Need to Meet: Kyle Gann, partner, Jenner & Block

Jenner & Block is a white-shoe law firm with a sterling reputation. But it “hasn’t historically had a strong presence in the PE space,” new partner Kyle Gann said.

Now, he told Buyouts, that’s changing.

“In the last couple of years they’ve been making a lot of hires, in terms of lateral partners coming over to build out the PE practice,” said Gann, who is one of those hires. “They see a real opportunity in the lower-middle and middle markets to provide clients top-tier services, while being focused on efficiency.”

As well as investing in new talent, Jenner & Block is pursuing technological advantage, Gann said, declining to give details. “They’re focused on increasing efficiency, focused on doing the work that lawyers have done historically in a technologically savvy way.”

Formerly of Kirkland & Ellis, Gann has experience across a range of sectors: REITs, infrastructure, LBOs, chemical deals. And last year he participated in Sensata’s carve-out acquisition of the sensing portfolio of Custom Sensors & Technologies.

“As all international carve-outs are, it was incredibly complex,” Gann recalled. “A couple weeks of our lives were spent in a conference room in Paris,” hunkered down with the client’s business and engineering teams.

“It wasn’t just lawyers sitting in a room doing diligence,” Gann said. “It was interactive diligence with the client, focusing on the key issues that the client cared about and incorporating those in the deal terms.”

Gann also worked on Bain Capital’s launch of a cruise line with Virgin America. “That was atypical because it wasn’t your customary LBO. That was really starting a new company,” he said.

Beyond that, Gann was tightlipped about the deal: “It’s signed; they have announced that they’ve launched a Virgin-branded cruise line. As all startup companies do, that work continues.”

In the current climate, Gann sees “room, especially in the middle market and lower-middle market, for opportunistic and aggressive buyers. I think you are seeing active buyers in the right sectors for the right assets,” including “a lot of activity in healthcare and healthcare IP.”

The upper market is more challenged by volatility in the debt-financing markets, which “are taking some time to come back,” he said.

“At the risk of making this sound like dry professional stuff, I actually really do enjoy getting deals done with clients,” Gann said, “not just because of the intellectual aspect, but I enjoy the relationship building that goes into that. When you spend two weeks in a conference room with a client you get to know who they are, you get to know who their kids are, and vice versa.”

That aspect of his work has intersected with a personal affinity of Gann’s, for American muscle cars. Gann said he’s had fun driving clients in his Ford Mustang Boss 302, competition orange with a black racing stripe. “I love shaking the neighborhood’s houses.”

Photo courtesy of Jenner & Block