Eversheds moving in on merger with US firm Sutherland

Eversheds is in late stage merger talks with US firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.

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Partners at both firms are expected to vote on the merger in the next few weeks.

A merger with the Atlanta-headquartered firm would create a transatlantic business with a turnover of £600m. Eversheds would be the dominant firm in the merger after posting revenues of £405m last year. According to data in The Lawyer’s Global 200, Sutherland’s 2015 turnover was £196.9m.

The tie-up will create the 39th largest firm by revenue globally, and push Eversheds into the top 10 law firms in the UK, where it will rank tenth largest.

The merger with Sutherland will add an additional 178 partners to Eversheds’ 358-strong partnership and offices in Atlanta, Austin, Geneva, Houston, New York, Sacramento, and Washington DC.

Sutherland specialises in corporate, energy, financial services, intellectual property, litigation, tax, and real estate work.

Eversheds has been vocal about its plans to pull off a US merger in the last two years. The firm held merger talks with Milwaukee-based Foley & Lardner at the end of 2015. Discussions between the two firms broke down after details of the deal were leaked to the press.

If the latest talks are successful they will mark a successful end to Bryan Hughes’ tenure as Eversheds’ CEO. During his time leading the firm Hughes announced a strategy to turn Eversheds into a global leader by 2020. As part of the strategy the firm appointed Ian Gray as its first international managing partner.

Eversheds managing partner Lee Ranson was recently elected as the firm’s new CEO and will take over from Hughes in May 2017. Corporate partner Keith Froud has been appointed to replace Ranson as managing partner.

Sutherland opened a small office in the UK in 2014 when it merged with London commodities boutique Arbis. The deal also gave Sutherland its first office in Geneva. The London office focuses on oil and metals trading.

Trump taps Jones Day lawyer for White House counsel role

US President-elect Donald Trump has appointed Jones Day partner Donald McGahn as his White House counsel.

McGahn served as general counsel to Trump’s campaign and has continued in that role for the transition since the election.

 

Addleshaw Goddard partners approve Scottish tie-up

Addleshaw Goddard has finally voted through a Scottish merger, with managing partner John Joyce getting enough partner votes needed to approve a union with HBJ Gateley last Tuesday, ahead of the ballot closing today (28 November).

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Addleshaws will takeover HBJ Gateley’s three Scottish offices in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The combination was subject to approval by both partnerships, with Gateley also voting through the merger last week. To approve the tie-up, 75% of Addleshaws partners who voted had to say yes to the merger. While Addleshaws achieved this the firm would not say how many partners abstained.

HBJ Gateley, which is not part of the English PLC due to rules around Alternative Business Structures in Scotland, had turnover of £21.9m in in 2015/16, making it the eighth biggest Scottish firm.

Added to Addleshaws’ top-line revenue of £201.8m in 2015/16, the deal will create a business worth around £220m. However the firm has been clear that it wants to make £250m in fee income by the financial year 2017/18, which this takeover will help achieve.

The union will go live before 1 June 2017 and see HBJ Gateley chair Malcolm McPherson join Addleshaws’ board. Joyce will retain his role as managing partner and Charles Penney will remain senior partner at the firm.

A HBJ partner will also join each of the executive teams leading each of Addleshaws’ four operating divisions: corporate, finance, litigation and real estate.

Addleshaws has long wanted a presence in the Scottish market, with merger talks between the firm and Maclay Murray & Spens called off in February this year. In May, the firm turned to the US for a potential merger partner, and is in talks with Virginia-based Hunton & Williams.

Joyce (pictured) said: ‘We have for a while had an ambition to be present in Scotland and so are delighted with the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from the partners, clients and staff of both firms.  Overall, it’s a great fit for our clients and our people and we are looking forward to realising the collective benefits of our enhanced geographical reach, increased practice and sector bench-strength and flexibility in our delivery approach.’

McPherson, chairman of HBJ, said: ‘The combination of two such capable and growing firms is extremely good news for our clients, our people and our partners. The overwhelming majority of partners at both firms clearly saw the many benefits of the merger strategy and the fact that it positions us very well for further strong growth.’

According to the latest AmLaw 100, Hunton & Williams has 696 lawyers and 167 equity partners across 19 offices in the US, Europe and Asia. In 2015 it posted gross revenue of $528m, a 7% drop on 2014.

Addleshaws saw a turnaround this financial year, after a period dominated by internal discord, management changes and falling revenues. The last year saw the firm post revenue growth of 12%, up from £171m in 2013/14 to £193m – the highest levels since 2007/08. Profits per equity partner (PEP) was up 26% to £491,000.

BLM appoints new managing partner

Insurance specialist BLM has appointed Gary Allison as its new managing partner.

