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‘Not interested’: Eversheds’ lead US suitor Foley calls time on merger talks

Milwaukee-based Foley & Lardner has ended merger discussions with Eversheds, just over a week after reports Eversheds had identified the US firm as the primary candidate for a tie-up.

In an internal memo seen by The American Lawyer, Foley & Lardner’s chairman and CEO Jay Rothman said 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’.

Rothman added: ‘We have advised Eversheds that we are not interested in engaging in further discussions on that topic. Notwithstanding that decision, we remain committed to our strategic objective of expanding the global reach of our firm to better serve our clients.’

During a partnership vote last June, the Eversheds partnership had heavily backed a US tie-up, which cumulated in the firm’s executive, including chair Paul Smith and chief executive Bryan Hughes, narrowing discussions down to two firms of which Foley & Lardner emerged as the preferred firm.

Significant factors in choosing the right US merger partner for Eversheds include culture, a full-service offering and a New York presence. A strong corporate team is also important, although the US firm does not need to be led by its corporate practice.

International expansion as a whole has loomed large in Eversheds’ thinking since the mid-2000s when it became increasingly evident that the firm had to rapidly upgrade its international offering. This was further reinforced in the firm’s 2020 Vision, a three-year strategy put forward by Hughes in 2012, which emphasised global aspirations.

Foley & Lardner, which posted revenues this financial year of $665m has 17 offices across North America, including in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Washington DC. The firm also has a presence in Brussels, as well as in Shanghai and Tokyo.

Eversheds posted essentially flat results for the last financial year, with revenues subdued at £380.7m compared to £379.1m in 2013/14, while profit per equity partner nudged up 2% from £731,000 to £749,000.

Eversheds said in a statement: ‘We have made our position clear, whilst we appreciate that there will be speculation on our progress, a number of options remain open to us.’