Kirkland & Ellis, the world’s largest law firm by gross revenue, received $69.6 million in legal fees from global investment firm Blackstone Inc. last year. It is not surprising that Blackstone was willing to shell out such fees given the incestuous relationship that it has with Kirkland.
Reginald Brown, a Kirkland Litigation Partner, has sat on Blackstone’s board since 2020 and has earned $150,000 in cash and $211,400 in stock awards for his service. Kelly Ayotte, former Attorney General for the state of New Hampshire and former U.S. Senator, also serves on Blackstone’s board and received $150,000 in cash and $210,300 in stock awards for her services last year. Kristin Leighton-Wade, a former Kirkland Associate, joined Blackstone’s legal and compliance department in 2020. Jason Pyke, another former Associate at Kirkland, also started a legal and compliance position at Blackstone last year. And, Jonathan Gray, Blackstone’s President, was a former high school classmate of Kirkland’s leader Jon Ballis.
Given the personal ties between the two firms plus Kirkland’s leading position in the world of corporate finance, it is no wonder that Kirkland served as outside counsel to Blackstone so frequently last year. One of these deals included Blackstone’s facilitation of the sale of Death Row Records to rapper/entrepreneur Calvin “Snoop Dogg” Broadus, Jr.
Gray claimed that Kirkland’s “broad array of legal services” helped to accelerate Blackstone’s growth in 2021. Blackstone’s faith in Kirkland seems have increased in the past two years, as Kirkland has begun to advise on cases that Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Blackstone’s longtime go-to legal adviser, used to handle. Simpson has advised Blackstone on a number of multi-billion dollar deals, including $24 billion recapitalization of the European logistics company Mileway as well as Blackstone’s $4.7 billion acquisition of Ancestry.com, but it seems that Kirkland has begun to cut into the legal free revenue that Simpson used to receive from Blackstone.
However, it is hard to tell just how much work Kirkland has taken from firms like Simpson, as no legal fee figures outside of Blackstone’s 10-K disclosure have been revealed. Blackstone spokesperson also declined to comment on Blackstone’s legal expenses.