Eversheds and Sutherland partners vote in favour of transatlantic tie-up

Wasserman-Hughes-Article

Eversheds partners have approved its tie-up with US firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, paving the way for the combination to go live on 1 February next year.

The vote, which closed today (16 December), required at least two thirds of partners from both firms to agree to the union in order for it to go through. It is understood that in excess of 95% of partners voted in favour of the deal.

The decision means the pair will now combine as Eversheds Sutherland on 1 February 2017 – a union that creates a firm with access to 2,300 lawyers operating out of 61 offices worldwide. Roughly 1,900 of these lawyers come from Eversheds and its associated Eversheds International network, with Sutherland adding 400.

Eversheds Sutherland will be structured as a company limited by guarantee, with no financial integration between the US and UK sides of the firm, in keeping with previous transatlantic mergers such as the combination between the UK’s Wragge Lawrence Graham and Canada’s Gowlings earlier this year.

Eversheds is the larger of the two firms by revenue, posting turnover of £405.5m in 2015-16, compared to Sutherland’s $301m in 2015.

The combined firm will be led by joint CEOs – Sutherland managing partner Mark Wasserman and Eversheds chief executive Bryan Hughes (pictured above, left to right). The pair will be part of a six-strong global management team, which will be overseen by a global management board of 10 partners, with equal representation from both sides.

Hughes is stepping down as Eversheds’ chief executive next May after eight years in the role. He will be succeeded by managing partner Lee Ranson, with company commercial head Keith Froud moving into the managing partner role.

The firm has been seeking a US tie-up for several years and held merger talks with US firm Foley & Lardner in 2015, but the talks collapsed before they reached a partnership vote.

Hughes commented: “Our strategic desire to have a platform in the US has long been public record. The challenge has been finding the right firm, particularly one that shares the same vision as us and is a strong cultural fit. In Sutherland, we have found that firm.

“Eversheds Sutherland will give each firm’s clients a truly global platform, including strong US coverage. The feedback from colleagues and clients has been overwhelmingly positive, with many opportunities already identified, and we are very confident that this will be a great outcome for our clients and our people.”

Wasserman added that although Sutherland had not been actively looking for a merger partner, the two firms have had a relationship for years and started talking in earnest about combining earlier this year.

“These are people we respected and the cultures are similar. That we shared so many clients was one of the big hooks,” he said. “They didn’t have anything in the US and we had limited things outside the US, so it made sense.”

Of the 58 Fortune 100 companies that Sutherland represents, 25 also are represented by Eversheds, Wasserman said. Shared clients include Microsoft, Facebook and TE Connectivity.

Wasserman said the client fit was a big plus for the firms’ partners. “I think that’s why the partners so overwhelmingly voted in favour. This fills that hole and solidifies those relationships.”

In a statement, the firms said that they anticipate “no significant internal structural changes within either firm” and that “respective practice group heads will work together to co-lead client initiatives”.

IN NUMBERS

Eversheds

  • Lawyers: 1,400
  • Equity partners: 118
  • Revenue 2015-16: £405.5m
  • PEP 2015-16: £742,000
  • Offices: London, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Ipswich, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Belfast, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Paris, Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, Baghdad, Erbil, Amman, Doha, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Dubai
  • The firm also has access to roughly 500 lawyers through its non-integrated Eversheds International network

Sutherland

  • Lawyers: 400
  • Equity partners: 86
  • Revenue 2015: $301m (£241m)
  • PEP 2015: $1.02m (£816,000)
  • Offices: Atlanta, New York, Washington DC, Sacramento, Austin, Houston, London and Geneva