Robert Nelson, Jr. is partner in the San Francisco office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where he serves as a member of the firm’s Energy and Infrastructure, Private Equity and International Arbitration Groups. Mr. Nelson’s practice focuses on cross-border transactions and dispute resolution in the areas of energy, infrastructure, private equity, and foreign investment. He has worked extensively in the Americas, Asia, and the MENA region, and has significant experience in Africa and Europe.
Mr. Nelson has played a leading role in the development and financing of over one hundred energy and infrastructure projects worldwide, including many landmark projects that have won global or regional recognition. His oil & gas/LNG experience includes upstream (onshore and offshore), midstream, and especially extensive work on downstream transactions. He has represented project sponsors, lenders, contractors, and private equity firms in this work.
Mr. Nelson’s power project work encompasses conventional, renewable, and nuclear (including decommissioning) projects. His renewable work includes biofuels, biomass, cogeneration, geothermal, solar, and wind. His general infrastructure work includes entertainment, manufacturing, mining, transportation (airport, rail, and road), and water/wastewater facilities, many of which involved public-private partnerships.
Examples of Mr. Nelson’s energy and infrastructure project experience include:
- Representation of The Dow Chemical Company and Mitsui in the development, project financing, and construction of a chlor-alkali facility in Freeport, Texas, a project that earned Financial Times Innovative Lawyers recognition. A senior Dow treasury official described it as “a benchmark transaction with impeccable execution and exemplary teamwork combined with the fastest ever project finance timeline.”
- Representation of a major global chemical company in the construction of a $4 billion series of petrochemical facilities on the U.S. Gulf Coast;
- Representation of Dow Chemical in the development, construction, and financing of an ethylene cracker facility and in connection with the development of a related ethylene glycol production plant;
- Representation of a developer in $1.3 billion series of utility-scale solar power projects in aggregating 360MW;
- Representation of a major international contractor in the construction of a large refinery project in India;
- Representation of oil companies, lenders, and private equity firms in connection with offshore oil exploration and production activities in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and North America;
- Representation of foreign sponsors of LNG regasification facilities and related marine transportation/vessel transactions, as well as work related to export LNG facilities;
- Representation of project sponsors in connection with water privatization transactions in India and the Philippines;
- Representation of a lender to a Canadian mining project (copper and nickel);
- Representation of a lender to a Canadian mining project (copper and nickel);
- Acting as project counsel for Quezon (Philippines – worldwide project of the year), Meizhou Wan (China – Asian project of the year), Ilijan (representation of KEPCO in 1200 MW combined-cycle power project in Philippines), and Samalayuca (Mexico – Latin American Project of the Year); and
- Representation of the host government for a $20 billion nuclear project in the Middle East.
Mr. Nelson’s lender-side experience includes representation of IFC, other multilateral finance institutions, and commercial banks. He also has substantial experience in working with regional development banks, development finance institutions, and ECAs. Examples of Mr. Nelson’s experince in complex project sales, workouts and restructurings include:
- Representation of Bechtel and General Electric in the successful restructuring of the largest single foreign investment ever made in India, the $3 billion Dabhol energy project. Project included negotiation with onshore and offshore lenders and supervision/direction of over 40 legal proceedings in five countries and eight international arbitrations involving bilateral investment treaties, project agreements, shareholder agreement, and public/private political risk insurance;
- Representing a foreign bank consortium in the restructuring of a $250M wind project.
He has also represented U.S. and foreign private equity, venture capital, and hedge funds in cross-border investments, including a number of transactions in China and India. His experience extends to fund formation and structuring international investments in tax-efficient ways.
On the dispute resolution front, Mr. Nelson has served as an advocate or arbitrator in over forty international commercial arbitrations including ICC, ICDR, ICSID, LCIA and UNCITRAL cases ($5M-$8B in dispute), which have included shareholder and joint venture agreement disputes, construction disputes, bilateral investment treaty and political risk insurance claims, intellectual property disputes and other contractual claims. His recent work includes representation of an international joint venture in a $350 million construction arbitration regarding a petrochemical project, and representation of an energy company in an $8 billion bilateral investment treaty arbitration proceeding with the Government of India.
He has been named in Euromoney’s Guide to the World’s Leading Project Finance Lawyers since its inception, and has also been named in its Guide to the World’s Leading Energy and Natural Resource Lawyers and recognized in Chambers Global, International Who’s Who of Project Finance Lawyers, International Who’s Who of Construction Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America (Construction Law), Leading Practitioners: China (Energy), and Best of the Best USA, where he was listed as one of the top 25 project finance lawyers in the country.
Mr. Nelson is an appointed member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the Board of Directors and Finance Committee of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) and the joint U.S.-Indian task force on trade and investment matters. He previously served as Chairman of the International Bar Association’s Project Finance Subcommittee and also taught for a number of years at Stanford University (Graduate School of Business and School of Engineering.
He speaks French, German, and Norwegian, has a working knowledge of Spanish, and varying degrees of proficiency in several other languages. Mr. Nelson frequently speaks and writes about topics related to his practice, including cross-border investment; dispute resolution; energy; Indian trade and investment matters; and project construction, development, and finance.
Mr. Nelson received his J.D. from Columbia University School of Law in 1980 and his M.P.A. from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs the same year. He also earned a Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude in 1976 from Harvard University.
Prior to joining Gibson Dunn, Mr. Nelson served as a partner in the Project Development & Finance Group of Shearman & Sterling, LLP.
Recent publications include:
- “Power Hungry: As China’s Appetite for Energy Increases, So Does Its Desire for Sources.” (China Business Law Journal, March 2016)(quoted extensively)
- “Project Finance Workouts” (presentation at conference for The Export-Import Bank of Korea – 15 April 2016)
- “Private Equity, Energy, and Infrastructure in India” – speaker at First Annual US-India Business Council Summit (25 April 2016)
- “Arbitration in India (including 2015 amendments to Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996)” (Moderator) – US-India Business Council Webinar, 27 October 2016
- “India as a Private Equity Destination” – speaker at US-India Business Council “Investment in India” conference (Delhi, India, 18 November 2016)
- “Future of India-US Trade and Economic Relations,” Presentation and participation in panel discussion at India-US Forum organized by Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India (Delhi, India, 1 August 2017)
- “A Mandate for Good,” Forthcoming Norwegian newspaper article (with Bjorn Bjerke) on potential infrastructure investment by Norwegian State Pension Fund (Norway’s sovereign wealth fund) (2017)