Weil Gotshal & Manges has significantly boosted its London private equity and public M&A capability with the hire of Slaughter and May corporate partner Murray Cox.
The move yet again underlines the vulnerability of the top UK law firms to raids by their US rivals on their home turf – lateral partner hires out of Slaughters were unheard of until relatively recently, let alone from its core corporate team.
And it will raise questions about the viability of the firm continuing to operate a pure lockstep model under which partners are paid on the basis of their seniority.
Cox made partner in 2016 and was a member of the firm’s corporate, private equity, and infrastructure and energy teams. In November last year, he led the team advising Kingsway Capital on the $1.4bn take-private of Jordan-based Al Eqbal Investment Company and he was part of the team that advised William Hill on its £2.9bn takeover by Caesars Entertainment in September.
At Weil, he will join a market-leading team of corporate lawyers, including London managing partner Mike Francies, Marco Compagnoni, co-head of the firm’s international private equity group, and David Avery-Gee, who joined the firm from Linklaters in 2019.
“Murray is amongst the leading M&A partners in London of his generation, and we are truly delighted that he is joining us,” said Francies.
Michael Aiello, chairman of Weil’s global corporate department, said: “Murray is a superb lawyer and will play a significant role in supporting our clients globally.”
The hire adds further depth to a London team that is already regarded as being a top corporate practice, especially for big ticket private equity deals.
The firm ranked in ninth place in Mergermarket’s UK M&A ranking by value for 2020 advising on 44 deals valued at $70.7bn, three places above Slaughter and May, in 11th place.
Other recent eye-catching corporate lateral lateral moves from UK to US firms include Latham & Watkins’ hire of Travers Smith’s co-head of corporate, Paul Dolman, last December, while in September Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom hired Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s global M&A client group co-head, Bruce Embley.
Slaughters is one of a handful of top London and New York firms that remain wedded to a pure lockstep model.
In September last year, Davis Polk senior partner Neil Barr said the Wall Street firm was moving to a modified lockstep pay structure because its strategy of “measured growth” was no longer compatible with a pure lockstep model.