IR Global Member Spotlight – Why tireless tax specialist Don Looper spent decades crisscrossing the globe to sign off deals

Donald Looper is a tax lawyer whose practice focuses on project finance, project development, and structuring partnership, corporate, and international transactions.

Don’s skills for structuring and managing international business transactions have resulted in his being selected by clients to manage international projects negotiated in 36 foreign countries and across the United States. U.S. clients utilize his tax and project management skills to navigate treaty issues and manage acquisitions in foreign countries, including supervision of local lawyers and accountants, tax reporting, and contracting.

Don enjoys a close working relationship with executives and GCs, representing public and privately held companies and private equity funds in a variety of industries. In addition to his representation of upstream and midstream energy companies, Don’s client projects include seismic gathering and processing, refinery acquisitions, exploiting new oil field service technologIes, commodity trading and logistics, rail and pipeline throughput projects, agriculture contracts, and pesticide, herbicide and new technology business development.

Don Looper has had a long, distinguished and highly colourful career.

While based in Houston, Texas, his work as a tax lawyer has taken him around the world to countless countries and territories.

He’s signed off on multimillion dollar deals in Hamburg, London, Cairo and Buenos Aires, flown across the bleak coastal oil fields of Libya and Vietnam, and helped clients navigate complex sanctions issues in Cuba.

Unsurprisingly, given his tireless global trotting, Don is a self-confessed workaholic. For years he would be billing more than 10 hours a day before heading off after work to coach baseball.

Just listening to Don’s astonishingly varied life and work as a lawyer, puts to bed forever the notion that people in the legal profession – particularly tax specialists – are predictable and a little bit nerdy.

“I’m at the end of my career now,” Don says. “When you’re at that point you get a materially different perspective than somebody who is 40 years old and hard charging at their career. Clients appreciate the wisdom that is gained by someone like me who has seen most problems before and has dealt with them – wherever they may be.”

M&As and energy partnerships

Don’s practice has primarily focussed on M&As and business partnerships in the energy sector, in the Gulf of Mexico and internationally: “I’m a tax lawyer, always have been. But early in my career, this specialization placed me at the forefront of structuring project finance transactions, international partnerships and acquisitions. Tax is critical in every major transaction—how to structure the transaction to get the economic terms desired while minimizing the tax effects. In all deals the tax lawyer is in early to give advice, but I was driven toward, and the clients saw that I was very successful at, what I enjoyed most—being the “legal project manager” for complex corporate, partnership and joint venture transactions, particularly in the energy space.”

“Clients appreciate the wisdom that is gained by someone like me who has seen most problems before and has dealt with them – wherever they may be.”

Don admits he’s not a traditional tax lawyer: “Most tax lawyers tend to be very boxed in, in terms of expertise. You may be just a tax trust expert, a state tax expert or an international tax expert. That’s not my practice. My practice evolved into structuring and drafting contracts and joint ventures, maybe drilling tax partnerships. It may be international partnerships, but it’s a transactional practice with a heavy tax expertise. That’s really my practice.”