Marc Dreier's L.A. side

Haven't spent much time on the Harvard-educated attorney who allegedly bilked clients and investors out of $380 million in a massive fraud sceheme. With the Madoff losses supposedly running $50 billion, what's $380 million, right? But Dreier certainly has a lot more flash than Madoff, which the WSJ gets into this morning. Getting particular attention is the lawyer's rapid expansion into L.A. just a couple of years ago. Sadly, it's a story that most local media outlets – general, business, trade – haven’t touched. Too bad – it’s a pretty good yarn. Dreier joined Brentwood Country Club (fee is $180,000), and he took over the lease on an oceanfront penthouse from L.A. super-lawyer Larry Feldman.

Two blocks from his new penthouse, Mr. Dreier opened a branch of Tengu, a fancy sushi restaurant. Mr. Dreier, who is 58 years old, often brought attorneys there for late dinners, frequently joined by younger women, says Tengu's events manager, Raphaela Bazalgette. "He just had a lot of friends and was always having a good time." Mr. Dreier "liked exotic things," she adds, especially live California scorpion fish, a bulbous-headed, venomous species. He would eat one "on a stick, with its heart still beating," she says.

Stanton "Larry" Stein, an attorney who specializes in representing celebrities such as the Olsen twins and Rob Lowe, joined with Dreier LLP in early 2007, bringing along 35 or so other lawyers. Mr. Dreier assumed the costs of the group's offices in Santa Monica's Water Garden, one of the costliest commercial spaces in Los Angeles County. He agreed to pay Mr. Stein more than $2 million a year for the first three years, say three people familiar with the matter. Mr. Stein declined to comment on his compensation from Dreier. Marshall Grossman, a former partner of Mr. Stein's who didn't come along, was surprised at Mr. Dreier's willingness to shoulder such costs. "I understood the economics of what he was buying, and the cost...made no sense," says Mr. Grossman, who describes his split from Mr. Stein's group as acrimonious.

Mr. Dreier leased space in a Century City building used in the movie "Die Hard." By the end of 2007, he was paying more than $300,000 a month for Los Angeles office rent, says a person with knowledge of the firm's finances. Early this year, Mr. Dreier brought in a prominent Los Angeles litigation group that included attorney Eric George, whose father is the chief justice of the state supreme court. Several lawyers in the group were guaranteed more than $1 million a year, says a person with knowledge of the arrangement. Mr. George says he and other California attorneys have ended their relationship with Mr. Dreier since his arrest and now operate independently.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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