SJ Berwin-Proskauer merger looms as talks focus on Asia

SJ Berwin has ramped up its merger talks with Proskauer Rose, with the two firms setting up a series of get-togethers between practice groups following a partnership meeting at the City firm last month.

Stephen Kon
Stephen Kon

Previously only a small group of senior SJ Berwin partners had been involved in the discussions with their US counterparts.

The main group was led by EU and competition head Stephen Kon and corporate chief Steven Davis, alongside managing partner Ralph Cohen, senior ­partner Jonathan Blake and corporate partner Rob Day.

Now larger groups of partners from each of the firms’ practice areas are understood to have been holding informal discussions with each other on both sides of the Atlantic.
One source familiar with the situation said the staging of meetings signalled the beginning of a new phase in the merger discussions.

“It’s beginning to look like a fait accompli,” said the source.

Steven Davis
Steven Davis

The move is a departure from other recent mergers. Denton Wilde Sapte’s management only informed the wider partnership of its talks with Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal 10 days before the tie-up went to a vote in June.

A spokesperson for SJ Berwin confirmed that talks were progressing, but would not give further details.

Proskauer emerged as the favoured tie-up target for SJ Berwin in May after exploratory talks with another US firm, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, broke down.

While both firms have strong real estate and funds practices, one of the chief drivers is the potential for Asian expansion.

One SJ Berwin partner commented: “From both sides’ point of view, it’s about Asia. It’s a market you have to be in.”