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Bad timing – A&O loses M&A duo to Skadden following failed US merger talks

Allen & Overy has lost two well-respected London corporate partners to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom just days after the magic circle firm confirmed the collapse of its merger talks with US firm O’Melveny & Myers.

Simon Toms and George Knighton have quit A&O, inflicting a considerable hit on its M&A capabilities ten days after it announced it was calling it a day on its attempts to tie up with O’Melveny after more than a year of talks.

Toms counts among his clients 21st Century Fox, which he advised in its bid to acquire European satellite broadcaster Sky, HP and Cerberus Capital Management, while Knighton recently acted on the £1.7bn sale of Virgin Money to CYBG.

The departures to a US outfit carry a particularly high symbolic value at a time when A&O’s leadership has promised to fast-track investment in its US practice as the pressure to strengthen its capabilities Stateside persist.

Meanwhile, this is the biggest coup for Skadden’s European corporate practice since the hire of former Linklaters private equity partner Richard Youle from White & Case in 2017.

A&O and Skadden declined to comment.