Two Lawyers are New Among Forbes 400 Richest Americans

Two Lawyers are New Among Forbes 400 Richest Americans

Forbes released its annual list of the 400 wealthiest Americans this week and while two former lawyers with professional sporting ties have joined the exclusive ranks, another fell by the wayside.
The Am Law Daily has previously reported on the legal backgrounds of some of the business executives, entrepreneurs and heirs and heiresses touted by Forbes.

Only one individual, Houston plaintiffs lawyer Joe Jamail Jr., a college football aficionado and the so-called King of Torts worth some $1.7 billion, made his fortune practicing law, although others honored by Forbes went to law school or served brief stints in the legal field before moving on to more lucrative endeavors.
Among them are Vincent Viola and Mark Walter, the two newest entrants to the Forbes list, who come in at No. 364 and No. 366, respectively, in the publication’s rankings.

Viola, a former U.S. Army Ranger who went on to graduate in 1983 from New York Law School after attending West Point, founded high-speed trading firm Virtu Financial in 2008. The Am Law Daily reported earlier this year on Virtu postponing a planned $250 million initial public offering following the publication of Michael Lewis’ “Flash Boys,” a book critical of the electronic trading industry.

Taking the lead on the aborted IPO for Virtu was Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. That firm has close ties to Viola, who previously served as chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Douglas Cifu, a former Paul Weiss partner and onetime deputy chairman of the firm’s corporate practice, serves as president of Virtu. Paul Weiss advised Viola and Cifu on their $250 million purchase a year ago this week of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers.

Forbes reports that Viola, a 58-year-old Brooklyn native who began his business career as a trader and never formally practiced law, is now worth some $1.76 billion.

Just behind Viola on the Forbes 400 list is Northwestern University School of Law graduate Walter, CEO of privately held asset management and investment advisory firm Guggenheim Partners. Walter made waves two years ago by turning to Foley & Lardner for counsel on his $2.15 billion acquisition of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers and their 56,000-seat stadium out of bankruptcy, one of the largest deals in pro sports history.

Walter himself is still listed on the rolls of the Illinois State Bar Association as working for The Liberty Hampshire Company, LLC, a Chicago-based investment firm he cofounded in 1996 that provided asset-backed financing to large financial institutions before it was folded into the Guggenheim family office in 2000. Forbes now puts Walter’s net worth at $1.75 billion.

Slipping off the Forbes 400 list is Leon Charney, an entertainment lawyer-turned-real estate tycoon who once paid his way through Brooklyn Law School by singing in synagogues. But don’t feel too bad for Charney.
Forbes notes that he’s still worth $1.1 billion, making him one of several billionaires to fall in the ranking not because they had bad years, but because a buoyant stock market has pushed the bar for the top 400 rankings to a net worth of $1.55 billion or better.

Source: The American Lawyer

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