Crusading Law Firm Doubles Presence in Macklowe's Tower 56

breaks tower 56 Crusading Law Firm Doubles Presence in Macklowe's Tower 56Mark Lanier, the 47-year-old attorney who litigated his way to CNBC fame by taking on Merck’s dreaded Vioxx, and who’s now representing sugar-cane farmers in their suit against Splenda, is doubling the size of his footprint in Harry Macklowe’s Tower 56.

Mr. Lanier’s firm, the Lanier Law Firm, just signed a 10-year lease renewal and expansion for his offices in the skinny cloud-buster at 126 East 56th Street.

It was just four years ago when Mr. Lanier’s Houston-based firm staked a claim in Alvy Singer’s city of “left-wing Communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers,” taking the trophy tower’s sixth floor. Now, he’s taking the seventh floor, too, doubling his eastern outpost’s size to 12,149 square feet. The office’s managing attorney, Rick Meadow, said he expected the firm would also soon double the size of its staff, to about 24.

Mr. Meadow attributed the firm’s rapid rise to Vioxx (presumably, Merck never foresaw that side effect).

“[The lawsuits] brought national attention and really spotlighted Mark’s talent,” said Mr. Meadow. “Everyone in this business was watching those trials.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Meadow pooh-poohed any concerns about the fact that the tower, owned by the struggling Mr. Macklowe, may soon change hands—again. Deutsche Bank, Mr. Macklowe’s creditor, has taken control of the seven-tower portfolio Mr. Macklowe bought in a heavily leveraged $7 billion deal in early 2007; it includes Tower 56. Deutsche is actively marketing the towers, of which Mr. Macklowe still retains the titles.

“[The ownership’s] changed over three times since we’ve been here,” Mr. Meadow said. “Other than the uniforms of the building personnel, it hasn’t changed much.”

What can we expect from the good folks at Lanier as they continue to toil within the slender, 33-story tower?

Funny you should ask. The firm is busy investigating claims about smoking-cessation drug Chantix, which New York magazine’s Derek De Koff in February credited with giving him side effects like “suicidal ideation.”

Silvio Petriello, Sam Seiler and Ben Friedland from CB Richard Ellis represented the law firm in this transaction. Jones Lang LaSalle’s Randy Abend and Cynthia Wasserberger represented Macklowe.

drubinstein@observer.com