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Eversheds in talks with Sutherland Asbill & Brennan as firm gets closer to long-held US ambitions

Eversheds is in talks with Atlanta-based Sutherland Asbill & Brennan as the firm gets closer to its long-held ambition of an American tie-up.

It is understood that the firms are in talks to form a combination, rather than a swiss verein type structure. A partnership vote on the deal is expected in coming weeks, with the new firm to be called Eversheds Sutherland.

Sutherland’s turnover stands at $300m and it is placed at number 107 in the AmLaw 200. The firm posted revenue per lawyer at $790,000 with profits per partner at $1.02m.

380-lawyer Sutherland has offices across eight locations, including Austin, Houston, New York, Washington DC and London and was founded in 1924 by William Sutherland.

Eversheds reported revenue growth of 7% to £405.5m for 2015/16. The increase follows a year of flat turnover for the firm after last year it posted £380.7m in revenue, up less than 1%.

Major practice areas include investment funds, corporate, energy & environmental, financial services, intellectual property, litigation, real estate and tax.

Pursuing a US suitor has been high on the Eversheds’ priority list since 2014 when the partnership heavily backed the strategy during a vote. The firm held discussions with Milwaukee-based Foley & Lardner, which emerged as the preferred firm.

However Foley ended merger discussions just over a week after talks were made public with the firm’s chairman and chief executive Jay Rothman stating in a memo that while there had been preliminary conversations around exploring a more formal affiliation between the two firms, ‘no decision was ever made by Foley to pursue such an affiliation’.

Last week Eversheds’ management structure was finalised following Lee Ranson’s appointment as chief executive last month.

Former international managing partner Ian Gray has been given the new role of executive partner, with a broad remit which includes being responsible for firmwide client strategy. Gray is currently the client partner for the firm’s sole adviser mandate with FTSE 100 water company Severn Trent, as well as the relationship with Vodafone.

Meanwhile the international managing partner role has been scrapped and merged into the managing partner role, which will be taken up by current head for company commercial Keith Froud. Both Froud and Gray will take up their new roles in May next year and are already members of the firm’s executive, international strategy group and senior management team.

Legal Business revealed in March that Eversheds was in talks with Harry Elias in a bid for a Singapore tie-up. The firm has had an office in the city since 2009, which is led by managing director Oommen Mathew. The outpost covers corporate commercial, dispute management, banking and finance and human resources and employment.

Outgoing Eversheds chief executive Bryan Hughes said: ‘Eversheds has an exceptionally strong reputation for international client service and our strategic ambition is to provide a high quality offering and a single legal solution to clients wherever they are required globally.’