James Woolery, who abruptly abandoned his leadership post at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft in early 2015 to co-found the hedge fund Hudson Executive Capital, has moved on once again. Hudson announced Monday that Woolery, 47, is leaving the activist hedge fund, citing personal reasons for his departure.
The move is Woolery’s fourth in six years. In 2011 he left Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where he was an M&A partner, to co-head the North American M&A group at JPMorgan Chase & Co. He joined Cadwalader in 2013 with a generous three-year deal that guaranteed him at least $8 million annually, more than any other partner at the firm. He was made deputy chairman of the firm and co-leader of its M&A group. Then in January 2015, shortly before he was slated to become the firm’s chairman, he left to found Hudson Executive Capital with Douglas Braunstein, the former vice-chairman of JPMorgan Chase.
Braunstein bought out Woolery’s ownership interest in Hudson, according to Reuters. Woolery did not respond to a request for comment.
Cadwalader’s overall performance suffered during Woolery’s tenure. In 2014, his last full year at the firm, it posted the worst financial results of any major New York firm, with profits per partner down 15.3 percent, to $2.2 million. On the M&A side, the firm didn’t crack the M&A league tables: In the rankings for 2014 by Mergermarket, Cadwalader didn’t appear among the top 20 firms by deal volume or value.
Cadwalader managing partner Patrick Quinn said he hadn’t spoken to Woolery about leaving Hudson and doesn’t know what he plans for the future, but he said the firm still values its relationship with him.
“We’ve had the opportunity to work with Jim on recent client matters and have had a terrific and positive relationship,” Quinn said. “He’s a talented guy and very entrepreneurial. We look forward to having a relationship with him in the future.”
Soon after he joined Hudson, Woolery explained to The American Lawyer that he was presented with an opportunity he couldn’t turn down. “I am an entrepreneurial person,” he said, adding that running a hedge fund would give him the chance to apply his ideas about corporate governance.
Hudson’s stated approach is to invest in companies that it believes can be run more profitably and use “constructive engagement” with management to improve performance, instead of threatening proxy fights to replace management. It has recruited more than 40 current and former chief executives as co-investors, and it raised $250 million when the fund launched, according to Reuters.
The firm has made several successful investments, according to Reuters. Among them, it bought a 5 percent stake in heart valve maker HeartWare International. The company was later sold to Medtronic Inc. for $1.1 billion, allowing Hudson to double the value of its holdings.