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Wilde Sapte's Paris office is faced with the loss of a key equity partner who is setting up a breakaway firm next month, as the remaining two partners are likely to leave next year.
Banking partner Olivier Tordjman is leasing half of Wilde Sapte's building space in Paris and setting up as a sole practitioner.
He is taking his department with him.
Tom McDonald, asset finance partner, and Richard Macklin, company and commercial partner, are tied to the firm by strict rules over notice periods for senior equity partners.
But Tordjman is a junior equity partner and only needs to give six months' notice. All three gave their notice last year, but only Tordjman is free to leave now.
Tordjman says: "The reason for my decision is simple. I wanted to leave because I was not in favour of the proposed merger with Arthur Andersen [last year]."
Merger talks fell through last summer. But Tordjman says: "When the merger collapsed we were told to stay, but it was hard to go backwards."
McDonald sued Wilde Sapte for delaying his move to White & Case's Paris office (The Lawyer, 5 July). Wilde Sapte rules say only two senior equity partners can leave a year, but he lost his case.
John Riggs, partner in White & Case' Paris office, says McDonald plans to appeal. But his queuing period should be finished next year anyway.
Macklin also leaves next year. He is thought to be going to Eversheds in Paris with his assistants.
Steven Blakeley, managing partner of Wilde Sapte, says: "We are going to work closely with Tordjman's firm. The only real difference is that if he makes a profit he keeps it."
Blakeley's plan is to refer work to Tordjman and to send UK lawyers to France.
Wilde Sapte is holding a board meeting next month on restructuring the whole firm. It is understood one area under discussion will be Wilde Sapte's foreign offices in Paris, Brussels, Hong Kong and Tokyo. The firm announced an increase in fee income of just two per cent to u54m with profits per equity partner averaging u235,000.