Michael J. Whitton


Managing Partner - San Diego Office
Executive Committee Member

San Diego
San Francisco
Business Phone: 858.509.6002
Business Fax: 858.224.0942



Mike Whitton has been practicing law for over 25 years. He advises and counsels public and private companies, real estate investment trusts, and lending and financial institutions on a variety of sophisticated and complex real estate and business transactions throughout the country. His transactional practice focuses on large-scale joint ventures, portfolio acquisitions, real estate development, and debt and equity financing and restructuring. A considerable portion of Mike’s practice involves the purchase, sale, joint venture formation, and debt/equity financing for businesses with significant real estate assets, such as automobile dealerships; golf, resort and marina properties; automobile service stations; self storage businesses; manufacturing and power plants; and port storage and ship loading facilities.

Mike is considered one of the leading experts in transactions and other legal matters involving golf courses/country clubs, marinas, hotels and other resort properties. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named one of ten “Best Attorneys in the Golf Industry” by Golf, Inc. in 2011 and 2012.

Although he is known for his incisive negotiating skills and sophisticated transactional experience, Mike comes from a litigation background, which allows him to provide critical assistance to his business clients. He continues to manage litigation matters, participate in trial and is often called on to develop settlement strategies and lead mediation and settlement conferences.

Transactional Matters

  • Mike represented a diversified and vertically integrated construction company in a public-private partnership that covers the design, construction, financing, maintenance, and operations of a fiber optic network comprising more than 3,000 miles of fiber optic cable with multiple redundant loops, valued at $275 million.
  • Mike is working to significantly expand a client’s world-wide export facilities, including the acquisition of leasehold sites, construction of new facilities, and the addition of new and reconfigured rail tracks, by working with affiliated service providers, including stevedores and labor unions, and coordinating the acquisition of necessary environmental permits.
  • Mike handled work related to an extensive, three-party fiber optic infrastructure project with a major social media company utilizing one of North America’s largest railroad right-of-ways between two major U.S. cities. 
  • Mike handled the dismantling and dissolution of a $200 million petroleum coke terminal in the Port of Los Angeles, including over four years of complex litigation and settlement negotiations with the City of Los Angeles, labor groups, the operating management company, equipment lessors, salvage purchasers, the tax assessor, and environmental agencies, involving claims in excess of $400 million.
  • Mike is helping the Chief Executive Officers of three international companies to form a new entity, negotiating multi-party agreements for the purchase of steel from a new mill in Asia and the exclusive brokering to other international purchasers/consumers.
  • Mike handled the purchase of a 221 guest room hotel on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, including the negotiation of branding and management agreements.
  • Mike served as lead counsel in the acquisition of multiple service station portfolios throughout the Western United States from a global petrochemical company, and the related debt and equity financing arrangements.
  • Mike represented a prominent school of higher education and its Board of Trustees in merger discussions and eventual affiliation with another large university. He negotiated deal points, amended entire bylaws and advised Board members on a number of corporate governance issues.
  • Mike worked on the acquisition of a power plant in the Caribbean developing a corporate organizational structure that would allow the company to avail itself of the economic benefits in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and undertook complete due diligence to acquire the plant, negotiating acquisition documents and instruments. He also negotiated fuel supply agreements and off take agreements, worked through permit issues, and coordinated rights to discharge water waste.
  • Mike represented a leading self storage owner and developer in acquiring significant holdings and operations throughout California, including the related joint venture and financing deals.
  • Mike served as lead counsel for Arnold Palmer Golf Management in the development of a number of golf courses and country clubs in partnership with nationally recognized universities.