His term will begin on 1 December and run for three years. He replaces Andrew Relton whose term as managing partner ended recently.

Allison sits on BLM’s executive board and has led the firm’s London healthcare department since 1997. He was also recently appointed as head of the firm’s healthcare and commercial business stream.

Senior partner Mike Brown said: “I’m confident that he will support BLM through a period of development as we implement our business improvement programme. Gary as a wealth of knowledge about our business and has all the experience and credentials to make a real difference in the months and years ahead.”

As managing partner Allison will oversee the implementation of BLM’s strategy and business improvement programme, which will see it cut 21 jobs in Leeds as part of plans to move into a smaller office. Following the redundancy consultation the office headcount will be reduced from 40 to 19.

KWM China bail out fails and EUME arm moots merger rescue plan

King & Wood Mallesons’ Chinese rescue deal has failed, The Lawyer has learned.

It is understood the Chinese and Australian arms of the verein were willing to consider providing financial support on the basis the EUME partnership would put in a chunk of capital to the firm.

A spokesperson said this cash “was not forthcoming”.

It is also understood not enough partners agreed to other terms of the deal including to being locked-in for a year.

The firm released a statement today (22 November) saying the EUME arm has failed to secure financial backing from other parts of the verein.

It continued: “Regrettably, insufficient value of new capital was committed” following the well-publicised China bail-out plan.

It then revealed the firm was “considering a range of strategic options, including mergers, in conjunction with the firm’s bankers and financial advisers”.

When asked how the bank was involved in negotiating the future of the firm, a KWM spokesperson said: “It is entirely normal in a situation such as this that a business would seek to work alongside its bank to seek to establish a solution in the interests of all parties.”

When asked if the legacy SJ Berwin business would be able to secure a new merger, the spokesperson added: “It’s too soon to say, we’re considering all of our strategic options.”

Sources close to the firm said there was “no confidence” that management would be able to secure another rescue deal.

Consensus among the staff is that they are “fully expecting KWM to collapse” as a result of today’s announcement, according to a source close to the firm.

The China rescue deal followed KWM’s previous plan to recapitalise the firm failing due to “revenue implications”.

Olswang loses another senior partner ahead of three-way merger

Olswang technology partner and former Asia head Rob Bratby is set to join Arnold & Porter’s London office ahead of the UK firm’s planned three-way tie-up with CMS and Nabarro.

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Bratby, whose practice focuses on corporate work in the telecoms, media and technology sector, was Olswang’s Asia managing partner from 2011 until earlier this year, when he returned to London from Singapore.

PH, Wachtell lead on Samsung’s $8 bln Harman buy

Paul Hastings has advised South Korean electronics major Samsung Electronics on its $8 billion acquisition of U.S. automotive tech company Harman International Industries, which was represented by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

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According to Reuters, the transaction marks the biggest overseas acquisition ever by a South Korean company. The transaction highlights Samsung’s efforts to break into the high-barrier automotive industry where it has little track record and also marks a strategic shift for the electronics company, which has previously shunned big acquisitions.

The Paul Hastings team was led by the firm’s global M&A practice chair Carl Sanchez and Daniel Kim, head of the firm’s Korea corporate practice.Paul Hastings has also advised on previous Samsung deals including the acquisition of luxury appliance brand Dacor, and Corning’s fiber optics business.

Australia law firm bosses say Brexit will benefit their businesses

Australian law firms believe they will significantly benefit from Britain leaving the EU, a survey has found.

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Around 55 per cent of managing partners of Australians firms said they viewed the UK’s historic decision as either “positive or an opportunity” for their firms.

Of that number, around 15 per cent expected Australian firms to benefit from large corporates looking to invest outside of Europe as a result of Brexit.

One senior respondent to the survey, carried out by Eaton Capital Partners, said Brexit will benefit Australian law firms as it “distracts the fully-merged firms of Herbert Smith Freehills and Ashurst”, both of which earned a large presence in the country through local combinations.

However, another 40 per cent of the 20 managing partners surveyed believed Brexit could have a negligible impact on their businesses and clients.

“If you’re a global firm the negative impact of a ‘black swan’ event in a single country should be offset by the pick-up in other legal markets: bye Canary Wharf, bonjour la Défense,” said one respondent.

Only 5 per cent said Brexit would have a negative impact on the British component of their work, which is a significant chunk of their practice.

Eaton Capital Partners surveyed country managing partners from firms including Allen & Overy, Clyde & Co and Herbert Smith Freehills, US firms Hogan Lovells and Jones Day, Asia Pacific-based King & Wood Mallesons, global player Baker & McKenzie, accountancy giant PWC Legal, and independent firms such as Clayton Utz and Gilbert & Tobin.

