The Firms

June 10, 2011 6:46 PM

O'Melveny & Myers Promotes Four Partners to Leadership Positions

Posted by Victor Li

In a move prompted by the recent departures of several high-profile partners , O'Melveny & Myers on Friday announced that it has promoted four transactional partners to leadership roles within the firm.

Silicon Valley-based partner Steven Tonsfeldt will be the new leader of the M&A practice group, the firm said in a statement. San Francisco-based partner C. Brophy Christensen and New York and Los Angeles-based partner Eric Reimer will head the corporate finance/capital markets group. And Washington, D.C.-based partner Robert Rizzi will take over the tax group.

Tonsfeldt succeeds Ilan Nissan, the former head of the M&A/private equity group, who, as Above the Law first reported early Friday, is joining Dewey & LeBoeuf. Nissan is moving along with M&A partner Chris Nugent, a Dewey spokesperson confirms. When asked about the moves, a spokesperson for O'Melveny  said, "We wish them well."

Corporate finance partners Christensen and Reimer take on their practice leadership roles from Gregory Ezring, the former firmwide corporate finance/capital markets practice head who joined Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in May (partner Peter Healy, a former co-head of that practice, now serves as head of the San Francisco transactions department). And Robert Rizzi moves into the tax leadership position formerly held by Brad Okun--Okun, too, moved to Paul Weiss in May.

"These new appointments, which include leadership roles for our two largest transactions practice groups, give us the opportunity to inject some fresh perspectives as we build our transactions platform going forward," firm chairman A.B. Culvahouse, Jr., said in a statement. "We are especially excited that these appointments include a partner who has exemplified our values for 17 years, as well as a new generation of leaders who have proven themselves to be adept at reaching across our different offices and practices to build growth firmwide."

The promotions come on the heels of a number of high-profile partner losses, particularly on the transactional side. In addition to the attorneys mentioned above, departures since the beginning of the year include former FTC head Timothy Muris (he went to Kirkland & Ellis alongside two antitrust partners in late March) and another seven partners, in addition to Okun and Ezring, who left O'Melveny in early May for Paul Weiss and Weil Gotshal.

The recent moves continue the steady losses of partners that came to the firm as a result of O'Melveny's 2002 acquisition of O'Sullivan Graev & Karabell, a New York-based private equity boutique. An article in the June 2008 edition of The American Lawyer detailed the fissures between the two firms, including cultural differences, lack of integration, and resentment over huge pay guarantees made by O'Melveny to the O'Sullivan partners. Nissan, Nugent, Ezring and Okun all were O'Sullivan alumni.

On Friday, O'Melveny emphasized that the firm's New York transactions practice should not be looked at in a vacuum. "In addition to the excellent transactions practitioners we continue to have in New York, we see huge opportunities to build out our platform based on the inherent practice and industry strengths we possess throughout the firm," the firm said in a statement to The Am Law Daily. "The new transactions leadership announcements we have made are a very big part of this because they include leaders who are able to reach across our different offices and practices to build growth firmwide."

Additionally, Tonsfeldt says that while he plans on improving the avenues of communication within the M&A/private equity practice group, the effort is not in response to any issue in particular. "I've been a practice group leader before," he says in an interview. Tonsfeldt most recently served as hiring partner and transactions practice leader in O'Melveny's Silicon Valley office. "For me, the most important thing is to communicate internally. The more communication you have among partners, the more integrated people will feel. That's universal."

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