Dewey and Orrick abandon merger talks

The planned merger between Dewey Ballantine and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe has been abandoned amid wrangling over management control, ending one of the most anticipated combinations of the year.

The firms’ London offices were putting on brave faces in the wake of the decision.

Orrick London managing partner Martin Bartlam told The Lawyer: “We’ve always been fairly neutral to the merger. While it would have provided us with a bigger platform, which would have been a good thing, it would probably have been the only thing.”

Dewey London managing partner Fred Gander said: “We can finally focus on client work. The uncertainty is behind us.”

It is understood that there were three main hurdles: Dewey’s unfunded retirement benefits, the number of departing Dewey partners and management and governance at the new firm.

A Dewey source said: “With Ralph [Baxter] and Mort [Pierce] there would have only been one presiding partner. It was felt too much power would reside with one individual.”

Ten Dewey partners have left since merger talks were announced last October, including five from its flagship New York office.

The source said: “If you’re losing those kind of quality partners, you have to ask why. We had to take the merger talks back to the table before we lost any more.”

The tie-up would have created a 1,500-lawyer firm with a $1bn ($510m) turnover.

The firms issued a joint statement on 5 January, which read: “A combination of this size and scope posed significant challenges. While both firms tried their best to work through these challenges, we were unable to bring the merger to completion.”