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A small minority of senior partners at Stuttgart-based Gleiss Lutz Hootz Hirsch has blocked the firm's proposed merger with leading continental firm Stibbe Simont Monahan Duhot.
The climbdown is partly due to the different approach to risk-taking adopted by senior partners in German firms to that of partners in other European jurisdictions such as the Benelux countries and the UK.
The Gleiss Lutz decision may have come as a shock to Stibbe, whose managing partner, Frans Corpeleijn, told The Lawyer in June: "As far as I'm concerned, the deal is done".
Gleiss Lutz held a partnership vote on 28 November and despite a 70 per cent majority voting in favour of the merger the numbers did not meet the 85 per cent required under the firm's partnership agreement.
Bodo Riegger, senior partner of 140-lawyer Gleiss Lutz, said: "[The senior partners] didn't want to merge at this time: they thought close co-operation would be better. The younger partners were very much in favour of the merger as internationalisation is very important to them
"However, there is no disagreement within the firm about internationalisation. The question is simply whether to do it by merger or by co-operation."
Corpeleijn described the collapse of the merger as a "missed opportunity".
The two firms will continue to work closely together on cross-border transactions, but not on a formal basis.
Corpeleijn said Stibbe would now concentrate on consolidating its position in the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Last year, the firm strengthened its Paris presence by merging with nine-partner French practice Giroux Buhagiar & Associes.