Litigation Matters

  • On behalf of one of the largest retail petroleum operators in Northern California, Mike supervises and strategizes all aspects of real estate and operator disputes, as well as employment law matters.
  • Mike managed litigation and led mediation/settlement efforts to recover a fraudulently induced investment and to defend real estate easement claims for a huge, privately-owned conglomerate of companies based in Asia. He currently leads the defense of another matter for the client involving derivative claims and breach of fiduciary duty in a shareholder/corporate dispute for the client.
  • Mike represents one of the nation’s premier builders of military housing units. He has supervised and strategized all aspects of various prime/sub-contractor disputes including a large class action wage and hour claim and a complex sub-contractor dispute where Mike personally engaged in a series of mediations over 18 months that resulted in very favorable settlements.
  • Mike was a member of a litigation team working on discovery and pre-trial preparation involving a claim that was resolved following trial and before entry of what was to be a +$1 billion judgment in the client’s favor. He was one of three people responsible for negotiating and documenting the global settlement.
  • Mike worked with the executive team of a major West Coast coal throughput facility to successfully maintain an export channel to Asia while minimizing the competition.
  • Mike played a significant role in the Diocese of San Diego bankruptcy, developing a novel strategy whereby the parishioners intervened in the bankruptcy claiming the churches and schools belonged to them and not the Diocese, ultimately leading to protection of the assets for the parishioners and pressuring settlement of the case.

Professional and Community Involvement

  • Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate Policy Advisory Board Member (2017-present)
  • California Western School of Law Board of Trustees (2014-present)
  • St. Augustine High School Board of Directors(2016-present)
  • National Law School Advisory Council, University of Notre Dame (2007-2010)
  • Farmers Insurance Open, San Diego's PGA Tournament, Chairman (2016)
  • Century Club of San Diego Member and Former Board Member (2006-present)
  • United Way of San Diego County, Campaign Cabinet Member (2009-2010, 2015-present)
  • San Diego Bowl Game Association Member (2017), Executive Committee for 2018 Notre Dame v. Navy Game
  • Champions of Scouting, Boy Scouts of America, San Diego Imperial Council (2009-2011, 2017)
  • City of Solana Beach Budget & Finance Committee (2005-2016)
  • St. James Academy Advisory Board Member and Chair (2007-2014)
  • Notre Dame Alumni Club of San Diego Board of Directors (2000-2010)
  • Lomas Santa Fe Country Club Advisory Board of Governors (2007-2010)
  • IMPACT San Diego, A LEAD San Diego Program, Class of 2012
  • INFLUENCE San Diego, A LEAD San Diego Program, Class of 2011

Presentations and Speaking Engagements

  • "The Business of Golf," Executive Roundtable, San Diego Daily Transcript (June 24, 2013).
  • "Global Golf Development: Where It's Headed," Golf, Inc. 2008 Fall Conference, Scottsdale, Arizona (September 30, 2008).
  • "Golf Community Planning Workshop: A Live Session," Golf, Inc. 2008 Spring Conference, Miami, FL (April 21, 2008).
  • "Negotiate the Best Deal: Community vs. Golf," Golf, Inc. 2007 Spring Conference, Austin, Texas (March 21, 2007).


Rankings and Recognition

  • 50 Influential Leaders in San Diego, The Daily Transcript (2018).
  • Recognized in The Best Lawyers in America® in Real Estate Law (2018-2019).
  • Recognized as a Top Lawyer in San Diego by San Diego Magazine (2013).
  • Named a "Transcript 10 Top Attorney" by the San Diego Daily Transcript (2012).
  • Named one of ten "Best Attorneys in the Golf Industry" by Golf, Inc. (2011, 2012).
  • Nominated as a "San Diego Top Influential" by the San Diego Daily Transcript (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014).
  • Achieved an AV® Preeminent® Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell.
  • Selected as California Leading Lawyer in Real Estate by Chambers USA (2007, 2008, 2009).
  • Recipient of award from the Elite Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Network for his “outstanding commitment and support to helping disabled veteran businesses.”
  • Selected as a San Diego Super Lawyer in Business/Corporate (2015-2016).

Work Experience

  • Partner, Troutman Sanders LLP, 1994*-present

*merged predecessor firms:

Partner, Ross, Dixon & Bell LLP (merged 2009)
Associate, Miller, Boyko and Bell LLP (merged 2000)

Firm Management

  • Troutman Sanders LLP San Diego Office Managing Partner (2009-Present)
  • Troutman Sanders LLP Executive Committee, Member (2009-2014, 2016-present)
  • Ross, Dixon & Bell LLP San Diego Office Managing Partner (2005-2008)
  • Ross, Dixon & Bell LLP Management Committee, Member (2006-2008)


  • University of Notre Dame, J.D., 1992
  • University of Notre Dame, B.B.A., 1989

Bar Admissions

  • 1992 California

Court Admissions

  • U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California