U.S. Markets close in 42 mins

Davis Polk Taps Tax Head Neil Barr As New Managing Partner

Davis, Polk & Wardwell

(Courtesy photo)

Less than a month after confirming that managing partner Thomas Reid is leaving the firm to lead the legal department at Comcast Corp, Davis Polk & Wardwell has elected Neil Barr to succeed him as leader.

“It is a true privilege to serve this great firm as managing partner and carry on Davis Polk’s tradition of excellence and utmost focus on client service,” Barr said in a statement announcing his new role.

Barr, 44, joined Davis Polk as an associate in 2000 and was promoted to partner in 2008. In 2014, he became head of the Wall Street firm’s tax department, where he has served as tax counsel on a string of high-profile M&A deals within the past two decades.

Neil Barr

Barr was part of a Davis Polk team that advised Major League Baseball’s New York Mets in 2012 on a series of deals that allowed the team's owners to retain control of the franchise.

In 2011, Barr co-led a group of Davis Polk lawyers serving as tax counsel to NBCUniversal Inc on its $1 billion deal to take full control of its Universal Orlando theme park unit. Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca plc has tapped Barr to advise on several notable transactions, including an oncology collaboration with Merck in 2017.

Other key Davis Polk clients, such as financial services giant Citigroup Inc and cable television conglomerate Comcast, have also turned to Barr for outside counsel in recent years.

During the financial crisis, Barr and other Davis Polk lawyers helped Citigroup forge a $306 billion loss protection agreement with the U.S. Government in a joint venture with fellow financial services giant Morgan Stanley, and worked to implement a massive capital raise for Citi in early 2009.

Barr led a Davis Polk team that served as special counsel to Comcast in 2011 on the company’s $280 million sale of the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers. Last year, he served as lead tax counsel to Comcast in its $39 billion acquisition of British broadcasting giant Sky plc.

Earlier this month, Comcast announced that Reid would become its new senior executive vice-president, general counsel and secretary in April, following the retirement of its longtime in-house legal chief Arthur Block.

Reid succeeded John Ettinger, who led Davis Polk for a dozen years, to become the firm’s managing partner in 2011.

“I am grateful to Tom Reid for his eight years of brilliant leadership; his focus on intense teamwork across all the firm’s lawyers has driven superlative financial performance,” Barr said in a statement. “I am excited to work with my partners to drive the firm’s continued success.”

Barr takes over as Davis Polk’s leader following record-breaking financial performance for the firm in 2018. The 982-lawyer firm saw gross revenue rise 12 percent, to just under $1.4 billion, while profit per equity partner jumped 19 percent to $4.4 million.

Barr was not immediately available to discuss his new role.