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May 10, 2011 6:20 PM

O'Melveny Loses Seven NY Partners to Paul Weiss, Two to Weil Gotshal

Posted by Amy Kolz

O'Melveny & Myers is losing nine partners from its New York office, dealing a sizable blow to its corporate and transactional practices.

Six prominent corporate partners, including the cochair of O'Melveny's corporate finance/capital markets practice and the head of the firm's tax practice, will be joining the New York office of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. A seventh O'Melveny partner is joining the firm as counsel, according to a source close to the firm. Paul Weiss chairman Brad Karp declined to comment.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges also is adding two O'Melveny partners--top private equity adviser Harvey Eisenberg and M&A partner Douglas Ryder. Weil Gotshal confirmed the additions through a spokeswoman but declined to comment further.

An O'Melveny spokeswoman confirmed the nine departures, and stated that the firm wishes the lawyers well.

The moves are a significant loss for O'Melveny's New York transactional practices, in particular, the corporate finance practice. Four of the partners moving to Paul Weiss, including Gregory Ezring, the cochair of O'Melveny's corporate finance/capital markets practice, finance partners Brad Finkelstein and Mark Wlazlo, and capital markets partner Monica Thurmond, make up the majority of the New York corporate finance practice, according to O'Melveny's Web site. Brad Okun, the head of the tax practice and the former head of O'Melveny's New York office, and M&A partner John Scott also are moving to Paul Weiss. Combined with the departures of Eisenberg and Ryder, O'Melveny is losing three of the 15 New York-based partners who list M&A as a practice.

And the departures represent yet another exodus of former O'Sullivan lawyers from O'Melveny--Eisenberg, Finkelstein, Okun, and Scott were at the private equity boutique when it merged with the Los Angeles-based firm in 2002.  O'Melveny was hoping to bolster its New York transactional presence through the merger. But in the ensuing years, it has struggled to retain many of the original O'Sullivan lawyers due to the cultural differences between the two firms. O'Melveny has lost others to clients. Former O'Sullivan chair and O'Melveny head of M&A John Suydam joined Apollo as chief legal and administrative officer in 2006.

Several of the key O'Melveny private equity relationships now appear to be in play. In particular, longtime client Apollo has turned to several of the departing partners on recent transactions. Ezring and Thurmond served as finance counsel to Apollo Global Management in its $510 million acquisition, announced today, of U.S. entertainment company CKX, the owner of television shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance.  (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison corporate partner and media and entertainment practice chair James Schwab and M&A partner Neil Goldman led the M&A team advising the private equity firm.)

In March, SEC filings revealed that Thurmond is advising Apollo on a future initial public offering that would raise roughly $473 million. Last September, Scott and Ezring led the O'Melveny team advising Apollo-backed Hexion Specialty Chemicals in its combination with Momentive Performance Materials, another Apollo portfolio company. (Wlazlo was also on the team.) In late 2009, Ezring led the O'Melveny team advising Apollo on its ultimately unsuccessful $2.4 billion bid for struggling amusement park operator Cedar Fair

Eisenberg, a partner in O'Melveny's M&A and investment funds practices, also worked extensively with Apollo. His client list includes a "who's who" in private equity: CCMP Capital, Irving Place Capital, Goldman Sachs PIA, JPMorgan Partners, and Colony Capital. Ryder, a M&A partner, lists acquisitions for Apollo, CCMP Capital, and ONCAP Management Partners on his O'Melveny firm bio. 

In an e-mailed statement, an O'Melveny spokeswoman said, "We have stellar transactions practitioners throughout our 14 offices, including NY. In addition we are a premier litigation firm, we have one of the most robust Asia practices of any U.S.-based firm; and we have a first-rate group of diverse clients and truly talented lawyers."

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