Weil scales back finance; talks with Veil Armfelt signal corporate European push
Weil Gotshal & Manges' finance practice in London is suffering another major blow as it faces the loss of JPMorgan Chase as a client. JPMorgan has put the relationship on hold, although the firm continues to advise on previous instructions. Following the exit of Erica Handling to Ashurst Morris Crisp, JPMorgan's main point of contact is structured finance partner Jacky Kelly. Weil Gotshal and JPMorgan have a chequered history, with the bank becoming increasingly reluctant to use Weil Gotshal because of its debtor practice in the US. A source confirmed that the relationship was on hold, but Kelly declined to comment. The news comes amid uncertainty over the strategy of the London office. It is understood that the firm plans to have it mirror New York, focusing on corporate, corporate restructuring and litigation. The firm recently announced that it was pulling out of project finance in London, sparking projects partner Bruce Johnson and four asso-ciates to leave for LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae. A source close to the firm said banking would be scaled down further and would become a support function for the corporate and private equity groups. This would leave the securitisation practice out on a limb. Kelly told The Lawyer that her group sits well with the New York office, which now has a nine-strong structured finance practice. "The only difficulty I can envisage is if the restructuring becomes so strong that it starts to put the bank's backs up," she said. There are currently four partners in banking: acquisition partner Chris Harrison, US-qualified institutional finance partner Ronald Daitz, US-qualified acquisition finance partner Richard Ginsburg and US-qualified project finance partner Bill Rubin. However, it is understood that Daitz will return to the US. The firm is mirroring London on the Continent. In April last year it opened a corporate boutique in Frankfurt, taking on private equity rainmaker Gerhard Schmidt from Beiten Burkhardt. In France, it is understood to have entered into talks with corporate boutique Veil Armfelt Jourde La Garanderie. London managing partner Mike Francies admitted the focus on corporate and restructuring, but denied that the banking department was being scaled down. "Institutional finance is a core part of our practice," he said. "If the right partners come along, then we're looking to grow all practice areas, including banking and securitisation."