THOMAS R. MERRITT has practiced for 40 years in Orange County, California as an attorney and Certified Public Accountant.  As an experienced transactional attorney, Mr. Merritt has been involved in the negotiation, documentation and coordination of numerous retail, commercial, office, industrial and residential real estate developments, including purchase, sale, leasing, financing and franchising transactions, loan originations and workouts, foreclosures, construction and general corporate transactions. 

As Consulting Counsel to Taco Bell Corp. for 10 years, Mr. Merritt handled the negotiation, documentation and closing of numerous multi-million dollar transactions involving the sale and franchising of hundreds of Taco Bell restaurants. Mr. Merritt was also engaged in the financial restructuring of numerous multi-unit Taco Bell and Burger King franchisees, often involving multiple lenders, bankruptcy complications and purchase leaseback financing.

Prior to completion of the successful bankruptcy reorganization and sale of Edwards Theatres to Regal Entertainment in 2001, Mr. Merritt handled all the legal affairs for the real estate and property management departments at Edwards Theatres, including the closure, termination, assignment, sublease and/or renegotiation of over 45 theatre development projects.  As part of the bankruptcy reorganization, Mr. Merritt spearheaded the legal strategy for the defeat or reduction in creditor’s claims. 

Prior to starting his own law practice in 1996, Mr. Merritt served as Assistant Vice President in the franchise law department at Coldwell Banker Corporation’s headquarters in Mission Viejo, California.  Mr. Merritt graduated in 1985 from the University of California, Hastings College of Law, San Francisco, California.

Direct Line:  (949) 864-0742

R Bryce Shirley

R BRYCE SHIRLEY has practiced law for more than 40 years.  Mr. Shirley worked at the Irvine headquarters of Taco Bell Corp. for 18 years, the last 12 of which he served as Managing Counsel, Real Estate, for PepsiCo, Inc., and its spin-off, Yum! Brands, Inc.  During this time, he established a real estate legal team servicing all brands throughout the United States and Canada, including Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, California Pizza Kitchen, Chevys and Frito-Lay.  In connection therewith, Mr. Shirley invented, developed and implemented a proprietary Contract Authoring System (Patent No. 5,692,203), substantially increasing the productivity of related business functions.   Moreover, Mr. Shirley led the expansion of real estate legal services to support Taco Bell’s refranchising program, which sold nearly 2,000 restaurants to Taco Bell franchisees over a five year period, comprising more than 320 transactions and generating in excess of $1.5 billion.  Mr. Shirley was part of Yum! Brands’ compliance committee, representing Taco Bell Corp., Yum! Brands Development and ADA Compliance.

After leaving Yum! Brand in 2006, Mr. Shirley began his own real estate practice focusing on restaurant and bank retail facility leasing and acquisitions.

Mr. Shirley receiving his JD and MBA degrees from Stanford University in 1977 and began his legal career with McKenna & Fitting in Los Angeles, working on real estate and real estate securities issues.  Mr. Shirley is a member of the California and Orange County Bar Associations and was Chair (2004) of the International Association of Attorneys and Executives in Corporate Real Estate (AECRE).

 Direct Line:  (949) 727-4483 

Paul J. Geiger

PAUL J. GEIGER's practice consists of the handling of a wide variety of major real estate and franchise matters for the Firm's corporate clients. He has represented clients in several multi-unit re-acquisitions of franchised restaurants in several western states. He also represents a number of supermarket chains, restaurant franchisors and franchisees in real estate, franchise and related matters, including the negotiation of leases and purchase agreements for new store locations, as well as office space and commercial loans. In addition, Mr. Geiger has acted as an expert witness on leasing in several civil lawsuits.

During his combined 13 years as both Assistant General Counsel and Associate General Counsel for Denny's, Inc., Mr. Geiger was responsible for drafting, negotiating and finalizing Denny's franchise circulars and agreements, and exercised final review and approval of all real estate documentation for the company, including sales, leases, construction and financing. He was also Senior Real Estate Counsel, handling contract negotiations and administration of the acquisition by Denny's of several other restaurant chains. Mr. Geiger has also been associate general counsel for Coldwell Banker & Company now known as (“CB Richard Ellis”) in Los Angeles. He is a 1975 graduate of the Loyola University School of Law.