Shearman & Sterling's London M&A head quits for Sidley as international partner departures mount

As New York firm's merger talks with Hogan Lovells continue, high-profile recruit Phil Cheveley finds new home after less than two years

Shearman & Sterling has lost its EMEA and Asia M&A head to Sidley Austin as partner departures from the New York firm's international network mount up against the background of merger talks with Hogan Lovells.

Sidley officially unveiled the hire of Phil Cheveley in London yesterday (7 February), adding to the sense that Shearman's ongoing talks with Hogan Lovells may have unsettled some international partners given the vastly superior size of Hogan Lovells' international network.

Cheveley's departure comes less than two years after he was unveiled by Shearman as a key building block in its ambitions to bulk up its its global M&A practice when it lured him away from Travers Smith, where he was head of corporate M&A and ECM.

News of his departure comes hard on the heels of another high-profile London loss: it emerged in January that restructuring partner Helena Potts, who joined Shearman from Latham & Watkins a month after Cheveley, in April 2021, is joining Paul Hastings.

Partners leave law firms for a variety of reasons, but it seems unlikely that either Cheveley or Potts would have anticipated the talks when they decided to move to Shearman in London.

Elsewhere across Shearman's international network, in January Paris-based corporate partner Thomas Phillippe joined King & Spalding, just a few months after a six-strong team led by veteran Shearman partner Sami Toutounji moved over to Gide Loyrette Nouel to launch a new employee shareholding practice. 

Over the past few months the firm’s Abu Dhabi and Dubai offices have also seen a number of partner departures, including energy and infrastructure projects partner Dan Feldman's departure for King & Spalding and corporate partners Renad Younes and Jade Chu moving over to Gibson Dunn alongside finance partner Samuel Ogunlaja. The moves followed long-standing Shearman partner Marwan Elaraby quitting the firm in Dubai to join Gibson Dunn last October. 

Meanwhile, Cheveley brings a broad corporate practice to Sidley spanning public and private M&A and investments, public takeovers, joint ventures and other complex cross border corporate and commercial arrangements. 

Sidley noted that his relationships with public corporates across sectors including financial services, industrials, energy transition and infrastructure made him an ‘excellent fit’ for its M&A and private equity practice as the firm looks to expand its client base. 

The firm also said that his practice complemented its existing equity capital markets offering, Cheveley having acted for issuers and underwriters on IPOs, secondary fundraisings, block trades, and other listing procedures. 

“Having someone of Phil’s experience and talent join our team speaks volumes of our growing reputation as a leading advisor for public and private M&A and private equity transactions,” said Tom Thesing, managing partner of Sidley’s office in London. “Phil has also worked on the corporate aspects of a number of restructuring transactions and will collaborate closely with our busy restructuring practice as we continue to see clients exploit market opportunities on distress driven transactions.” 

Cheveley has joined as the fourth new partner so far this year for Sidley’s London office following the promotions of regulatory and enforcement lawyer Francesca Blythe and tax lawyer Steve Quinn, and restructuring lawyer Kieran Sharma re-joining the firm after a stint at investment fund SVP. 

News of Shearman's talks with Hogan Lovells first surfaced in December. A tie-up would see Hogan Lovells’ roughly 2,500 lawyers join forces with Shearman’s approximately 730 to create a legal behemoth with revenue in the region of $3.6bn, putting the firm in third place globally by turnover.

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]