Making people happy is not part of the brief for Mark Hyde, a lawyer who aims to spread the pain among stakeholders when seeking the best outcomes in corporate insolvency and debt restructuring cases. Hyde's career in the sector has spanned 30 years and includes high-profile cases such as Peregrine Investments Holdings, Hong Kong's biggest brokerage collapse, and the debt restructuring of state-owned conglomerate Dubai World. "I always say a good restructuring is one in which no one is completely happy because for the company to survive, everyone has to share the pain - lenders, suppliers and shareholders," the insolvency legal expert says. Hyde, the global head of Clifford Chance's insolvency and restructuring practice, is cheerful with a ready laugh during an interview with the South China Morning Post on the gamut of experiences he has encountered in the liquidations of scandal-hit companies, corporate collapses and debt restructurings. However, he admits his job requires him to deliver sobering news at times to those who have suffered in a liquidation. "The most challenging part of the job is handling the onset of a big insolvency as very often you have to deliver bad news to the people involved, be they employees who have to lose their jobs or creditors who lose their money," he says. Still, Hyde has found the job rewarding, especially when a restructuring rescues a company from the brink or when the collection of assets during a liquidation enables him to recoup at least some funds for creditors. The job also requires patience. The Peregrine case started when the brokerage collapsed in 1998 with estimated gross liabilities of more than US$4 billion. It has only recently been completed. "In Peregrine's case, the final dividend to unsecured creditors when averaged out across the three companies is in excess of 50 per cent," he says. He recalls that when he was asked to move from the London office to Hong Kong to handle the case, it was supposed to be for just three weeks. "I ended up living at the Island Shangri-La for 2½ years," he says. Peregrine was then the largest financial collapse in Hong Kong, a victim of volatile markets, large derivative exposures, excessive risk taking and over-investment in an Indonesian taxi company. In this case, it was necessary to have a shareholders' meeting at the convention centre because of the large number of retail investors involved. At the meeting, some investors even asked when the firm would pay a dividend. When he explained that they were unlikely to get their money back, there was almost a riot and Hyde and the liquidator had to be led out the back door. Born in Birmingham, the Briton studied law and joined Clifford Chance in 1984. His first major assignment was to join a team in Luxembourg to handle the liquidation of Banco Ambrosiano, which collapsed in one of Italy's biggest political scandals. Hyde was seconded to Hong Kong in 1986 and qualified at that time. During that period, he lived in Brunei for 2½ years to work on the liquidation of the National Bank of Brunei. It was there he met his wife. "The chief land registrar in Brunei was a client. He could tell I was a bit bored in the evenings and asked me to come over for dinner. To sweeten the offer, he told me he had six daughters," he says. "I married his eldest daughter and we now have five children aged eight to 27. My eldest son has followed in my footsteps and is now a trainee in a US legal firm." Hyde became a partner at Clifford Chance in 1993. His family is based in London but he has travelled around the world handling big corporate failures and restructurings including Barlow Clowes International, Dubai World and Nakheel. He named the US$1.6 billion restructuring of Formula One in 2002 as his most interesting case because he had direct dealings with key individuals in the world of motor racing. Big firms often collapse for similar reasons. "It is often over-expansion or excessive risk taking. It is not, however, always down to bad management as the macro economy can play a part. I have seen situations in which companies have bought assets at high prices in a booming market, but then prices go down and suddenly there are insufficient asset values to repay borrowings or other liabilities," he says. There are many options to resolve a collapsed business. For Peregrine, it was necessary to sell some units quickly. In many cases, negotiations are also needed with creditors on the quantum of the claims they seek to recover, sometimes involving court proceedings. In other situations, fraud and repatriation of assets can also prolong a case. "Chasing the assets of collapsed companies is particularly difficult when the collapse involves some kind of fraud. We have to work with private detectives sometimes to get the job done," Hyde says. Sometimes banks prefer not to liquidate a company but to restructure its debt. This was the case for Dubai World with its US$14 billion liabilities in 2009, he said. The banks did not want to take any "haircut" and reduce any principal claims, but were willing to extend repayment dates in exchange for certain credit enhancements. Later this year, Hong Kong is expected to submit a new law, in line with international reforms, to handle the collapse of financial firms deemed "too big to fail". The law would allow regulators to take over such firms to force a sale or have independent managers take control for a while. "Hong Kong needs to institute this law to make sure the Hong Kong branches of global institutions can be resolved in tandem with parallel processes in other key financial centres," Hyde says. Away from the office, he likes sports. "Over the years, my wife and children have got used to not having me around. However, recent new technology enables me to speak with them and see their faces whenever I can," he says.