Specializing in M&A, litigation & arbitration, Corporate, real estate, labour and IP law
Zaza Bibilashvili is a founder of BGI Advisory Services Georgia and a Senior Partner at BGI Legal. Prior to the arrival of BGI in the aftermath of Ernst & Young’s global decision to exit law in early 2005, Zaza was a director of E&Y’s legal services arm, EY Law Georgia as well as the director of its predecessor, GCG Law Office, which was affiliated with Andersen Legal – both dominant players on the Georgian legal services market at the time. Before moving to private practice, Zaza worked with the Permanent Mission of Georgia to the United Nations in New York.
Zaza has an extensive transactional, corporate, M&A, real estate, oil & gas, litigation & arbitration, IP and labor law experience. Together with his colleagues at BGI, Zaza has been involved in nearly every major transaction in Georgia over the past two decades. His key engagements include:
- Successfully represented the shareholders of Georgia’s largest independent broadcasting company, Rustavi 2, in defending the television against a highly-publicized, NTV-style takeover attempt by the Georgian Government. 2015-2017.
- Acted as the lead counsel in the largest ever divorce litigation in Georgia, with assets worth approximately 0.5 billion USD at stake. 2014-2018.
- Successfully represented a US subsidiary of Glencore, the international commodity and mining giant, in a dispute with a Georgian contractor. 2016-2018.
- Assisted Ferrero Group, the second largest producer of chocolate and confectionary products, in all of its legal needs to Georgia, including but not limited to land acquisition, government negotiations, privacy and data protection, IP litigation and other matters. 1998 to date.
- Represented CT Park, an Israeli-owned exclusive operator of parking services in Tbilisi, Georgia (the first-ever outsource of parking operation by Georgian authorities), in a series of tax and investment disputes with central and municipal authorities of Georgia. 2009 to date.
- Represented Diplomat Georgia, the largest FMCG distributor in Georgia in structuring and ongoing support of its operations as well as successful handling of a multi-million USD tax litigation with the Government. 2008 to date.
- Successfully defended Coca-Cola Bottlers Georgia in an LCIA arbitration and related recognition and enforcement proceedings in the Supreme Court of Georgia. 2017-2018.
- Provided full legal support to a London-based owner and developer of Galleria Tbilisi, the biggest shopping center project in Georgia at the time, in a complex acquisition, development and sale of the asset. 2007-2016.
- Represented an international consortium of investors in the largest ever private transaction in Georgia involving acquisition of interest in certain telecommunications companies, a deal valued at 0.5 billion USD. 2005-2007.
- Represented a major EU-based insurance company in defending against a USD 100 million claim in Georgian courts.
- Represented a major Georgian manufacturer of soft drinks in a USD 20 million acquisition of a leading French-owned Georgian brewery.
- Represented the Owner of the property in negotiating a long-term management agreement with a major international hospitality group.
- Acted as a Georgian law expert in an approximately USD 600 million litigation in English Courts.
- Represented the Georgian Government in a USD 90 million privatization transaction of a major port and infrastructure facility with a view of establishment of a free industrial zone.
- Represented Citigroup in a USD 25 million mezzanine loan financing of a leading US-Georgian real estate developer and operator.
- Advised the Georgian Government jointly with Norway’s ECON Poyry on the development of seven green field hydro-power stations.
- Represented British American Tobacco in negotiating its manufacturing and distribution operations in Georgia, conducted legal due diligence of the largest Georgian tobacco enterprise, drafted and negotiated acquisition contracts and related project documentation (a USD 50 million project).
- Advised the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, one of the largest international Jewish charities, regarding various aspects of its operations in Georgia.
- Represented a major Russian-based investment group in a consolidated acquisition of the largest Georgian gold and copper mining enterprise from the State and private owners (a USD 61 million transaction).
- Represented Populi, the largest supermarket chain in Georgia at the time, in a USD 15 million secured loan transaction vis-à-vis EBRD.
- Represented Oriflame, a leading international cosmetics manufacturer, in a tax dispute with the Georgian Government, advised the company on the purchase of the land for its Caucasus warehouse.
- Represented a major Australian mining company in setting up a gold-mining facility in Georgia, a USD 75 million project.
- Advised the Georgian National Lottery Fund in drafting and negotiating the first ever contract with the private operator of the national lottery.
- Represented British American Tobacco in a USD 33 million tax dispute with the Georgian authorities.
- Represented/advised a consortium of international oil companies in drafting and negotiation of enabling legislation for land rights and eminent domain issues.
- Advised a major Swiss Industrial Group on the acquisition of a blocking minority stake in the Zestafoni Ferro Alloy Works Plant, one of Georgia’s largest industrial facilities.
- Advised a major Russian real estate developer in a USD 25 million transaction in Georgia.
- Represented the Georgian Government in drafting and negotiating contractual documentation in a strategic infrastructure development project (Build, Operate and Transfer Contract) valued at 62 million USD.
- Assisted the Embassies of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Japan and the Mission of the World Bank in Georgia in various real estate, human resources, tax, personal data protection, litigation and other issues since 1998.
- Assisted Marriott International in negotiating a set of management and financial agreements with the owner of the local hotel development (a USD 55 million transaction).
- Represented GlaxoSmithKline in settling a collective labor dispute, involving approximately USD 2 million material value.
- General assistance to Millennium Challenge Georgia Fund (MCG), the US Government-funded USD 300 million project concerning mainly infrastructure and tourism (win based on a competitive tender).
