UPDATE 1-Skadden bankruptcy guru Butler joins financial firm

Wed Feb 5, 2014 9:36pm EST

By Nick Brown

NEW YORK Feb 5 (Reuters) - Jack Butler, a prominent bankruptcy attorney who played an instrumental role in American Airlines' merger with U.S. Airways Group, is leaving law firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom to become an executive at Hilco Global, a financial services company with a broad range of operations.

Butler, for decades a fixture in some of the most contentious bankruptcy negotiations, will join Hilco as an executive vice president beginning on May 1, Hilco said in an internal memo it released on Wednesday.

A veteran bankruptcy lawyer, the 57-year-old Butler helped build Skadden's restructuring practice when he joined the firm in 1990. He showed no regrets about leaving a powerhouse he helped create.

"When you're a founder of a practice, you always believe on one level, your work is never done. But you also plan for succession," Butler said in an interview on Wednesday. He praised Skadden leaders who remain in place, saying he was "bullish" about the firm's future.

While Hilco is known in the bankruptcy world for acquiring and liquidating insolvent companies, its work is much broader, and Butler said his role will stretch across all of Hilco's 20 businesses, including private equity, advisory work and appraisals.

Still, the objective to maximize value for stakeholders - which "my whole career has been about," Butler said - remains the same.

"That's what Hilco is all about," Butler said. "Part of its core mission is helping companies find value and drive it."

The difference is that Butler, who has four young children, will get the chance to benefit from the value he helps create as a senior principal at Hilco, reporting to its chief executive officer and his longtime friend, Jeffrey Hecktman.

Hilco's private equity arm owns brands like Halston, a fashion label, and British entertainment retailer HMV.

Butler most recently represented the official creditors' committee of American Airlines when the carrier went bankrupt in 2011. With fellow Skadden partner Jay Goffman, Butler set the agenda in the case, in which American resolved years of bitter labor disputes with unionized workers and then agreed to merge with U.S. Airways to create American Airlines Group, the world's biggest airline.

He also helped lead the restructuring of auto parts supplier Delphi, which went bankrupt during struggles to diversify its business after it was spun off by General Motors .

Butler reflected on the economic importance of Delphi, saying that, had it failed to survive, it might have triggered a depression.

"Had the people working on that case not found a solution, you're talking about the failures of thousands of other suppliers, and I believe there would have been a depression in this country," Butler said.

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