Eversheds eyes US merger as Holman Fenwick Willan unveils Texas tie-up

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By Thomas Connelly on

And will Dentons offer King & Wood Mallesons a lifeline through a similar deal?


International giant Eversheds is understood to be in late stage merger talks with a US law firm, at the same time City outfit Holman Fenwick Willan (HFW) reveals a transatlantic tie-up of its own.

Eversheds — which has 55 offices across 28 countries — is close to sealing a deal with Atlanta-headquartered outfit Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. Partners are expected to vote on the combination in the coming weeks, with the new firm set to be called Eversheds Sutherland.

Sutherland Asbill & Brennan was founded in 1924 — then known as Sutherland & Tuttle — and has over 420 lawyers across eight offices, including London. If given the go-ahead, the new transatlantic powerhouse will have a turnover in excess of £600 million, and will become the 39th largest law firm in the world by revenue.

Elsewhere, HFW has confirmed the acquisition of Texas-based boutique Legge, Farrow, Kimmitt, McGrath & Brown. Headquartered in Houston, the firm — which has just eight partners — specialises in energy, marine, insurance and finance, and has a client list that includes ExxonMobil, Zurich and AIG. The new deal is set to be completed on 3 January 2017.

Richard Crump, HFW’s global senior partner, commenting on the new combination, said:

Houston represents a major business hub for us. Having an on-the-ground US office has been a goal for some time and this merger will bring us closer to our existing clients in the region, and enable us to develop more business in our key sectors of oil and gas, marine and aviation, which are key growth sectors in the region, as well as building out our sector capability.

Rounding off a week of merger mania, rumours circulating the legal press suggest that the largest law firm in the world, Dentons, could be set to rescue the embattled European arm of King & Wood Mallesons (KWM). According to Legal Week, Dentons — which turned over an incredible £2 billion last year — “has emerged as a potential merger partner” for the firm.

Responding to the legal gossip, Dentons global chair, Joe Andrew, said:

While we would never comment on whether we are in combination conversations or not with any firm, we admire the many European/UK partners of KWM that our partners work with regularly and believe this is a very high-quality group of impressive lawyers.

Late last week KWM confirmed that a “planned recapitalisation programme” — basically partners coughing up some of their own cash to help the firm out — had failed. Trying to remain positive, a spokesperson said it would now look at “a range of strategic options, including mergers, in conjunction with the firm’s bankers and financial advisers”.

Could Dentons be that strategic option?