Wachtell’s home at the CBS Building in Manhattan.
(Photo by Adam Kuban)

 

While one current partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz made headlines Monday over his dismay at President Donald Trump’s tweets, another lawyer who made partner at the firm nearly a decade ago has quietly left Wachtell’s ranks.

Ante Vucic, 43, was one of five lawyers elected to Wachtell’s exclusive partnership in late 2008 before transitioning to an of counsel role last year. In May, the corporate and M&A expert left the firm’s sole office at the CBS Building—better known as the Black Rock—in midtown Manhattan for what could be a new career in the Midwest.

Vucic’s New York State bar registry still lists him as working at Wachtell, but a woman who answered the phone at a number listed for him at the firm confirmed his departure. She did not provide contact information for Vucic and a Wachtell spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.

In late 2014, Vucic and his wife paid nearly $1.73 million for a five-bedroom home in the affluent Chicago suburb of Glencoe, Illinois. Vucic told Chicago Business in early 2015 that he bought the property as a vacation home for his family. A phone number listed for Vucic at a separate address in Chicago’s River North neighborhood was disconnected.

Vucic, a Windy City native, did not respond Monday to messages sent to his personal email addresses inquiring about his decision to leave Wachtell. Property records show that Vucic lived in an apartment building near Wachtell’s New York headquarters until May 2016. A phone number for that residence was also disconnected. Vucic is not registered to practice law in Illinois.

According to archived versions of Wachtell’s website and different iterations of its masthead—the 244-lawyer firm is one of the few left in Big Law to list all of its partners and of counsel at the top of various filings—Vucic became of counsel in early 2016 after more than six years as a partner.

Like many lawyers in the high-powered transactional group at Wachtell, which boasted the highest profits per partner in the Am Law 100 last year at roughly $5.8 million, Vucic worked on a bevy of big deals. He was one of two partners at Wachtell who handled a $400 million initial public offering in late 2015 for online dating giant Match Group Inc., a float that yielded $5 million in legal fees and expenses for the firm. Vucic also advised Match earlier that year on its $575 million acquisition of online dating website PlentyofFish Media.

Earlier in his Wachtell career, Vucic was part of a team of lawyers from the firm that advised Publicis Groupe SA in 2013 on its ultimately unsuccessful $35 billion merger with advertising rival Omnicom Group Inc. Vucic also took the lead that year representing TowerBrook Capital Partners LP on its $835 million purchase of premium jeans maker True Religion Apparel. In 2012, he led another Wachtell team that counseled R360 Environmental Solutions Inc. on its $1.3 billion sale to waste disposal company Waste Connections Inc.

A former colleague of Vucic’s at Wachtell told The American Lawyer that Vucic wanted to live in Chicago, where he has family. Unlike some other Am Law 100 firms, Wachtell is not keen on its lawyers consistently working remotely, the source said, and Vucic lost his physical office at the firm’s New York headquarters about a year ago. Vucic remained listed on Wachtell’s website until late May.

Vucic has apparently inspired other former Wachtell lawyers to leave the firm. In an interview with a Croatian newspaper in 2015, former Wachtell associate Richard Barbour II credited Vucic, whom he worked with at the firm, for encouraging him to pursue his passion of moving to the Balkans to pursue a television career. A phone call to Barbour in Los Angeles was not returned Monday.

Even in today’s robust lateral market, partner departures from Wachtell ahead of retirement age are exceedingly rare. Latham & Watkins hired Barry Bryer in 2005, while executive compensation partner Michael Katzke left in 2007 to pursue a career in social work, although he returned to legal practice two years later. Other former partners, such as Gavin Solotar and Adam Chinn, have either taken in-house jobs or gone into business. (Chinn, who sold a boutique art advisory firm last year to Sotheby’s, took over as COO of the auction house in February.)

Vucic’s departure from Wachtell comes three years to the month that another young partner, Jeremy Goldstein, left the firm to start his own executive compensation shop. The difference, of course, is that Vucic was of counsel at the time of his exit.

The American Lawyer reported last summer on the departure of former Wachtell of counsel Maura Grossman, who started her own consulting firm after refining the use of machine learning techniques to use in electronic discovery.

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