In Conversation: Akin Gump’s Anthony Renzi Talks Shipping and Offshore Services

Our clients benefit tremendously from the fact that we have that knowledge and experience in-house.

Akin Gump cross-border transactions partner Anthony Renzi Jr. is leading an initiative focusing on harmonizing the work that the firm does for clients in the shipping and offshore services space, which is a global initiative involving lawyers from across the firm and more than a dozen practices. Here, he speaks about the initiative, how it came to be and how Akin Gump’s clients benefit from the initiative.

Q: What was the genesis of the shipping and offshore services initiative?

Tony Renzi: For a number of years, I’ve been doing work in this area, representing shipping or offshore services companies on a one-off basis. Over time, it became clear that there were a number of other people at the firm who were also doing a lot of work in this area, in particular [partners] Dave Antheil, Steve Otillar and James Terry. So, in the interests of providing better services to our clients, we decided to pool our resources and work to assist our clients with needs in this area in a deliberate, coordinated way.

Even though we’re not traditional maritime lawyers, because of the number of transactions we’ve worked on over the years in this space, we have a deep knowledge of how these transactions are structured and executed and what’s important to the clients in these areas—we can speak the language that they expect advisors to understand.

Q: Who would you describe as the principal clients of this initiative?

Renzi: Funds clients, participants in financial restructuring transactions, asset owners and Scandinavian investment banks. For example, we’ve done a number of shipping deals for private equity clients in this space in the U.S. and in Europe, as well as a significant number of deals representing bondholders involved in shipping and offshore services financial restructuring matters in Europe. We are, for instance, the predominant player in the Norwegian bond restructuring market. So, the initiative has grown out of our work with private equity clients and European investment banks. In addition, we have a significant number of clients in the energy space with whom we have worked, primarily out of our Houston office.

Q: You have a strong background in working in the Nordic region. Did that play into this as well?

Renzi: That’s a good point. I started doing work in Norway about 20 years ago (and in other parts of Scandinavia also), and the stock exchange there and the focus industries there fall into a couple of categories: energy is one, shipping is another, offshore services is another. Because of the types of clients and transactions that are the staple of the business there, that’s one of the reasons over time we’ve developed the interest, knowledge and experience in these types of transactions—something that continues up to this day.

Q: Do you find that, in addition to the knowledge and experience within the firm, you also work regularly with local counsel, or is that more of an exception?

Renzi: In many transactions, we bring on local law firms to provide either local country expertise or, in some cases, very specific maritime expertise. We have a very good network of firms that we work with very closely in Norway and in Germany, in the Marshall Islands and in the different shipping jurisdictions, which makes it much easier for our clients. It’s seamless to them, but we get the knowledge we need and an arrangement that can be more efficient for our clients, who have found it to be very valuable.

Q: Geographically, what’s the spread of the work?

Renzi: This is really a global initiative. We have members of the team in London and in Asia, particularly in Singapore and Hong Kong, and, within the United States, in Texas, New York and L.A. We cover not only the U.S. but a number of other important shipping and offshore jurisdictions around the globe.

Q: This initiative folds in over a dozen different practices. Do you see the next step as building out to include more in order to take advantage of the firm’s diversity?

Renzi: One of the aspects of our work in this space that is so advantageous for our clients is that we cover all the different legal disciplines that are necessary to provide comprehensive service on larger M&A, financial restructuring or capital markets transactions—for example, our know-how involving sanctions, tax, competition, environmental and litigation issues. These are all critical things that any company that is operating in the sector would require that their law firm have. To be able to provide this legal insight—combined with our industry knowledge—for a shipping company is absolutely crucial, and our clients benefit tremendously from the fact that we have that knowledge and experience in-house.