Mitchell Hamline School of Law (Formerly known as Hamline University School of Law), J.D., 1985, With Honors
 - Top Five Percent
 - Silver Gavel Honor Society

University of New Hampshire, M.A., 1982, Cum Laude

University of St. Thomas (Formerly known as College of St. Thomas), B.A., Cum Laude

Bar & Court Admissions

  • Minnesota
  • U.S. District Court District of Minnesota
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 5th Circuit
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John McDonald is a member of the firm’s Finance & Restructuring Section and chairs its Bankruptcy and Financial Restructuring Practice Group.  He practices principally in the areas of (i) bankruptcy, workout and creditors' rights, (ii) distressed transactions, and (iii) business and financial litigation.

As a commercial insolvency attorney with nearly 35 years of experience, John has represented virtually every type of interested party in large Chapter 11 bankruptcies, cross-border proceedings, receiverships, workouts, financial litigation, and distressed transactions. Although he primarily represents secured lenders, as well as mezzanine and junior capital funds, he also has extensive experience representing unsecured creditors, real estate and equipment lessors, financial contract counterparties, insurers, official and unofficial committees, railroads, trustees, business debtors, boards of directors, post-confirmation entities, and numerous other interested parties. He has also represented both plaintiffs and defendants in complex litigation involving a range of commercial matters, including foreclosures, assignments for the benefit of creditors, class action defense, and multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme clawback litigation.

In the community, John has been a member of the advisory board to the Business Law Institute of Hamline University School of Law (now Mitchell Hamline School of Law), and a board member of the Saint Paul Sales Tax Revitalization Board (appointed by Mayor Coleman). He also chaired a $6 million capital campaign for his local parish and has served as a Crisis Nursery foster parent for Children’s Home Society of Minnesota.

John is published in various publications, is a frequent lecturer on bankruptcy, creditors’ rights and commercial topics, was a founding board member of the Upper Midwest Chapter of the Turnaround Management Association, and is often quoted locally on bankruptcy and turnaround topics. He joined Briggs in 2006 after 17 years with Robins Kaplan, a national "A-List" law firm.

Honors & Awards

  • The Best Lawyers in America©
  • America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators®
  • Minnesota's Best Lawyers©, Minnesota Monthly
  • Leading American Attorney, American Research Corporation


Current and recent engagements include representation of:

  • Landlord of main headquarters of Chapter 11 debtor USA Gymnastics in Indiana;
  • National bank and non-bank finance company as defendants in multi-billion dollar clawbacks in Polaroid and Petters Ponzi-scheme bankruptcies and related receiverships in Minnesota;
  • Judgment lien holder in environmental-related Chapter 11 of defense manufacturer Wellman Dynamics Corp. in Iowa;
  • Forward contract merchant counterparties in bankruptcies of Cloud Peak Energy, Inc. in Delaware (coal), G & R Feed and Grain Co., Inc., in Iowa (grain), and Louisiana Pellets, Inc. in Louisiana (wood pellets);
  • Creditor/defendant railroad in $2.5 billion mass-tort-related Chapter 11 of Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway, Ltd. and its associated Chapter 15 in Maine;
  • Corporate and individual defendants in case of Central States Southeast & Southwest Areas Pension Fund v. Lakeville Transportation, Inc. involving $100 million in alleged controlled-group withdrawal liability, venued in federal district court in Minnesota ;
  • Successful bidder in 363 sale of loan servicer in Chapter 11 of bank holding company American Bancorporation in Minnesota;
  • Second-lien lender with $25 million claim in Stant Parent Corp.’s automotive-related Chapter 11 in Delaware;
  • Agent bank in $100 million syndicated loan workout and ensuing Chapter 11 cases in Minnesota involving large national building products conglomerate Lyman Lumber Company;
  • Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors in numerous Chapter 11 cases, including Universal Map Enterprises, Inc. in Michigan, and Citi-Equity Group, Inc., 10,000 Auto Parts, Canterbury Downs owner Brooks Hauser, Retail Holdings, and R&A Trucking in Minnesota;
  • Regional bank in $110 million workout involving real estate developer with residential projects throughout U.S.;
  • Chapter 11 debtor in Minnesota-based Sun Country Airlines reorganization, the first scheduled-service air carrier to file bankruptcy post-9/11, resulting in agreed-upon lifting of stay and unprecedented Article 9 disposition of airline by lender;
  • DIP lender/lessor in Tampa-based Chapter 11 of Recomm International Display Corp., Inc., a marketer/vendor of electronic advertising display equipment, and as defendant in related multi-district litigation involving hundreds of individual, class and mass actions;
  • Business interruption insurers holding $500 million claim in contested confirmation in Chapter 11 case of The Olympic Pipe Line Company venued in Seattle;
  • Administrative expense claimant in ethanol/bio-fuel conglomerate VeraSun Energy Corporation’s Chapter 11 in Delaware;
  • Professional baseball and football teams in issuance of non-consolidation and non-relocation opinions associated with public financing of Target Field and U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis;
  • Outside directors of large utility company in out-of-court workout involving over $10 billion of debt, with follow-on representation in Chapter 11 cases of NRG Energy and its 25 affiliates in Southern District of New York;
  • Sole shareholder/co-plan proponent in Chapter 11 of national home health care company, Intrepid U.S.A., Inc., and its nearly 60 affiliates venued in Minnesota.
  • Founder/sole shareholder in distressed sale of national IT consulting firm;
  • Leading electronics and appliance retailer in bankruptcy acquisitions throughout U.S.;
  • Mixed-use, commercial, and residential developers in bankruptcy acquisitions in Washington, D.C. and surrounding area;
  • Physician-owned seller in distressed sale of largest private practice clinic in South Dakota;
  • Large multi-national bank in Chapter 11 of national scheduled-service bus company Jefferson Lines;
  • Creditors in the Lehman, GM, and Chrysler bankruptcy cases;
  • Multi-bank lender group in 363 sale of Chapter 11 debtor Benson Optical, Inc., a national manufacturer/retailer of optical equipment;
  • Asset-based, mezzanine, and alternative lenders in multiple workouts, bankruptcies, and collection matters in state and federal courts across the U.S.;
  • National bank against large student loan finance company in U.S. Bank National Association v. Student Loan Finance Corporation in Minnesota federal court;
  • Private lender in fraudulent transfer/debt recharacterization case of Arena Development, LLC v. Naegele Communications, Inc. stemming from UCC Article 9 disposition;
  • Fortune 500 manufacturer in numerous class action defense matters involving small ticket leasing; and
  • Leading agricultural conglomerate in business-to-business non-compete case of Cargill Incorporated v. E.I. duPont de Nemours and Company in Minnesota state court.

Professional Affiliations

Minnesota State Bar Association, Member, Bankruptcy Section

Hennepin County Bar Association, Member

Ramsey County Bar Association, Member

American Bar Association, Member

Turnaround Management Association - Upper Midwest Chapter, Founding Board Member

American Bankruptcy Institute, Member

Equipment Leasing and Finance Association, Member