Attorney draws on business background in legal practice

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

In his teens, Michael Romaya worked for an entrepreneurial family that owned several businesses, an experience that spurred his interest in a business degree.

After earning a degree in economics from the University of Michigan, Romaya worked as a credit analyst at Comerica Bank, and planned to earn an MBA. But after spending time with his family’s estate planner, who held a JD/MBA degree, he quickly realized the benefits of dual degrees — and earned these at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

“The dual program was challenging, but a nice change of pace between isolated exams and papers in law school versus group projects and presentations in the MBA program,” he says. “I really enjoyed my classmates and I remain in touch with a number of them.” 

A partner in Varnum’s Banking and Finance Group, Romaya represents lenders and borrowers in a wide variety of commercial finance transactions, including real estate, construction financing, acquisition financing and asset-based lending.

“I enjoy the excitement of the transactions and working with clients to solve problems and obstacles that arise during the course of a deal,” he says.

Romaya has structured, negotiated, and documented numerous senior and subordinate debt financing arrangements, including secured and unsecured single bank and syndicated credit agreements, multi-currency facilities and mezzanine facilities. His practice also focuses on workouts and restructuring of troubled credits. He also serves as outside general counsel for numerous companies assisting them with respect to day-to-day business issues.

Many of the financial figures are eye-popping, including a $95 million deal in a multi-bank acquisition financing transaction; a $210 million deal involving a multi-currency syndicated secured credit facility for the U.S. and Canada; a $55 million multi-bank acquisition financing transaction; and a $33 million multi-bank workout of an automotive supplier, to name just a few.

Romaya touts the great advantage of a business background in a corporate/finance practice.

“You can fully understand the entire transaction and add value and insight to both the legal and business side of the deal,” he says.

He has handled several challenging cases, including representing Livonia-based Fabco Holdings, Inc. in the sale of product portfolio and related technologies to Troy-based Meritor. The sale was recognized as the Restructuring Deal of the Year in the $25-50 million category at the 12th Annual Turnaround Awards in 2018, part of the annual M&A Advisor Turnaround Investing Summit.

“The Fabco deal was a great matter as it contained a loan workout/restructuring as well as sell side transaction,” he says. “The deal contained multiple parties, each with a different goal and mindset with respect to the direction of the deal. There were a number of late nights working with our side’s turnaround consultant and investment banker strategizing and working to best position the client for a successful outcome.

“In the end it was great to see all of the pieces come together perfectly for a successful outcome.”

In another interesting local case, he represented an independent grocer on a new market tax credit financing transaction, which resulted in the expansion of a supermarket in a Detroit neighborhood.

“The supermarket was fully remodeled, expanded to double the square footage and most importantly added a number of new jobs and brought a greater selection of fresh food to the city,” he says.

Romaya, who previously worked in Varnum’s Novi office, is now lead partner in the firm’s new office in downtown Birmingham, its fourth in southeast Michigan.

“It’s in a first class building in an amazing location—it’s been great to be able to take a quick break and stretch the legs with a walk,” he says. “The goals are to continue to strengthen and grow our client relationships in southeast Michigan and to attract attorneys to join our firm.”

The firm is also heavily invested in using technology, such as videos.

“As the practice of law continues to become more and more competitive, we have to find new ways to stay in front of our clients and potential clients and display our skills and strengths,” Romaya says. “Law firms will be using technology and social media more and more to get their brand and content out to the public.”

Romaya, who completed the Leadership Detroit program last year, has been recognized as a Michigan Super Lawyer and an Up and Coming Lawyer. He is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, the Association for Corporate Growth Detroit, and the Turnaround Management Association in Detroit, where he also was honored with the nextGen Top of the Class award. 

A native of Southfield, Romaya now lives in West Bloomfield with his wife Nicole, 5-year-old son Christian, and 4-year-old twins Lilly and Louise. He enjoys working and living in the same area where he grew up, and where his leisure pursuits include mountain biking and pheasant hunting.

“I’m around family and longtime friends—and experiencing first-hand the growth of the Greater Detroit area,” he says.

Last year, he was re-appointed by then-Governor Rick Snyder to a second three-year term on the Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs that works within the Department of Civil Rights and acts in an advisory capacity to the governor.

“I’ve gotten pleasant insight into government relations and procedures,” he says.

He also serves on the Board of the Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s been a wonderful opportunity, as it’s a great organization and I’ve met and interacted with a variety of individuals I would not have otherwise come across,” he says.

He relishes being a member of the tight-knit Chaldean community.

“I work hard to do my part in maintaining our cultural traits, including hard work, integrity and a strong family,” he says.