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2022 Inductee, Winston & Strawn LLP
Bill Brewer is co-chair of Winston & Strawn LLP’s global Debt Finance Practice. He concentrates in the areas of debt finance and corporate finance. Mr. Brewer has extensive experience in asset-based, cash flow, leveraged, and other finance transactions, acquisition finance, related securities offerings of both equity and debt, and health care financing. In addition, Mr. Brewer routinely represents financial institutions in workouts and restructurings, both in and out of bankruptcy. Mr. Brewer received a B.A. in economics, magna cum laude, with distinction, from Yale College in 1983 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1986. In addition to serving as co-chair of the firm’s global Corporate Lending Practice, Mr. Brewer is a member of the firm’s Corporate Opinion Committee. He is a former two-term member of the firm’s Executive Committee. Mr. Brewer is the former secretary of the Yale Club of New York City and a former three-term member of its governing Council. He is the Co-Chair of the 30th reunion of his Harvard Law School class (and previously served as Co-Chair for the 20th and 25th reunions). Mr. Brewer is the Vice Chair of the 35th reunion of his Yale College class (and previously served as Vice Chair of the 30th reunion).
What advice would you offer to someone just starting out in the industry?
Don’t be afraid to learn new things, reach out to your network, and broaden your circle of contacts. You can learn so much from new people—a one-off conversation with a new connection can directly affect your entire career trajectory. Look for good mentors and thought leaders in the industry that you think are great at what they do and take every opportunity to work with them. You will work hard, but try to have some fun with it and enjoy the wonderful people you meet along the way. I cannot express how grateful I am for my colleagues, mentors, and clients I have had the privilege of working with over the tenure of my career.
What are some of the most memorable moments of your career?
When I look back on my career, what my team has done in the ABL space is bigger than just the deal work. We are making a difference with ABL lenders by preserving jobs, providing liquidity, and helping the economy and those moments have been so memorable.
For example, during the financial meltdown, we worked on the DIP and exit financing for Dura Automotive, a large auto supplier. The ABL lenders we represented were able to provide support throughout the chapter 11 process which allowed the company to remain operational. The exit financing enabled the company to not only come out of bankruptcy but also continue the business. I also worked for years on a series of liquidity transactions for Vertis Communications during a lengthy restructuring process. In the final transaction the business was sold as a going concern to Quad Graphics in a 363 bankruptcy sale process.
For many years, I have also helped train dozens of attorneys in the area of ABL financing through official and unofficial mentorships. Watching my mentees learn and develop their respective practices has been both memorable and extremely rewarding.
What role did SFNet, its events and connections play in your career development?
Words cannot express how grateful I am for SFNet and the role this organization has played in my career. All the networking opportunities, both nationwide and locally, mentorship, and the opportunity to meet and develop deeper relationships with clients at banks and non-bank lenders, I would be remiss not to thank SFNet for shaping me into the professional I am today.
I currently serve as chair of the Secured Finance Foundation and have been a long-serving member of its Board of Directors. I have been active with the Foundation and SFNet (and its predecessor the Commercial Finance Foundation) for over 25 years, including service on its Executive Committee, as Campaign Chairperson of the CFA Education Foundation, and as a member of the Board of Governors of the Education Foundation. SFNet has also allowed me to give back by teaching. For going on nine years, Alister Bazaz of Bank of America and I have led the New York-based SFNet Cross Border Lending Summit.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I began my legal career as a securities lawyer where my first deal was the IPO for Lands’ End. Shortly after this deal, Drexel imploded and there were lots of fallen angel opportunities. I began doing ABL transactions and thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the work. My first ABL deal was for Zenith Electronics when they were transitioning from manufacturing televisions to a HD technology company. Since then, I have been blessed for more than 30 years to do ABL deals of every size and type.