Hot List interview: Barry Brown, Chapman Tripp

by Mackenzie McCarty14 Apr 2014
We at NZ Lawyer are going to step out on a limb here and say that there is, quite possibly, no other lawyer in New Zealand who has remained as loyal to a firm as Chapman Tripp’s corporate/commercial partner, Barry Brown.

Brown joined the firm in 1972 as a law clerk and steadily worked his way up, becoming partner in the mid-80’s and eventually acting as chairman before returning to full-time practice in 2000. He’s acted on nearly every mixed-ownership deal and was involved in a bail out of the BNZ and sales involving other major New Zealand banks.

Lately, however, he’s noticed an exciting trend towards investment in Kiwi technology and innovation.

“An interesting component that I’m seeing at the moment is the substantial investment in New Zealand technology where foreign investors in Asia, or North America, or Europe, are investing in well-developed New Zealand enterprises that hold world-leading technology in their areas,” says Brown.

“I can’t really disclose confidences, but it’s in the technology area and it’s basically science-backed. I think that’s the big thing…it’s not a traditional, bricks and mortar or food or agriculturally-based enterprises. These are where New Zealand science is being accessed through major acquisitions, which will be announced in due course. I think that’s interesting and it’s very reassuring for Kiwis. We’ve got world-class scientists in New Zealand and it’s great to see them being rewarded.”

In the meantime,  Brown says getting up to speed on the new FMA legislation is an important focal point for the corporate/commercial legal sector.

“Lawyers need to get themselves and their clients up to speed on the implications of the new Financial Markets (FMA) legislation and the related legislation as well. That’s important, particularly in the equity capital market space and in the funds management space and in all the other areas that that particular piece of legislation touches on.”
Brown says Chapman Tripp is “extremely busy” at the moment that that the firm is expecting an improvement on last year’s results.

“Last year we had a very, very good year and this year’s looking even better…I think in deal-flow terms, this year will see good, steady deal flows."

He says he’s able to draw on his considerable experience in order to try and explain this upswing in mergers and acquisitions.

“I remember having an interview in early 2009 and I took the view, based on the 1987 crash, that the sooner that owners took a realistic view on the new price or new value of their assets, the sooner we would get a semblance of reality. After major financial shocks, the owners of assets are slow to recognise the value reset – i.e. the reduction – in the value of their assets. And some of those value resets are substantial in nature. We’ve seen it time and time again and when sellers become realistic about the value of their assets post a financial shock, then you’ll get transactions occurring.

"I’m not saying that that’s the sole driver here, but…we have to write it down in our books and we have to get on with life. I think that New Zealand, as an investment destination, is ranking very highly. We’ve got a good, stable democracy and a well-regulated business economy. I think the big thing for investors is the predictability. I think the more predictable we can make the regulatory environment, the better.” 

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