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Law firms will tell you that sometimes, lateral hires are a gamble. But Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP seems pretty pleased with the team it picked up from Heenan Blaikie LLP, the firm that collapsed like a house of cards earlier this year.

Back in January, the departures of Montreal mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer Eric Levy, tax partner Manon Thivierge, and commercial lawyer Antonella Penta were seen as a decisive blow to Heenan Blaikie.

Today, Mr. Levy and his fellow Heenan Blaikie alumni now at Osler are front-and-centre on the massive $4.9-billion (U.S.) deal announced by Montreal-based Amaya Gaming Inc.

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The deal will see Osler client Amaya acquire Rational Group, the operator of online poker operators PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, and aims to transform the Montreal company into an online gambling powerhouse.

Amaya was Mr. Levy's client at Heenan Blaikie. But he credits Osler's New York presence and merger-and-acquisition cred for giving his team the platform they needed to do a deal of this magnitude – Canada's biggest corporate deal of the year so far. Other Canadian law firms involved include McCarthy Tétrault LLP, acting for the underwriters, and Stikeman Elliott LLP, advising Canaccord Genuity, which was involved in the deal.

Mr. Levy and his fellow Heenan Blaikie alumni were the core of the 15-member Osler team on the deal, which he says speaks to the quality of lawyers at his old firm.

The complex and surprisingly large transaction aims to take an industry with an extremely spotty record with regulators – 2012, PokerStars paid $731-million (U.S.) to settle U.S. money-laundering charges – and make it respectable.

"I think in the past the perception was it was sort of a dirty industry," said Mr. Levy, fresh from a spate of all-nighters needed to complete the complex deal. "Here you have a pristine, blue chip – it will become blue-chip – mid-market, TSX-listed company [Amaya]. All of that gave it credibility."

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About the Author
Toronto City Hall Reporter

Jeff Gray is The Globe and Mail’s Toronto City Hall reporter. He has worked at The Globe since 1998. From 2010 to 2016, he was the law reporter in Report on Business, covering Bay Street law firms and white-collar crime. He won an honourable mention at the National Magazine Awards for investigative journalism in 2010. More

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