Stephen M. Barnes, a partner at the law firm involved in the supermarket distribution dispute that has settled a long war of wills over which firm will provide services to rival buyout firm Genstar Capital, died on Monday at his home in Naples, Fla. He was 61.
Mr. Barnes’s death was confirmed by one of his partners, Alvin D. Gold.
On Thursday, Mr. Barnes’s partner, Morris “Mac” Perrin Jr., agreed to forfeit his share of Genstar’s business after agreeing to acquire Genstar stock, according to a statement from Genstar and the New York firm of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, the law firm representing Genstar.
The conflict dates to 2014, when Morris Genstar filed a complaint with New York State Supreme Court in the Bronx charging that Morris Perrin had authorized a litany of bad trades by Mr. Barnes. One of the trades, cited in the complaint, involved the possible settlement of “millions of dollars of Genstar’s pending and future arbitration claims,” according to the complaint.
Genstar’s legal complaint revealed that Mr. Barnes had earlier settled such claims against the firm without Genstar’s knowledge.
Mr. Barnes’s final arguments before the courts decimated Genstar’s business and ended Genstar’s lawsuit against Perrin and at least one other of Perrin’s clients, Yolo BizNet Network Corp., which Mr. Barnes had represented as a litigator at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe. But the proceedings spanned a long time.
“It’s amazing how many lawyers are involved, and how many lawyers went to bat for Stephen,” said Dara Murtha, president of the law firm Murtha Cullina LLP, who also is a lawyer with Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe. “I’m not sure I have seen anything like it in the law. I have seen things that are really contentious, but nothing with as many layers of lawyers involved.”
Mr. Barnes moved over to Orrick Herrington’s public policy group last year, where his colleagues found him a good fit for discussions about the future of the company’s marijuana clients, after several of them faced unexpected challenges following California’s passage of a law legalizing the use of recreational marijuana. In a recent interview, he mentioned to several lawyers who had played roles in the litigation that his retirement might be forthcoming.
Steve Barnes first met Morris Perrin Jr. in 1976, shortly after Mr. Barnes’s law firm, Jones Day, merged with Perrin, LeGere, Paterno & Glass, in a deal that netted Jones Day $53 million in cash. Jones Day was among the firms on both sides of the dispute over Genstar’s business. Other Jones Day lawyers, including Thomas R. Farrell Jr., currently a partner at the New York law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges, also invested in Genstar.
Mr. Barnes began his law career in the 1970s, at Phillips Lytle. He did his undergraduate work at William Paterson University in New Jersey and completed his law degree at Albany Law School. He was named a partner at Jones Day in 1975, where he is remembered by colleagues as especially skilled at complex commercial transactions. Before becoming an entrepreneur, he owned a self-storage business in New Jersey for several years.
Survivors include his wife, Sonia; two sons, Stephen R. and Alec P. Barnes; and a daughter, Bridgette Barnes-Kinkle. Mr. Barnes had a third son, James T. Barnes, from a previous marriage.