Celebrities, Politics, Television

Watch Out, Ari Emanuel: Cravath Branches Into Celebrity Representation

David Gregory Meet the Press Cravath Swaine Moore.jpgBased on the anemic associate bonuses recently announced by Cravath, one might think that the firm is hurting. We hear that work at CSM is a little slow — and that there may be some anxiety over the staggering cost of the firm’s $900 million lease at Worldwide Plaza.

But don’t shed tears for Cravath just yet. The firm is still getting some high-profile engagements. From the New York Observer:

When agent Richard Leibner’s phone was ringing off the hook one night last week, everyone was asking him the same thing: Was his longtime client David Gregory the next host of Meet the Press, or wasn’t he? He called back, telling reporters he could neither confirm nor deny the report that first appeared on the Huffington Post.

Perhaps this was because his agency, N. S. Bienstock, wasn’t representing Mr. Gregory on the deal. So who exactly was aiding the ambitions of NBC’s robo-newsman? ….

On Monday morning, with the deal finally made public, white-shoe New York law firm Cravath, Swaine, & Moore posted a brief item on its Web site, crediting two of its partners — Eric Hilfers and Robert Joffe — for handling the negotiations.

This engagement probably didn’t generate the seven- or eight-figure fees that billion-dollar M&A deals generate. But it’s still a cool and interesting gig, the kind that stands out to 2Ls going through fall recruiting.

More after the jump.

Cravath isn’t known for negotiating celebrity contracts. Most media groupies thought that David Gregory had turned to Williams & Connolly, home of “the legendary beltway firepower of Robert Barnett, who has represented everyone from Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to Cokie Roberts and, yes, the late, great Tim Russert.”

So how did Messrs. Hilfers and Joffe get in on the action?

[T]he dark-horse theory favored some connection to Mr. Gregory’s wife, Beth Wilkinson. Unlike some in his position, Mr. Gregory had the advantage of being married to someone with powerful negotiating credentials and powerful friends. The attorney prosecuted the Oklahoma City bombing case and became quite a star in her own right.

Indeed. Here’s the Times wedding announcement for Beth Wilkinson and David Gregory. The officiant at their nuptials was Judge Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit, one of the brightest lights in the federal judiciary, a big-time feeder judge who is often talked about as a Supreme Court possibility himself.

Mr. Joffe said he first met Mr. Gregory’s wife shortly after she became general counsel at Fannie Mae in 2005 (Mr. Joffe periodically advises Fannie Mae’s directors).

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Joffe met Mr. Gregory for the first time, in Nantucket, where both families own summer houses. Mr. Joffe fondly recalled an evening when Mr. Gregory and his wife came over to his house for cocktails. Mr. Joffe said his son, who is a New York City school teacher, was thrilled to meet the real-life walking-talking TV journalist.

Houses in Nantucket or the Hamptons can be expensive — but the opportunity to rub shoulders with potential clients may justify the cost.

One random query. Beth Wilkinson was once a Latham & Watkins partner. Why didn’t she steer her husband’s deal to her former firm?

David Gregory’s Secret Agent Men [New York Observer]

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