21 Dec 2020

Willkie Farr & Gallagher makes leadership changes as veteran chairman retires

Matthew Feldman will serve as joint chairman with Thomas Cerabino, replacing the outgoing Steven Gartner

Matthew Feldman (left) is taking over from Steven Gartner

Willkie Farr & Gallagher has named restructuring partner Matthew Feldman as its new joint chairman, replacing 35-year Willkie veteran Steven Gartner who is due to retire at the end of this month.

New York-based Feldman will serve alongside Thomas Cerabino, who has led the firm with Gartner since 2010. Feldman has been a member of Willkie’s senior leadership team over the same period, serving on the firm’s executive committee and as co-chair of the business reorganisation and restructuring department.

Feldman said: “Willkie is an exceptionally strong institution, and this is thanks to the groundwork Steve and Tom have laid over the past decade for a bright and promising future for our firm… I intend to pick up the baton they are handing me and continue to grow and develop this place we love so much, while deepening our commitment to excellence for our clients, valuing every individual’s contributions, and aiming to have a positive impact on the communities in which we live and work.”

Feldman has been at the firm since 1991 and a partner since 1998, briefly leaving Willkie in 2009 to serve as chief legal advisor to the Obama administration’s task force on the auto industry, which was formed during the financial crisis to help bail out troubled carmakers General Motors and Chrysler.

Under Gartner and Cerabino’s leadership, the firm has expanded its geographical reach, increased its lawyer headcount to 750 from 550 and grown revenue by more than 80%.

In April, it hired former Jenner & Block chairman Craig Martin and five other partners to open a Chicago office.

Cerabino said: “Steve has been a terrific leader, lawyer, mentor, colleague and friend, and he has played a pivotal role in transforming Willkie into the firm we are today… Matt and I are already accustomed to working closely together on firm management issues so this will be a seamless transition. Like Steve and me, Matt has grown up at Willkie and he very much embodies our cultural hallmarks of transparency, entrepreneurialism and, particularly, collegiality and respect.”

Gartner, who announced his retirement back in February, joined the firm in 1983 as a summer associate and built a career that saw him recognised as one of the leading M&A and private equity lawyers in the US.

Gartner said: “I never dreamed I would have such a long and successful career in such a special firm. There is no place I would have rather been for the past nearly four decades… I am proud of all we have accomplished as a firm, most recently how we have come together to support each other and our clients during the ongoing pandemic.”