More than 90 per cent of Wilde Sapte partners have voted to accept the principle of tying itself to Arthur Andersen, and the firm expects to sign heads of agreement by the end of the month.
Wilde Sapte managing partner Steve Blakeley called the “yes” vote “an overwhelming majority” and said management would now consult with clients “to take their views into account and to make sure that the arrangement fits with their views”.
“I don't expect them to object to the deal or we wouldn't have gone this far, but we want to take their views into account,” he said.
The move means the end of Wilde Sapte's 213-year-old independence and, ultimately, its name which sources at Andersens say will be scrapped in favour of the global name “Andersen Tax and Legal”.
However, one leading consultant said: “There will only be around a dozen global legal advisers in the next millennium and Andersens is the only name that is certain to be among them. Wilde Sapte have hitched themselves onto that name.”
Wilde Sapte's offices will be merged with Andersens' existing network of law firms.
The two New York representative offices of Garrigues and Wilde Sapte will be combined and will be made representative of all Andersen's European law firms.
It is still too early to say what will happen with Wilde Sapte's 20-lawyer Paris office whose head Thomas McDonald moved from SG Archibold in Paris when Andersens took it over. It is rumoured that the Paris office may break away from Wilde Sapte.
Negotiations will now centre around the level of remuneration for the top Wilde Sapte partners.
When Dundas & Wilson joined Andersens' legal network last year, it is understood that top partners were offered a minimum salary well above £200,000 more than their existing remuneration at Dundas for the first three years. It is likely the Wilde Sapte partners will be offered a similar deal but at a higher level.