- Represented Enguri LLC, the largest Georgian hydro-power generating facility in a mandate to achieve settlement with a Russian counter-part, in a multimillion USD investment related dispute.
- Represented a major British private equity fund in the development of the first and the largest Western-style gated community in Georgia, a USD 25 million project.
- Represented a major international hotel operator/chain in a dispute with the US Government.
- Acted as an arbitrator jointly nominated by the Government of Georgia and the Government of the Adjara Autonomous Republic in ICC arbitration proceedings involving a USD 33 million claim.
- Represented Paddy Power Betfair, one of the largest bookmaking and gaming companies worldwide in acquisition of controlling interest in the largest Georgian betting and gaming operators, with a sizable market share in Armenia. The transaction valued at Euro 116 million was dubbed as “the deal of the year” by the March 2019 issue of the Forbes Georgia Magazine.
- Represented Nestle, the world’s largest food & beverage company in a major cross-border M&A transaction in which Georgia was the key jurisdiction.
- Represented Sony, Facebook, HP and Apple in various IP-related litigation, customs and enforcement matters in Georgia.
EDUCATION, LANGUAGES, ADMISSIONS & MEMBERSHIPS, ACTIVITIES
Zaza graduated from Tbilisi State University, Department of International Law, earning his law degree with High Honors, and has a B.A. in international relations from Canisius College, a Jesuit school in Buffalo, New York.
A founding member of the Georgian Bar Association, Zaza served on the Executive Board of GBA between 2009 and 2013, where he chaired the Commercial Law Committee.
One of the original founders with BGI of the Association of Georgian Law Firms, Zaza served on the Board of AGLF between 2014 and 2017, where he headed Georgia’s first ever Pro Bono initiative.
Zaza is currently serving his 3rd term on the board of ICC Georgia, the National Committee of International Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business organization, where he used to chair the Arbitration Commission.
During 2009-2010, Zaza served as a member of the State Constitutional Commission, which prepared fundamental amendments to the Georgian Constitution.
Zaza is one of the founders and the chairman of the Georgian Richard Wagner Society.
Between 2002 and 2005 Zaza was an arbitrator at the Court of Arbitration of the European Chamber of Commerce in Georgia.
At various times, Zaza served on the boards of JSC Poti Seaport Corporation (Georgia’s largest port, 2008), JSC Teliani Valley (Georgia’s largest winemaker, 2010-2011), Foundation for Democracy and Development (2008), United National Movement (2013-2018), American Friends of Georgia, Inc. (Georgian Advisory Board), a US charity (2011-2014) and the Georgian Vine Foundation (since 2012).
Zaza is the editor of Georgian Law Brief, BGIs monthly legal news bulletin.
In 1995 he was named Paul Harris Fellow of the Rotary International by Northlake Rotary Club of Atlanta, Georgia, USA and was named Will Watt Fellow by the Rotary Club of Northlake, Georgia, USA, in 1994.
In 2018, together with another BGI partner Sandro Bibilashvili and former high-ranking Georgian diplomats, Zaza founded the Chavchavadze Center for European Studies and Civic Education, a center-right think-tank and the first civil society organization in Georgia modeled after European political foundations.
Zaza is a frequent speaker at various international for a, including business associations as well as professional and civic organizations. In addition, Zaza writes frequently for leading Georgian print and online publications (Tabula magazine, Forbes Georgia magazine, azrebi.ge website of Ilia State University and other leading Georgian periodicals).
Zaza often contributes to World Bank’s annual Doing Business publication and acts as a judge at various Moot Court competitions. He is also a ranked chess player.
In addition to his native Georgian, Zaza speaks fluent English and Russian, and has a fair command of French and Spanish.
The four-partner team at BGI Legal provides a ‘responsive, proactive and solution-oriented service to a wide range of international corporates both directly and on a referral basis from major international law firms; it has built a strong reputation acting for investors and lenders on many of the country s largest projects. The ‘excellent Lasha Gogiberidze has led the team s work in several major energy mandates, including advising an Asian investor on a hydropower project. Gogiberidze is also regularly involved in financing work, including inter-bank lending, regulatory lending (to comply with capital adequacy requirements) and capital markets work, where Unana Gogokhia is also establishing a strong reputation.
Solid team with vast experience of handling a wide spectrum of corporate and commercial as well as financial matters. Particularly well versed in project finance and boasts an impressive track record in some of the country's biggest energy and infrastructure projects. Popular choice for prominent international and local clients, including financial institutions and corporates from an array of industry sectors. Clients are impressed with the team's approach, saying: "The best thing is their coming up with proactive advice and suggesting a structure. They are able to work under pressure and respond immediately." Another client adds: "As soon as we give them a project we don't need to double-check anything." Other typical comments are: "They are a top-tier firm on the market with highly skilled, efficient and solution-oriented lawyers."
BGI is one of Georgia's leading firms in all areas of corporate law and in energy and infrastructure has acted on key projects in the oil and gas, energy, transport infrastructure areas. Previous comments have included: "Very good law firm for this jurisdiction...very knowledgeable, they get the job done on time and on budget...they are very professional and good lawyers". Thanks for universal praise from competitors and clients alike, BGI sits comfortably in the top tier... BGI is client-focused and solution-oriented... [with] excellent local counsel, not just for Georgian standards, but by international standards... [A major international client says:] "In terms of local law firms... I have a strong preference for BGI."