Congratulations to Weil Gotshal on securing a significant role in the big Grupo Corporativo Ono / Vodafone deal. The firm is representing Ono’s principal shareholders, a group of private equity firms, in the $10 billion transaction. This comes not long after news of Weil’s representation of Facebook in the company’s $16 billion acquisition of WhatsApp.

At the same time as it handles eleven-figure deals, Weil Gotshal continues to lose partners. Are these defections wanted or unwanted by Weil? If the latter, how significant are they?

Let’s find out which partners are leaving, and where they’re going….

(Please note the UPDATE added to the end of this post.)

We’ll start with the latest news first. Joseph Basile, former managing partner of Weil’s Boston office, has joined Foley Hoag, where he will co-chair the firm’s M&A practice. Given his decades of deal experience and his former leadership role at Weil, his departure seems significant. Here’s more on the move, from the Foley Hoag press release:

Basile has represented some of the world’s leading corporations, private equity sponsors and sovereign wealth funds. He has consistently been named one of the top lawyers in corporate law, M&A and private equity buyouts by Chambers USA, Best Lawyers in America, and the Legal 500 USA….

“Joe brings an incredible depth of experience in corporate law to Foley Hoag,” said Foley Hoag Co-Managing Partner William R. Kolb. “The variety and complexity of the transactions he has led span every element of mergers, acquisitions and investment counseling. He’s a valuable addition to an already strong team that provides innovative, experienced counsel to corporate clients.”

Perhaps we’ll have occasion to work with Joe Basile. Above the Law’s parent, Breaking Media, is a client of Foley Hoag.

You can flip to the next page to see the email that Basile sent to his contacts announcing his move. One recipient of the email had this amusing tidbit for us:

As background, he was partner at Bingham and left to join Weil…. His comment afterwards was “the partnership is MUCH more collegial” at Weil. I guess not so much anymore.

Well, in fairness to Basile, it’s possible that Weil’s firm culture has changed over the past few years. That seemed to be the view of the Texas partners who left for Sidley Austin.

Some of the Texans complained that the new Weil was too New York-centric. But the next departure we’ll discuss, which took place earlier this month, actually went down in NYC. Here’s a report from the American Lawyer:

Senior leveraged finance partner John Cobb is heading to Paul Hastings from Weil, Gotshal & Manges, marking the 36th partner departure from Weil in the past six months, and the 15th in just the last three months alone, according to reporting by The American Lawyer….

Based in New York, Cobb, 45, joined Weil from Dewey & LeBoeuf, where he was chair of the leveraged finance practice. His departure from Dewey in March of 2012 came a week before a linchpin insurance group led by Alexander Dye left the firm, escalating the exodus to a crisis. Prior to Dewey, Cobb had been a partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy until May 2009.

In fairness to Weil, these departures have been balanced by new hires. As WGM pointed out to Am Law, the firm recently picked up Courtney Marcus in Dallas and Chris McLaughlin in London. Marcus is a fairly junior partner (she graduated from St. Mary’s Law in 1998), but her arrival is probably especially welcome, since the Sidley defections left Weil’s Dallas office with basically no women partners.

Are more Weil Gotshal partner departures in the works? That’s what we’re hearing. For example, word on the street is that another WGM partner will soon be announcing a move over to Gibson Dunn.

If you have information or opinion about recent or future Weil Gotshal departures that you’d like to share, please feel free to email us or text us (646-820-8477). Thanks.

UPDATE (3/19/2014, 1:15 p.m.): One source pushed back on the significance of these defections:

From what I hear, the Cobb departure was purely money. Not a huge surprise on a guy who has moved around that much (though I’ve only ever heard positive words on him)…. Have not heard anything on the Basile departure, but he looks about the vintage of some partners there who had their pay cut and left.

[My sense is that the firm] had a rough first half of 2013 but ended the year very busy and has stayed that way.

As noted at the start of this story, Weil has landed some plum engagements in 2014 so far.

(Flip to the next page for Joseph Basile’s announcement of his move from Weil Gotshal to Foley Hoag.)


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