Ashursts and Fried Frank tie-up stalls

Negotiating teams in profits stand-off; still no vote in sight

Merger talks between Ashurst Morris Crisp and Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson have descended into confusion as partner frustration grows at the increasingly hazy prospect of a conclusion.
The two firms appear to be at cross-purposes on the tricky issue of remuneration. Sources say Fried Frank is working on the belief that a general concept of profit distribution has been agreed, with only the details to be ironed out.
However, The Lawyer understands that Ashursts has drawn up an outline, showing a lockstep system with a small super-point layer – an idea that has not yet been agreed with either the UK firm’s partners or Fried Frank itself.
Fried Frank operates on a mixture of lockstep, with a large tranche of extra points for the firm’s most senior partners.
There also appears to be a growing feeling of bewilderment within both partnerships about when a concrete merger plan will be put to a vote.
A team headed up by Geoffrey Green and Justin Spendlove, senior and managing partners of Ashursts respectively, and Valerie Ford Jacob, Fried Frank’s highly-rated head of capital markets, has been spearheading the intense negotiations.
But one source said lawyers were growing tired of waiting for a result from the talks, which began in earnest during the final quarter of last year. “People are now thinking, ‘Enough – get it done’,” said the source. “The whole process is just becoming protracted.”
He added, though, that the group of dissenters was shrinking and that the general feeling was positive with the majority of partners of the opinion that the merger would be of benefit to both firms.
The general perception had been that talks would have reached some sort of conclusion by Christmas.
The new hope is that a tentative agreement will be reached by both firms’ financial year end, February for Fried Frank and March for Ashursts.
But it is known for sure that the discussions will not stretch beyond the summer, whether or not an agreement has been reached.