Another key finding of the survey was that 75 per cent of respondents agreed that large accountancy firms are a real threat to their firms’ market share.

Around 35 per cent of Australian managing partners say the accountancy firms’ extensive international network and mix of advisory and consultancy services makes them attractive to clients, while 40 per cent of them hold the view that they are different from a traditional law firm and that appears to some clients and lawyers.

Only a quarter, or five managing partners, disagreed with the notion. Four regarded the accountancy rivals as not having the depth or leverage to act on major pieces of work. However, one partner believed the Big Four had tried and failed to crack the legal market before and nothing would change this time around.

“Top tier law firms still have a major advantage in attracting the best legal talent, and are adapting their own model to increasingly offer a broader range of advisory services,” a managing partner commented.

Earlier this month, The Lawyer reported PwC Legal’s latest expansion in Australia that saw the accountancy firm’s legal arm add six new partners in Sydney and Melbourne. Clifford Chance Australia co-founder Mark Pistilli and DLA Piper’s former Australia chief Tony Holland were among the new recruits.

PwC Legal’s recruitment drive pushed its Australian lawyer headcount to over 70, including 18 partners, just two years after it first launched its Australian legal services arm in 2014 with former King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) partners Tony O’Malley and Tim Blue.

The survey also highlighted that, similar to their UK counterparts, Australian firms are facing growing pressure from disruptive factors such as technologies and NewLaw models.

Around 50 per cent of the managing partners said “technological change challenging and undermining the traditional large law firm model” as the biggest change in the Australian legal landscape in five years’ time.

The other half of the participants saw domination of the market by global firms (20 per cent) and boutique and specialist firms taking work away from larger full-service firms (30 per cent) as two other major changes to come.

Dentons poised to enter Central America through local merger

Dentons is set to merge with Pan-Central American law firm Muñoz Global, in a deal that would make it the second international firm in Central America.

Arias & Muñoz founders José Antonio Muñoz and Pedro Muñoz today confirmed their plans to break away from their firm to launch Muñoz Global and merge with Dentons, subject to a partner vote.

The new firm would have the Costa Rican offices of Arias & Muñoz, alongside additional offices in Panama and Nicaragua.

The combination with the newly established law firm Muñoz Global would give Dentons offices in three out of seven Central American countries –  Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua. 

The only other global firm with an international presence in Central America is Littler Mendelson, which has offices in Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Honduras.

The proposed combination follows the launch of Dentons López Velarde in Mexico and Dentons Cardenas & Cardenas in Colombia earlier this year.

It marks the next step in Dentons’ strategy to grow its presence in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Elliott Portnoy, Dentons global CEO said: “Since our launch in Mexico and Colombia earlier this year, cross-border work into and out of the region has grown rapidly, demonstrating that clients see a great advantage to being served by a global firm that can offer the best locally informed legal counsel and business advice anywhere they operate.

“Given the interconnectedness of the economies of Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua, we see real opportunities to serve clients further through more intra-region work as well.”

In Europe, Dentons opened its third German office in Munich with the hire of three partners from Norton Rose Fulbright, and two offices in Italy, first in Milan and then in Rome following a two-year strategic plan to build a full-service firm in the country.

Fieldfisher merges with Beijing’s JS Partners

Fieldfisher has pulled off its third merger in six months after tying the knot with Chinese firm JS Partners.

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As part of the deal the 12 partner firm will change its name to FeiShi and adopt the Fieldfisher brand.

The Beijing firm specialises in antitrust and competition, capital markets, corporate, dispute resolution, employment and intellectual property work. The firm works across the TMT sector as well as in retail, logistics, manufacturing, energy and infrastructure.

It is the second time Fieldfisher has tied up with a Chinese firm after Field Fisher Waterhouse partnered with Shanghai’s Ryser & Associates in 2013.

Fieldfisher managing partner Michael Chissick said: “This is the third merger in the last six months that we’ve had as a firm. Our merger with JS Partners gives a great platform for growth in China.

“As we continue to develop our European presence, this merger will allow us to service the growing demand for Chinese clients seeking to invest and do business in Europe, whilst also increasing our ability to service international clients seeking opportunities in China.”

The Chinese merger is structured as a Swiss verein and takes effect from today (15 November).

In November Fieldfisher entered the Birmingham market after it merged with 18-partner outfit Hill Hostetter. The Solihull-based commercial firm has a turnover of £6m and was formed after it spun out of Reed Smith in 2009.

Fieldfisher also opened its doors in Italy over the summer after a merger with Studio Associato Servizi Professionali Integrati (SASPI). The tie-up gave Fieldfisher 170 fee-earners and 21 partners across offices in Milan, Rome, Venice and Turin.