Jonathan Davis. (Courtesy photo)
Kirkland & Ellis has made another significant lateral hire, announcing Monday that Jonathan Davis, a promising young M&A partner, is joining the firm from Cravath, Swaine & Moore.
At Cravath, the 34-year-old Davis worked on teams that handled a stream of mega-deals. He was among the lawyers who represented Anheuser-Busch InBev in its $123 billion acquisition of SABMiller plc last year, and in 2015 he worked on a Cravath team that advised H.J. Heinz Co. in its $60 billion merger with Kraft Foods Group.
In an interview Monday, Davis said that he recently worked across the table from Kirkland on two deals. At Cravath, Davis was part of a team that represented Avon Products Inc. in a complex deal with Cerberus Capital Management, which Kirkland advised. He also helped Anheuser-Busch sell SABMiller’s Miller brands to Molson Coors Brewing Co., which Kirkland represented.
“I was very impressed with the people and organization they’re building here,” he said. “It’s a very energetic type of business-minded firm.”
Davis, who had spent his entire career at Cravath and made partner two years ago, also praised his former firm. “Cravath is a really great place. This has absolutely nothing to do with Cravath.”
The move is the second blow to Cravath’s M&A group this year. In April the firm lost star M&A partner Scott Barshay to Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, where he became global head of M&A.
Cravath and Kirkland had similar average profits-per-partner figures last year: Kirkland’s was $3.605 million; Cravath’s was $3.555 million. But Kirkland has a wider compensation range, which means its highest paid partners can make much more. Cravath still uses a relatively compressed compensation system, where the top partners make a little more than three times what the most junior partners make. At Kirkland, the ratio is at least eight-to-one.
That has helped to make Kirkland is one of the most aggressive firms in the lateral partner hiring market in recent years. Earlier this year, Kirkland lured top appellate lawyer Paul Clement to its fold by acquiring his entire 17-lawyer litigation boutique, Bancroft. The firm also snagged antitrust partner Matthew Reilly from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett this year.
“Jonathan is an extraordinarily bright, young M&A star and will be an invaluable addition to our top-tier M&A practice in New York,” said Jeffrey Hammes, chairman of Kirkland’s global management executive committee in a statement. A spokesperson for Cravath wished Davis well.
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