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(photo credit: Ben Gurion Airport Photographers)
Four years after Miami-based law firm Greenberg Traurig started operating in the country, its business model of networking with and on behalf of Israeli companies is starting to pay off.
"We started coming to Israel during the Intifada when no one else was coming here," Bob Grossman, principle shareholder and co-chair of the Israeli Practice Group at Greenberg Traurig told The Jerusalem Post. "Because there is so much technology and promise here, we felt it was a good time to come both from a business perspective and because it was the right thing to do."
Today the firm, which has a global network of over 30,000 clients, does legal work for well over 50 Israeli companies and has relationships with "literally hundreds of others," Grossman added.
He explained that the focus of the company's activity in Israel has been on services beyond that of the lawyer-client relationship and has grown through matching local companies with strategic partners abroad and increasing its networking base.
This strategy led the firm to participate in last week's third annual life sciences mission run by Global Capital Associates, which brought potential investors and business partners from the US to meet with the Israeli life sciences market.
Co-hosting the mission was former US attorney-general John Ashcroft and former secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, who were both honored during their stay for their support for Israel.
Some of the companies represented on the mission were Guidant Corporation, Credit Suisse First Boston. GE Healthcare, Celgene Corporation, Greenberg Traurig, Genentech Inc., Giuliani Capital Advisors, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research and Vision Sciences.
And while no immediate deals were expected to be struck during the five-day visit, Grossman stressed the intention was to forge long-term relationships and he listed a string of examples of partnerships formed as a result of previous missions.
"We are in the closing stages of a US distribution agreement for an Israeli life science company that stems from the same mission two years ago," he noted.
For Israeli life science companies too, most of which are in early stage development, the mission provided an ideal opportunity.
"What we want at this stage is awareness for our product. Once we have that, sooner or later we will find a partner," said Alex Kotzer, CEO of Compugen, a genomics-based drug and diagnostic discovery company that made a presentation to the group. "We generally travel overseas to talk about what we do and it is difficult at times to identify who is relevant in the industry. This is the ideal group for us because the people have already been screened and the advantage is that they came to us."
Meanwhile, Greenberg Traurig will be looking to leverage the contacts made on the mission to continue to build its Israel clientele, which until recently focused on middle market to smaller companies.
In the last two years, it was involved with some major "Israeli" deals having represented Ivax Corporation in its $7.4 billion merger with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and the Elad Group in its $675 million acquisition of The Park Plaza Hotel in New York. Other clients on its books include Africa Israel Joint Venture, Lumenis, Bank Leumi USA, Audio Codes and Lipman electronics Engineering.
The scope of its work, Grossman said, spans all size companies, and all industries from life sciences, homeland security and semiconductors, to real estate, agriculture, and the local wine market, which he identified as an upcoming market and one which Greenberg Traurig can help.
The scope of its work, too, ranges from handling the legal aspect of a company's public offering to assisting in the FDA procedure to general corporate work.
But it's in its networking abilities that Grossman believes Israeli companies can most gain from Greenberg's activities and which can significantly help them "cut a long procedure in finding the right partner."
And while part of the motivation of coming to Israel was Zionistic, Grossman stressed the firm's shareholders would not have approved the move if it was not profitable.
"I think [our decision to come to Israel] is paying off more and more now. We came in as a long-term player. Our attitude is that while there are a lot of people who support Israel in the firm it had to make business sense," he said. "In the beginning it was more of an expense while people were getting to know the market, but it has been productive for us and my view is that it will be significantly more so."
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