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Tony Wollenberg, who co-founded Rakisons and was instrumental in its US merger with Steptoe & Johnson, has left and is using space in the offices of Salans Hertzfeld & Heilbronn, which are in the same building
A gaming and betting law expert, Wollenberg set up Rakisons in 1979 and more recently steered it through several failed merger attempts before the Steptoe & Johnson deal in November 2000. His shock departure comes just four months after handing over the leadership of the London office to US partner and relative newcomer Maury Shenk, on the basis that he would focus on fee-earning. Corporate partner Jona-than Polin and associate Nick Nockton are also moving to Salans. Shenk said Wollenberg was an "important part of the growth of the firm", but that he "went to pursue a betting and gaming practice. We aren't moving in that direction. It isn't a strategic focus for us in the UK." But the departures come at a testing time for Steptoe in London. Of its 11 London partners, only six are legacy Rakison lawyers, split equally between equity and junior equity partners. Steptoe merged with a firm which has suffered a high level of partner exits from the start of merger talks in 2000. The departures have included Chris Hoyle to KLegal, David Von Hagen to DJ Freeman, Danny Preiskel, now at Altheimer & Gray, and Franco Barone, Jane Jales, Richard Hinchliffe and Simon Vivian, who all went to Marriott Harrison. Shenk put recent departures down to changes resulting from the merger and the tough telecoms and technology market, which hit the firm's small clients hard. No deal has yet been struck for Wollenberg, Polin and Nockton to join Salans. Salans London senior partner Lionel Rosenblatt confirmed their arrivals, but said he did not yet know their future intentions.