The Talent

January 20, 2011 11:53 PM

Cravath M&A Partner Woolery Heading to J.P. Morgan

Posted by Ed Shanahan

Woolery web James Woolery, 41, a top M&A partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore and chair of the firm's business development group, will be leaving the firm to join J.P. Morgan in early February, the investment bank announced on Thursday. (Bloomberg and The New York Times first reported the move late Thursday afternoon.)

Woolery will become cohead of North America M&A for J.P. Morgan, along with current cohead Chris Ventresca, the bank said in a statement in which it also announced several other changes related to its deal advisory business.

"As one of J.P. Morgan's senior partners at Cravath, we've had the  opportunity to work closely with Jim Woolery and have a long, deep relationship with his firm," Jeff Urwin, cohead of North America Investment Banking, said in a statement. "We are delighted that he will partner with Chris [Ventresca] to further strengthen our leading M&A practice."

Woolery says he has worked closely with senior bankers at J.P. Morgan--including Ventresca--for years, advising on a series of major deals that have included transactions involving Air Products & Chemicals, Manor Care, Michaels Stores, and Universal Health. The work led to talks that got serious at the end of 2010.

"They were very interested in doing this now because they were planning some other moves," Woolery says.

Woolery points to his experience running Cravath's business development group as the driving factor behind his decision to move to J.P. Morgan. In the five years that he has led the group, it has evolved from a pitch book operation to a more substantial research and development group consisting of 30 professionals--corporate and litigation attorneys, and analysts.

"It does strategic research, market research," he says. "We monitor what's happening with clients and potential clients. It's about being aware and nimble around events, it's very market driven....Doing that work was what led me to wanting to do this job [at J.P. Morgan]."

As a partner in Cravath's M&A group, Woolery is among a team of top dealmakers who in recent months have advised on several multibillion-dollar transactions, including: the $3.1 billion purchase of chip producer Atheros Communications by cellphone technology company and Cravath client Qualcomm Incorporated, announced on January 5 of this year; and the $3 billion sale of J.Crew to TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Partners, in which Cravath (including Woolery) represented J.Crew's special committee of directors.

"The way you have a very successful M&A practice in the law business right now is you want to have a wide group of partners who are all leading deals, and we've got that at Cravath," Woolery says.
"The whole group--Scott Barshay, Robert Townsend, Faiza Saeed, Richard Hall, Phil Gelston, Sarkis Jebejian, Mark Greene--it's a young and broad team."

That deep M&A bench notwithstanding, dealmakers at other firms say Woolery's departure will be a blow to Cravath.

"Cravath is losing a great M&A  lawyer," says Skadden M&A partner Lou Kling. "Luckily for them they still have a number of other top lawyers going forward."

Evan Chesler, presiding partner of the firm, said in a statement provided to The Am Law Daily, "Jim has been a great partner, and we wish him the very best at our valued client, J.P. Morgan. We know he will be a success there just as he has been at Cravath."

Woolery joined Cravath in 1994 after receiving his J.D. from the University of Kentucky College of Law. He became a partner in 2002.

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