Paper-N-Pizza: For Apollo's Lawyers, It's All M&A

, The Am Law Daily

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Friday night just got more fun for five Am Law 100 firms.

Private equity firm Apollo Global Management announced Thursday that it plans to buy CEC Entertainment, the Irving, Texas–based parent company of family restaurant chain Chuck E. Cheese’s, for roughly $1.3 billion, including $370 million in outstanding debt.

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz corporate partners Steven Cohen and Ronald Chen are serving as lead M&A counsel to Apollo on the deal, along with associates Oliver Board, Tsz Hin Kwok and Francisco Morales.

Cohen, who is also advising Charter Communications on its $61 billion bid this week for Time Warner Cable, mostly declined to comment about Apollo’s tender offer for CEC. He did note that though he has never been to one of the Chuck E. Cheese's 577 establishments, he has promised his client—controlled by billionaire Leon Black—that he will do so before the deal is complete.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison is serving as finance counsel to Apollo on the transaction through corporate partners Gregory Ezring and Mark Wlazlo, real estate partner Peter Fisch and associates Catherine Goodall and Xuan “Sophia” Gui.

Ezring and Wlazlo joined Paul Weiss from O’Melveny & Myers in May 2011, the same month that their new firm advised Apollo on its $510 million buy of entertainment company CKX, which owns such television franchises as “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Wachtell, which like Paul Weiss has been a longtime adviser to Apollo, represented CKX on that transaction. The New York–based buyout shop, whose chief legal officer is former O'Melveny partner John Suydam, is poised to be busy on the transactional front again this year, having recently secured $18.4 billion in capital for more deals.

Some of that largesse has found its way to Apollo's lobbyists from Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, which received at least $600,000 through the first three quarters of last year for its services on behalf of the private equity giant, according to U.S. Senate records. Brownstein Hyatt was also paid $210,000 back in 2010 to lobby for Memphis-based Verso Paper, about 70 percent of which is owned by Apollo.

The coated paper maker and Apollo portfolio company announced last week it would acquire specialty paper maker NewPage Holdings in another $1.4 billion deal. Kirkland & Ellis corporate partners Taurie Zeitzer and Joshua Kogan are advising Apollo on that matter, along with associates David Beller and David Rosenthal. (Zeitzer joined Kirkland in 2012 from Latham & Watkins.)

Paul Weiss and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius are representing Verso Paper on the transaction, which Reuters reports includes a cash-and-debt load of roughly $900 million.

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