Merger talks between Allen & Overy and US firm O'Melveny & Myers have collapsed.
Confirmation of the aborted deal follows possibly the longest courtship in legal history - the firms have been in talks for some 18 months. Apparently the ultimate sticking point was an inability to agree a valuation that would remain stable over the coming six months.
News of the early discussions leaked in Spring 2018 following a not-so-secret rendezvous between the heads of the two firms. O'Melveny, which is headquartered in Los Angeles, batted away the story at the time saying that it had "no plans to merge and never have". Allen & Overy said back then "we have said for several years that we are open to considering a merger with the right partner in the US", but played coy and didn't name O'Melveny.
The two firms also met under a cloud of secrecy in summer last year in a Frankfurt hotel to continue their talks. At that time the firms continued to remain tight-lipped about their courtship even though the entire legal community and its dogs, knew about the talks. But now the pursuit has come to an end. Still, they'll always have Frankfurt.
The merged name may have been the sticking point
A&O has long-held ambitions for a US merger, and OMM would have brought powerhouse US coverage with its NY and DC presence and three offices in California. A merger would have created a transatlantic beast of 3,000 lawyers. In revenue terms its combined £2bn would have placed it behind only Kirkland & Ellis ($3.7bn) and Latham & Watkins ($3.4bn). And O'Melveny could have had a fresh start for its Wikipedia page.
Other UK firms that have looked for a relationship across the pond include Ashurst with aborted attempts to hook up with Sidley Austin, Fried Frank and Latham & Watkins (not all at once). Freshfields and Debevoise wooed each other many moons ago, only for things to go cold. BLP failed to make things work with Greenberg Traurig, before finding love with Bryan in a Cave.
Other firms that have pulled off transatlantic coupling include Lovells with Hogan & Hartson, Norton Rose Fulbright with Chadbourne & Parke, Eversheds with Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, and DLA with Piper Rudnick.
Allen & Overy confirmed in a statement that the firm had held talks with O'Melveny but despite "some compelling synergies* " the firms "mutually decided not to continue" the discussions. Hinting that it was still in the market for love, A&O added that it was "remaining open to considering opportunities for larger combinations that may arise in the future".
O'Melveny, having said in its statement in Spring 2018 that it was not looking to merge, finally fessed up that it "had held discussions about a possible combination" (it's ok, we all knew). But although it wasn't meant to be, the US firm said that both firms "developed a great deal of mutual respect and expect to remain in close contact in the service of our shared clients".
* Compelling synergies = (1) Mutual desire for dominion over the western world. (2) Desire for Os and ampersands in their names. (3) Everyone speaks English.