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In a move which is likely to affect Wilde Sapte's deal to link with Arthur Andersen, two leading asset finance partners - David Smith and Mario Jacovides - have resigned to join Allen & Overy.
The two were significant billers and their departures - at a time when Andersens is doing financial due diligence on Wilde Sapte - means that any umbrella sum the firm will be paid by Andersens in the first year is likely to be reduced.
It is understood the two voted for the deal with Andersens and still think it is good for the firm.
Smith, a highly-regarded adviser to banks on complex cross-border financings, is likely to have been one of a handful of Wilde Sapte partners in line for remuneration as an Andersen Worldwide partner.
However Allen & Overy, with profits per partner last year of around £500,000, would have been able to offer a considerably larger sum.
Jacovides - a junior (not full equity) partner made up in 1996 - is seen as a rising star.
Two other leading partners at Wilde Sapte are unlikely to stay. Litigator Philip Rocher, who earned high fees for his Lloyd's litigation work in the early "90s, is believed to be looking elsewhere. Linked with Andersens he was always likely to be conflicted out of work litigating for other Big Six accountancy clients.
Shipping finance head and asset finance manager Bob Dibble is in talks to join White & Case's London office. He and Paris partner Tom McDonald were the only partners to vote against the Andersens link up. Andersens was aware of the doubts of both Dibble and Rocher before it signed heads of terms on 1 April.
Managing partner Steve Blakeley would not comment on Smith and Jacovides' departures. He said: "Due diligence on the Andersens transaction is proceeding on both sides in accordance with the timetable."