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American Lawyer has named Greg Cross, chair of Venable’s Bankruptcy and Creditors’ Rights Practice Group, the publication’s “Bankruptcy Dealmaker of the Year” for his work orchestrating the plan allowing GGP, the nation’s second largest mall operator, to exit bankruptcy while protecting the rights of the REIT’s creditors.

GGP’s $27 billion bankruptcy filing in April 2009 shocked the commercial mortgage–backed securities community because the company opted to file alongside its special purpose entities (SPEs), which held the real estate assets of 166 of its malls. Industry wide concern was so high that the Commercial Mortgage Securities Association filed an Amicus Brief shortly after GGP's filing arguing that the company's approach to bankruptcy could be disastrous for the real estate finance markets.

Cross, who represented a group of special servicers tasked with determining which creditors are due what took the lead in coordinating the efforts of an ad hoc group of secured creditors that were owed more than $12 billion. Cross’ novel strategy pushed back the maturity date of GGP's loans in exchange for a debt structure that increased amortization payments and gave lenders significant protection. U.S. bankruptcy court judge Allan Gropper approved the deal in December.

"[Cross] did a very good job of orchestrating the deal on behalf of his clients," Alston & Bird partner Joseph Forte, who represented the Commercial Mortgage Securities Association in the bankruptcy, told American Lawyer.