Features

Chris Young – Omni Bridgeway

Optimizing Omni Bridgeway’s returns on dispute finance investments

Investing in third-party commercial litigation is a long-term strategy with meaningful risk, but Omni Bridgeway has developed into a leader in producing robust returns for investors and shareholders while providing a financial service to claimants and law firms involved in large-scale commercial litigation.

A key player in the litigation finance market is emerging within Omni Bridgeway’s ranks, with Chris Young helping the company drive its asset management strategy forward.

After starting as Corporate Counsel for Omni Bridgeway’s predecessor Bentham IMF in 2017, Young was soon appointed General Counsel for North America. Young’s days are spent working on large financings, capital raisings, secondary market transactions, co-fundings, and insurance-backed transactions.

A key component of Young’s role is working with Omni Bridgeway’s team of investment managers on structuring funding arrangements and finding creative ways to protect the company from counterparty and credit risk while ensuring a service-oriented approach.

Chris Young | General Counsel, North America | Omni Bridgeway General Counsel, North America

Chris Young | General Counsel, North America | Omni Bridgeway General Counsel, North America

“Negotiations with claimants and law firms must be collaborative,” Young says. “Our goal is always to strike a fair deal that maximizes our returns, ensures we are fully protected, and helps achieve the claimant’s objectives.”

Young has seen the market evolve significantly since joining the company in 2017. For instance, he has been integral in Omni Bridgeway’s participation in an emerging secondary market, helping Omni Bridgeway monetize select assets by structuring, negotiating, and closing purchase and sale transactions with strategic purchasers. In December 2023, Young put the finishing touches on a sale of a 25 percent interest in 15 intellectual property investments to GLS Capital for an upfront payment of $21.5 million, representing a multiple on Omni Bridgeway’s invested capital (MOIC) of two times of its deployments to date across a $100 million committed portfolio. Secondary market transactions like this create revenue, defray duration risk, and free up capital to be used for new deals, Young says.

Young structures transaction mechanics on these deals, covers off tax and accounting issues, drafts and negotiates participation and purchase and sale agreements, and manages all aspects of the transaction with third-party investors willing to take a calculated risk for potential significant long-term returns.

Then, there is his role in structuring and closing new investment funds and assisting the ASX-listed firm in growing its investor capital base. Young works closely with his senior management to structure, implement, and manage fund vehicles for the company’s US SEC-registered investment adviser, which manages approximately $750 million of external investor capital.

Young recently completed an upsizing of Omni Bridgeway’s existing Funds 4 and 5, adding just over $385 million in capital from its existing investor base to use for US and non-US merits-related investments.

“We’ll also be looking to add new limited partners in 2024,” Young adds.

He means unconventional business 

“It’s an unconventional business model but very exciting,” says Young, who is known to understate a point. “We’re getting better each day on managing risk associated with our investments.“

To this point, Young has implemented new protections in the firm’s funding and investment documentation to protect against specific issues that may arise.

“Every deal we do is different, and we learn lessons from previous transactions and build on institutional knowledge,” Young says.

And central to his strategy?

“Check your ego at the door,” he says with a laugh.

That might be among the most challenging aspects, with Omni Bridgeway having many stakeholders to consider. Each morning, Young wakes to a volume of emails from the U.K., the Netherlands and Australia, ranging from his Group GC, CFO and CEO to Omni’s finance, tax and compliance teams.

Chris Young | General Counsel, North America | Omni Bridgeway General Counsel, North America

While engaged globally, Young is nimble enough to sustain the process from Omni Bridgeway’s US headquarters in Manhattan or the Westport, Connecticut home, where he often works remotely in between occasionally shuttling his two daughters to various activities.

He’s bullish on the company’s future, noting new opportunities for Omni Bridgeway to branch out with more complex and high-value transactions.

“We’re getting more creative in producing value for our investors every day,” says Young.   

A fast learner 

It might be ironic that while Young is so instrumental to the success of a firm whose interests lie in adversary disputes, he has never seen a courtroom or drafted a motion or brief.

Financial services have always come first for this 2004 Yale University graduate who earned his Juris Doctor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 2007 and followed that with an LLM in taxation from NYU Law in 2008.

Litigation finance was a new concept for Young when he joined this industry in 2017.

“I had literally never heard of litigation finance before joining the company,” Young admits.

He was an in-house lawyer specializing in distressed debt and special situations credit trading, restructuring, and lending transactions. But he quickly learned the ropes and found the role exhilarating, finding many similarities to his previous experience in financial services.

While it is typical for any in-house counsel to say how each day differs, few are likely in such a dynamic line of work.

Chris Young | General Counsel, North America | Omni Bridgeway General Counsel, North America

But that’s what makes it fun, he says.  In a given week, Young may be finalizing fund documentation with senior management, negotiating a funding agreement with a claimant and his investment managers, structuring a secondary market transaction, managing a bespoke tax issue for a non-US investor or closing a law firm portfolio.

“Throughout my career, I have taken advantage of change,” he says. “I always intended to work in a firm and make partner, but that didn’t happen, and I transitioned to an in-house lawyer.”

Indeed, the stars weren’t aligned for Young to become a law firm mainstay.  His career started with a two-year stint as a corporate associate at Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP and then a similar stretch at Hunton Andrews Kurth.

In 2012, Young took an opportunity to join one of his clients, Royal Bank of Scotland. Young served as desk counsel for RBS’s special situations credit trading desk and provided transactional support to RBS’s U.S. and U.K. lending businesses.

Over five years later, Young moved to Bentham IMF’s New York office, which became Omni Bridgeway after a merger. And there’s still room to grow.

Young works closely with Omni’s group general counsel and corporate secretary in Australia, as well as others in senior management, including Omni’s global head of portfolio management, CFO and CIOs. With a new CEO onboarded in 2023, Young believes further growth opportunities are on the horizon.

“Omni is a great place to work, and I am excited about what is to come here and the further development of the industry,” he says.

 

View this feature in the Vanguard Winter II 2024 Edition here.

Published on: January 3, 2024

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