Kirkland Nabs Cravath Partner For Growing M&A Practice

Kirkland & Ellis has hired Cravath Swaine & Moore partner Eric Schiele to beef up its growing mergers and acquisitions practice, the firm announced Monday.

Schiele, an M&A heavyweight who has represented Disney in its pending $66 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox, Time Warner in its pending $109 billion sale to AT&T, Anheuser-Busch InBev in its $123 billion acquisition of SABMiller, and Northrop Grumman in its pending $9.2 billion acquisition of Orbital ATK, is joining Kirkland in its New York office.

“Like most Cravath partners, my anticipation was I’d be there for my entire career,” Schiele told Big Law Business. “It was a difficult decision to leave the place.”

He joined Cravath as an associate in 2000 after graduating from the University of Texas School of Law, and was promoted to partner in 2008.

He said never set out to switch firms but was swayed after the the job offer at Kirkland presented itself. “It took awhile for me to get to a decision,” Schiele said.

Schiele said he was attracted by the “entrepreneurial” spirit of Kirkland’s M&A practice.

Chicago-based Kirkland has historically had a strong private equity presence and only recently began growing out a more traditional, public company M&A practice, according to a firm spokesman.

The firm hired Skadden partners David Fox and Daniel Wolf to begin expanding the M&A practice in 2009. Scheile joins former Cravath M&A colleagues Sarkis Jebejian and Jonathan Davis, who joined Kirkland in 2012 and 2016, respectively.

Of Kirkland’s approximately 2,000 attorneys, 170 partners do deal work and only a few dozen are focused on public company M&A in the U.S., according to a firm spokesman. Yet the team packs a punch. The firm landed at spot five in Bloomberg’s 2017 ranking of law firms by M&A deal volume, with 458 deals worth a combined $221 billion last year.  

“It’s a very dynamic group,” said Schiele. “They’ve had a lot of success, the brand is spectacular, and they’re continuing every day to make sure they get more and more market share.”

In the first few weeks of 2018, Kirkland has already announced it is advising Wyndham Worldwide Corporation in a pending $1.95 billion acquisitions of La Quinta Holdings Inc. and Spectrum Brand Holdings, Inc. in its agreement to sell its battery business to Energizer Holdings, Inc. for $2 billion.   

A spokesman for Kirkland declined to say whether Schiele will continue to represent high-profile clients including Disney and Time Warner.

“I am fortunate to have worked with a lot of great clients and I look forward to continuing existing relationships and building new ones,” Schiele told Big Law Business.