Andersens chose Wilde Sapte over rival Simmons' bid

Simmons & Simmons' failure to link with Arthur Andersen was the result of losing a beauty contest with Wilde Sapte, it has emerged.

It had been thought that Simmons had decided not to be taken over by Arthur Andersen. However, The Lawyer has learnt that Andersens had been conducting talks in parallel with both Wilde Sapte and Simmons since last summer, and chose Wilde Sapte after getting both to make presentations to its management board last year.

A source close to Andersens said: “It's not that Wilde Sapte is the better firm, it was a question of what they could bring to the party.” Wilde Sapte's expertise in asset finance and insolvency is a better fit for an accountancy firm.

As expected, Wilde Sapte last week signed heads of agreement to join Andersen Worldwide's network of law firms no later than 1 September.

As part of the deal, Andersens has agreed to guarantee the partnership as a whole a minimum level of remuneration for the first year and a further minimum for the second.

Between five and 10 partners at Wilde Sapte, including managing partner Steve Blakeley and senior partner Mark Andrews, will be made Andersens international partners.

Andrews and Blakeley will take over the management of Dundas & Wilson and Garretts, where managing partner Julia Chain is preparing to step down from the board to concentrate on transaction work.

The pair will also be responsible for all UK-qualified lawyers in the Andersens' network who are based abroad.

Wilde Sapte's offices in New York and Brussels will merge with the offices of existing Andersen-tied law firms. But Paris and Hong Kong will remain separate from Andersens' very different legal practices until the worries of Wilde Sapte staff can be resolved.

Blakeley said that with Andersens the firm could expand to areas of Europe and the Far East where it had previously not had the finance to set up.