Freshfields hires Cravath M&A partner in New York

UK giant follows up on Kirkland raid last week by securing third partner from Cravath since 2021

Sanjay Murti Image courtesy of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has hired a recently made up M&A partner in New York from top Wall Street firm Cravath Swaine & Moore as it continues its drive to grow its US presence.

Sanjay Murti has joined the UK Magic Circle firm’s corporate department having spent his entire legal career at Cravath, where he began as an associate in 2014 and made partner two years ago.

The arrival of Murti, the third Cravath partner to join Freshfields since 2021, comes just a few days after it hired M&A partner Steven Li in New York from Kirkland & Ellis. Li is himself a Cravath alumnus, having been an associate at the firm before joining Kirkland as a partner in 2021.  

Like its Magic Circle rivals Allen & Overy (A&O), Clifford Chance and Linklaters, Freshfields has been seeking to ramp up its US presence in recent years, a process that has become more urgent with the merger between A&O and New York’s Shearman & Sterling due to go live in the spring. Earlier this month, Linklaters hired one of Shearman’s co-managing partners, George Casey, as part of a six-strong M&A team in New York – a move it hailed as a “transformational step” in its US growth strategy.  

Freshfields’ drive to grow a credible New York M&A practice received a major boost when veteran Cravath dealmaker Damien Zoubek joined as co-head of the firm’s US corporate and M&A practice in 2021. A year later, M&A partner Jenny Hochenberg moved across, as did longtime Cravath counsel Nicole Foster, joining as a partner and co-head of its US employee benefits and executive compensation practice. 

Zoubek praised Murti’s technical skill and judgement, adding: “I’ve seen first-hand Sanjay’s experience with complex, high-profile M&A transactions and I’m thrilled that he’s chosen to join Freshfields to complement our growing M&A team.”

As well as M&A, Murti’s practice focuses on shareholder activism defence, corporate governance and general corporate matters. At Cravath he worked with clients including Qualcomm, Nestlé, Johnson & Johnson and Stanley Black & Decker.  

“I am excited to be joining Freshfields and their M&A team at a time of such momentum for the firm,” Murti said. “They have established themselves as a top tier destination practice, and it is the ideal place for me to grow my practice.” 

Freshfields remained in seventh place in the LSEG global M&A legal advisor rankings by deal value for 2023, working on 238 deals worth $278.3bn. Meantime Cravath fell two places from the year before to 12th, after advising on 59 deals worth $195.1bn. 

Freshfields was also the top cross-border M&A legal advisor for 2023 by value in the year-end, according to Bloomberg league tables. Bloomberg ranked the firm eighth in the US for deal value, with deals totalling $194.8bn.  

Last year Freshfield’s 140-lawyer US M&A team advised Coupa on its $8bn sale to Thoma Bravo and Roivant on its $7.1bn sale of Telavant to Roche. Other major deals work included representing the independent directors committee in its $12.5 bn sale of Qualtrics to a consortium of Silver Lake and CPPIB – one of the largest private equity buyouts of the year.  

Cravath has long enjoyed a reputation as a law firm that few partners ever choose to leave, though exits have become less rare recently as rivals willing to pay top dollar for standout talent have hired lawyers away from the firm. In 2021, it abandoned its pure lockstep partner pay structure in favour of a modified lockstep that compensates based on performance rather than just seniority.  

On Monday, Davis Polk unveiled the hire of Cravath litigation partner Rory Leraris. In February last year, Cravath launched an English law offering in London with the hire of finance partners Korey Fevzi and Philip Stopford from Shearman.

A Cravath spokesperson said of Murti’s departure: “We wish Sanjay well in his future endeavours.”

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