Features

Luis Gerardo Ramirez Villela – Müggenburg, Gorches y Peñalosa S.C.

A deal maker for all seasons

He can’t say too much about one of the major items on his agenda because some sensitive matters still need to be addressed, but by midyear, Luis Gerardo Ramirez Villela expects to have finalized another heavyweight acquisition.

This one involves a foreign pharmaceutical company that’s long targeted a Mexican company whose products it uses but whose bosses have been late in providing all the documentation. Issues have included whether this transaction should be an asset or stock sale, with the parties finally agreeing to the latter.

As Ramirez says, there’s always some devil in the details, but after 25-plus years of practicing corporate law and fine-tuning complex mergers and acquisitions, he expects to tame this one just as he did while pushing another major transaction to the finish line in 2022 and many before.

Luis Gerardo Ramirez Villela

Luis Gerardo Ramirez Villela

The 2022 merger involved a foreign chemical giant, which acquired facilities in Mexico with Ramirez’s guidance that should help it grow its Latin American business. While the buyer and seller were basically on the same page, he still had much to negotiate, oversee the usual due diligence, and settle issues concerning warranties and indemnifications.

Among the accolades: Ramirez was recognized for the sixth time in eight years as “Deal Maker of the Year” by the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association. He appreciates but takes in stride these plaudits from his counterparts in corporate law and advises them to follow his example, which is to self-educate in whatever the industry might be.

“You need to understand your client as well as the other party,” Ramirez tells Vanguard in December from his desk at the Mexico City firm of Müggenburg, Gorches y Peñalosa S.C. “Otherwise, you get stuck in the details.”

He means business

That hasn’t happened to the 46-year-old Ramirez, who considers himself as much a businessman as a lawyer. He’s now with his third firm, having joined Müggenburg in July 2017 and achieving partnership two years later. Previously, he practiced for 18 years with Galicia Abogados, also of Mexico City, and for parts of 2007 and 2008 as an international associate at the New York City headquarters of Shearman & Sterling.

While he usually has at least a couple of prospective mergers and acquisitions on his to-do list, Ramirez is far from siloed and tries to be as generalist as possible, albeit with advanced knowledge of whatever’s at stake: finance, real estate, mining, energy, global trade, bitcoin, artificial intelligence and what-not. Around 80 percent of the firm’s subject matter involves foreign companies with operations in Mexico or other Latin American locales, for which Ramirez is well-prepared to advise.

Luis Gerardo Ramirez Villela

That time at Shearman & Sterling put him on the right track, Ramirez recalling how, as a young lawyer living alone in New York City and not used to speaking English, he was immersed in a maelstrom but adjusted on the fly with brief mentoring from a senior associate.

“He (the associate) told the partners, ‘This guy doesn’t need someone supervising him,’” Ramirez says. “That opened more of my journey. Originally, I was in finance but expanded to other groups.”

Ramirez taking a liking to the Big Apple and finding in it some similarities to Mexico City, he expected to stay longer than 14 months. Then came the 2008 financial crisis, and the U.S. State Department did not extend his visa. Though disappointed, Ramirez says he garnered a lesson that continues to serve him well.

“We never really know what the future brings,” he says. “We just have to be prepared.”

Ever versatile

Back at Galicia Abogados, Ramirez further honed his expertise in all corporate matters. He restructured Siemens Group’s Mexican subsidiaries. He restructured the debt of glass manufacturing giant Vitro. He negotiated the terms of a joint venture involving SabrerLite and Latin Idea Mexico Venture Capital Fund. But after logging 18 years at the firm and becoming a senior associate, he felt the need to move on and was welcomed aboard by Müggenburg.

The sky seems to be the limit, and he’s aiming toward it. A member of the Mexican, American and International bar associations, he’s preparing to take the California exam.

He also moonlights as principal of his own firm, which manages business negotiations but not legal matters for corporate clientele. Then there’s his pro bono efforts on behalf of nonprofits that include the social services providers USAID and Appleseed Mexico, the latter of which he’ll soon be on the board of directors.

According to Ramirez, the extracurricular roles complement his work at the firm and better prepare him for whatever’s next. He always reckoned he’d be in such a position, Ramirez having fast-tracked his career by clerking in corporate matters for a Mexico City firm, Basurto, Santillana y Arguio S.C., while earning his law degree at Universidad Iberoamericana.

Luis Gerardo Ramirez Villela

He’s since enhanced his academic creds with an MBA from Boston University, a master’s in international business, trade and commerce from Instituto de Estudios de Posgrado en Comercio Internacional and a diplomat in international arbitration from Escuela Libre de Derecho. At any given time, he’s taking an online course in whatever subject he anticipates will be next on the global business agenda.

Asked how he manages his time, Ramirez credits his self-discipline, some of which comes from his years as an amateur boxer. He says that lifting up gloves and squaring off against an opponent is all-consuming, as is handling a legal case, especially one with big bucks attached, which describes most of Ramirez’s workload.

Asked who his favorite boxer is, he answers Muhammad Ali, not just for his pugilism. Ali also embraced civil rights and other laudable causes, and Ramirez finds time for those pursuits, too.

The day begins early for Ramirez, rising at 3 a.m., meditating, walking his dog and working out at the gym before beginning work. If there’s a common denominator to success, he says it’s doing everything passionately and how activities transcend.

“For me, the best lesson from boxing is discipline,” he says. “It translates to my legal side.”

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

Published on: January 3, 2024

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