Skadden Arps to close Austrian outpost

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom’s only Vienna partner Rainer Wachter is set to leave the firm after a strategic review concluded the office was no longer viable.

Corporate partner Wachter will move to the Austrian firm CMS Reich-Rohrwig Hainz, which was tied to Skadden when the firm set up in Austria in 1993. He will continue to take on work for Skadden as external counsel. 

Skadden set up the office in Austria with CMS in 1993 when Wachter expressed the desire to move to the area, but has not used the office for the majority of its large mergers and acquisitions work, instead using larger Austrian and international firms.

Frankfurt corporate transactions and capital markets partner Stephan Hutter said: “Had Wachter not decided to go to Austria we wouldn’t have opened there, it wasn’t a big enough market and its never really developed into a critical mass.”

Although Machter has advised on a range of cross-border mergers and acquisitions such as the sale of Austrian elements of Vodafone to Verizon Communications, and represented a number of private equity investors, Hutter said his work would be divided between Skadden’s Franfurt, London and Paris offices or external firms.

“The Austria office is not specialised enough, we’re involved in some of the largest capital markets transactions in Austria and I handle that with my team in Frankfurt,” he said. “The size of the Vienna office is three or four lawyers so it’s not an office where you can do that much.”

The firm said it would be more cost effective to use external firms to cover work in Austria but said they may not have closed if Wachter had not wanted to retire at the same time.

He said: “Nobody was forcing Rainer out, it was a strategic decision which coincided with his plans for early retirement.”

Partners Armand Grumberg in Paris and Stephan Hutter in Frankfurt will now lead the firm’s Austrian work advising corporates and financial institutions in connection with M&A and capital markets transactions.