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Italian practice splinters as rebel faction quits; CC in management compromise
Clifford Chance is facing eviction from its Rome office after finally negotiating terms for the exit of Vittorio Grimaldi, four other partners and 26 other lawyers from the firm in Italy. The exit agreement ends months of embarrassing uncertainty for Clifford Chance, but it has been forced to look for a new home in Rome as a result of the fallout. The exodus hits the Milan and Rome offices, but Rome most seriously. Rome partners Grimaldi, Francesco Novelli and Valerio di Gravio have a following of around a third of Clifford Chance's Rome lawyers. But the group will not be leaving the building when they separate from Clifford Chance in August because the lease of the office is owned by one or more of the partners who have resigned from the worldwide partnership. In Milan, however, where partners Alberto Dubini and Roberto Cappelli have re-signed with around 11 staff, Clifford Chance has managed to hang on to its building. The disgruntled partners have yet to decide on their next move. They are known to have entered talks with Slaughter and May's Italian best friend Bonelli Erede Pappalardo, which took Clifford Chance finance partners Alberto del Din and Paolo Oliviero in Milan earlier this year. Clifford Chance's Rome building would give Bonelli the space to grow to the size of its Milan office. However, del Din is understood to have been at odds with the Grimaldi-dominated Rome management, so a deal including the big-hitting partner seems unlikely. The group has also talked to Linklaters ally Gianni Origoni Grippo & Partners, but may still opt to form an independent firm. Grimaldi has also said he may retire. The group's exit will finally remove the off-lockstep contingent of Italian partners who were given a special remuneration deal to get the merger through in 2000. Clifford Chance has also reached a compromise over the Italian practice's management, appointing equity capital markets partner Nick Wrigley in Milan and securitisation partner Luigi Chessa in Rome, aimed at placating both the English and Italians. A source close to the firm said: "The biggest issue is how the Italians feel about it. Nick is viewed as the long arm of London management. They need to normalise the Italian practice and Nick is extremely well qualified to do that." Wrigley's switch of allegiance from Michael Bray to Peter Cornell in the run-up to last year's chief executive officer election was also significant, the source said. Retaining Chessa was also a top priority for Clifford Chance after losing its leading securitisation partner Novelli.