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O'Melveny & Myers is set to boost its New York capability by merging with private equity specialist O'Sullivan
The move would almost double O'Melveny's New York office and add a strong private equity flavour to its traditional focus on litigation, bankruptcy, intellectual property and transactional work. Los Angeles-based O'Melveny and New York's O'Sullivan have signed a letter of intent, paving the way for the proposed merger. The deal now awaits partnership votes. O'Melveny requires a two-thirds majority among its 216 partners to seal the merger. O'Sullivan's 25 partners vote at the end of July. Should both sides approve the plan, the firms will merge by September. O'Sullivan chairman John Suydam said: "O'Melveny's geographic reach and pre-eminence in a variety of practice areas enables us to continue to meet the expanding needs of our clients." With clients including JP Morgan Capital and the Apollo Group, O'Sullivan has been an attractive target for firms seeking to beef up in private equity. It is understood that the firm has talked to Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis in the past. Suydam said O'Sullivan gave serious thought to its merger options when it became clear that it needed to keep up with the globalisation of its clients. He also said that greater diversity in terms of practice areas was essential. Its core private equity and M&A practice slowed in 2001. While O'Sullivan noticed a drop-off in work, O'Melveny has had a storming year with average profits per partner shooting up by 34 per cent to $945,000 (£619,000). Despite a strong M&A and capital markets practice in Los Angeles, O'Melveny has lacked a strong corporate practice in New York. Vice chair Patricia Forbes said that private equity had been identified as a strategic priority. If the merger is given the go-ahead, Suydam will take up a role on the combined firm's policy committee and fellow partner Harvey Eisenberg will join the compensation committee.