Mayer Brown, the long-time legal counsel to the City of Chicago on its landmark infrastructure concessions, is expanding its legal practice to a different type of infrastructure financing just taking hold in the US.
The firm has hired George Miller, who represented senior bank lenders in the financing of the $1.6 billion I-595 highway project in Florida – the first infrastructure deal in the US market to remunerate private investors using availability payments.
Availability payments, or periodic payments made from the government to the private sector partner in exchange for meeting certain levels of service provision, are a standard practice in Europe for everything from social infrastructures such as schools and police stations to roads.
“It’s such a powerful way for public entities to get the benefits of the private sector . . . there’s a reason why used all over the world,” said John Schmidt, a Chicago-based partner at Mayer Brown.
Schmidt believes that availability payments will become much more common in the US and Miller’s experience on the I-595 deal will help the firm grow its practice in that market.
Miller, previously a partner at law firm Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett, is also experienced in other types financial arrangements. He headed the firm’s Asia project finance practice in Tokyo and Hong Kong from 1991 to 1998, according to a press release, and has represented lenders in a variety of infrastructure transactions including airports, toll roads, railroads, power and transmission assets.
“The gap in our infrastructure practice has been [that] we haven’t had a really strong financial person on the lenders’ financial side of deals. And George is as good as it gets,” Schmidt said.
Miller will be a partner in Mayer Brown’s Global Projects and Infrastructure Groups, based in New York, starting today.