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Shearman capital markets partner with big bank clientele jumps to Weil

4 minute read

The logo of law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP is seen outside of their office in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

(Reuters) - Marking at least its eighth new partner addition so far this year, Weil, Gotshal & Manges is bringing on Shearman & Sterling capital markets partner Merritt Johnson in New York, the firm said Tuesday.

Johnson, who spent nearly a decade at Shearman, focuses his practice on high-yield and investment-grade debt offerings, initial public offerings, secondary equity offerings, leveraged buy-outs and liability management transactions.

His financial institution clients have included Barclays Plc, Citigroup Inc, Jefferies Financial Group Inc, Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Morgan Stanley, according to his former Shearman & Sterling bio.

A spokesperson for Shearman was not immediately available to comment on Johnson's departure. The firm took a financial hit in 2020, according to American Lawyer figures published this month, with revenue declining 11% to $861 million and average profits per equity partner down 22.9% to $1.897 million.

At Weil, in contrast, revenue was up 9% to $1.657 billion, boosted by bankruptcy and debt work during the pandemic, and profits per partner rose 12.1% to $4.5 million, according to Am Law figures.

Merritt is at least the third U.S. partner to leave Shearman this year, following New York corporate partner Russell Sacks' move to King & Spalding in February and emerging companies partner J. Matthew Lyons' departure in April to Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Austin.

The New York-based firm also suffered a blow in February when eight international arbitration partners, including Paris-based practice leaders Emmanuel Gaillard and Yas Banifatemi, broke off to start their own boutique firm. (Gaillard died in April.) Notable departures for Shearman last year included Joshua Thompson, who headed the firm's global leveraged finance and private capital groups before joining Sidley Austin.

Shearman added former Alston & Bird funds partner Michael Saarinen for its investment funds practice in New York in February and former Baker Botts finance partner Daniel Tristan for its Houston office.

At Weil, other recent New York additions include tax partner Hillel Jacobson from Willkie Farr & Gallagher, corporate partner Kevin Sullivan from Aon Plc and tax partner David Levy from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

Michael Aiello, chairman of Weil’s global corporate department, said in a statement that Johnson's "sound business judgment and impressive practice knowledge" will be an asset to the group.

"Merritt has demonstrated a real talent for counseling organizations across a broad array of industries as they navigate the most complex aspects of capital raising,” he said.


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