraisals for healthy companies.

The Northbrook, Ill.-based firm, which employs more than 500 people, ran going-out-of-business sales for former retailing mainstays Circuit City Stores Inc. and Borders Group Inc. Hilco acquired the Polaroid brand after the camera company failed. It recently sold the Linens ’N Things brand to a company owned by private-equity firm Carlyle Group LP after reincarnating it as an e-commerce business. After General Motors Co. emerged from a government-backed bankruptcy restructuring, Hilco Industrial auctioned off the auto maker’s undesired equipment in factories across the U.S.

Hilco hopes to tap Mr. Butler’s network of contacts to nab additional clients, especially in Latin America, said a person familiar with the plans. Hilco hopes to find additional clients looking for direct investments or expertise in selling off assets in that region, this person said.

Mr. Butler most recently represented pilots, flight attendants, suppliers and the government agency that insures corporate pensions on American Airlines’ creditors committee. In that role, he helped negotiate the largest airline merger ever as the centerpiece of American’s plan to emerge from bankruptcy proceedings. He earlier represented Delphi Automotive, one of the world’s largest auto-parts suppliers, in its four-year bankruptcy odyssey.

Both companies, after significant financial struggles, rebounded after emerging from bankruptcy proceedings and created billions of dollars in value for investors. American’s shareholders, for instance, kept a significant stake in the combined company, an almost unprecedented outcome in bankruptcy cases. The merged airline today has a market capitalization of more than $11 billion.

Mr. Butler helped start Skadden’s restructuring practice after joining the firm in 1990, working from Chicago while jaunting to New York and other locales. The practice grew to become a prominent one for companies facing cash and debt problems. In the wake of the financial crisis, Skadden represented MF Global Holdings Ltd. and Circuit City Stores Inc., among others. Skadden also represents lenders and other investors negotiating with troubled firms.

Mr. Butler has represented Kmart Corp. and Rite Aid Corp. He represented creditors during the Delta Air Lines Inc. bankruptcy.

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