An in-depth look at Kristijan Polenak of the Polenak Law Firm covering his career path, education, and top projects as a lawyer as well as a few insights about him as a manager at work and as a person outside the office.
Polenak Law Firm, Managing Partner, 2007-present
Polenak Law Firm, Partner, 2001-2007
Polenak Law Firm, Associate, 1997-2001
Polenak Law Firm, Trainee, 1995-1997
Ministry of Justice of the Republic of North Macedonia, Certificate for Passed Judicial Exam, 1997
St. Cyril and Methodius University, Iustinianus Primus Faculty of Law, LLB Degree, 1991-1994
Out of office activity: Spending time with friends, Social clubs’ humanitarian activities, Walking and hiking
Quote: “It’s better to be safe than sorry”
Favorite book: Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz
Movie: Empire of the Sun by Steven Spielberg
Top 5 Projects:
Advising the EBRD in the pre-privatization of the Macedonian Power Company.
Advising TAV in the build–operate–transfer structured concession of Macedonian airports, which is one of the largest effective concession agreements;
Advising the M6 group in the sale of Skopje Brewery shares to Coca-Cola and Brau Union. The most compelling parts were managing the client’s interests prior to the transaction and the very challenging negotiations;
Advising Hyprop Investments Limited in the acquisition of the Skopje City Mall, at that time the largest mall in North Macedonia. This is still one of the largest M&A transactions on the market;
Advising GSOL in the acquisition through reorganization of a large ferro-nickel production plant, in a court-governed insolvency procedure. A huge legal challenge, representing the largest restructuring process on the market.
What would you say was the most challenging project you ever worked on and why?
Polenak: Many of the projects in the last 25 years may be considered challenging, but I believe the privatization of Stopanska Banka AD Skopje takes the lead. It was a very complex privatization of the country’s largest bank at that time. We worked for the International Finance Corporation and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development which, along with the National Bank of Greece, acquired 85% of the shares from the Bank Rehabilitation Agency. The government was pursuing a policy to restructure the financial sector and considered the restructuring and privatization of the bank as an important national goal and prerequisite to strengthening the financial sector and the national economy. It had, therefore, agreed to take certain steps with regard to this bank, by way of an act of Parliament, and the Central Bank agreed to take additional actions. We worked alongside the Ministry of Finance in drafting the guarantee law of this strategic investment, along with the local bank in collecting and grouping the shareholding in the Bank Rehabilitation Agency, as well as together with our clients on the transactional documents.
And what was your main takeaway from it?
Polenak: My main takeaway was regarding the capacity and ability of the State to carry out painful projects, to achieve the targets set in its existing policies and political agenda, while the main benefit for me was the amount of experience collected during the process. Following the passage of time, this transaction may now seem obscure but, back then, it was immensely important to stabilize the banking sector and reduce the risks of high NPLs within the largest bank of the country.
What is one thing clients likely don’t know about you?
Polenak: My love for music. There is hardly a moment when I do not have a nice, smooth jazz tune playing in the background when I work on documents.
Name one mentor who played a big role in your career and how they impacted you.
Polenak: Clearly, being a third-generation lawyer, the role of my father as my mentor has the most significant place in my professional growth. I rarely worked with him, as he was a litigator and criminal lawyer, his moral code and dedication to excellence were embedded into my psychological profile.
What is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself fresh out of law school?
Polenak: Go and complete another master’s in economics or IT. The combination would give you a distinct edge and competitive advantage.
This Article was originally published in Issue 9.4 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.