Saft flees Dewey for Holland & Knight

The veteran attorney named co-chair of the New York real estate practice

TRD New York /
Apr.April 30, 2012 07:19 PM

Veteran attorney Stuart Saft will join the law firm of Holland & Knight after resigning this afternoon as head of the global real estate practice at Dewey & LeBoeuf, The Real Deal has learned. Saft will begin his new position tomorrow as co-chair of Holland & Knight’s New York real estate practice, sharing the duties with existing real estate leader Martin “Marty” Miner, who leads a team of about a dozen lawyers there.

“Stuart’s one of the preeminent real estate practitioners in New York,” Miner told The Real Deal. “He’s just a great addition to our group.”

Saft becomes the latest, and one of the highest profile defections from Dewey, which is teetering on the brink of collapse amid an investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance over allegations that the Manhattan-based law firm misled some of its partners about earnings and financial compensation.

A number of partners at Dewey were angry over guaranteed multi-million dollar packages given to some high-profile lawyers that were recruited to the firm when it was created in 2007, while other partners have faced pay cuts in recent years since the economic collapse of 2008. They allege that management at the law firm has given out misleading information to other partners and to the public about the true financial picture of the firm.

Saft, who says he was recruited by dozens of firms since the scandal broke out, said that he is not concerned about his reputation being tainted, as he was not a member of upper management and says that he did not receive a guaranteed compensation package.

“If there was any possibility of taint I wouldn’t have 43 law firms out to get me [since March],” Saft told The Real Deal.

Saft, who became chairman of Dewey in 2010 after joining the firm from Wolf Haldenstein in 2007, said for ethical reasons it is too soon for him to recruit any of his colleagues at Dewey. He noted that he expects many of his clients will eventually come over to Holland & Knight.

Bloomberg reported that Dewey was close to getting a two-week extension on its $100 million line of credit, which was critical to preventing the firm from filing for bankruptcy protection. As The Real Deal reported last night, merger talks with Greenberg Traurig fell apart, in a deal that could have saved Dewey from imminent collapse. The firm has lost dozens of partners to defections since the beginning of the year, with at least seven partners leaving in the past 24 hours, not including Saft.

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