Buchanan Ingersoll In Merger Talks With Fowler White Boggs

, Daily Business Review


Pittsburgh-based Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney and Tampa-based Fowler White Boggs are deep in merger talks, according to top management at both firms.

"Florida is a growth state and an important market for our firm and more importantly our clients," Buchanan CEO John A. "Jack" Barbour said in a statement. "Fowler White enjoys a stellar reputation in Florida, and we have discussed with them how a combination would enhance both firms' capabilities to service clients and further each of our strategic objectives. Discussions are ongoing, so it would be premature for me to speculate on the outcome."

Fowler White chair and CEO Rhea Law confirmed the merger talks, saying Buchanan "has a very expansive number of practice groups and depth in those practice groups. So it's a particularly interesting connection. We are dominant in Florida, and they are dominant in the Northeast, and those are fast-growing areas with good prospects."

Another attraction with the proposed merger is Fowler White would gain a Miami office. When Fowler White Boggs split from Fowler White Burnett in the late 1960s, a lawsuit settlement stipulated that Fowler White Boggs could not open an office in Miami and Fowler White Burnett could not be in Tampa. A merger with Buchanan Ingersoll apparently would cure that conflict, and sources said they doubted Fowler White Burnett would pursue a challenge.

Sources say Buchanan Ingersoll and Fowler White Boggs began talking last summer, but they are still a couple months from any announcement. Partners at the firms have not voted on the merger, and a thorough vetting process is currently under,way.

The combined firm would have 550 lawyers. Buchanan Ingersoll has 450 lawyers in 15 offices primarily in the Northeast but also in Florida and California. The Florida offices are in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa.

Fowler White Boggs has 97 lawyers in five Florida offices: Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Tampa and Tallahassee.

Merger Circuit

"I think it's a great idea," said Amy Levin, a recruiter with the Legal Group in Dania Beach. "Fowler White is a small firm, and Buchanan is a national firm. Both firms are looking at growth. This builds a full-service firm for Fowler White and provides an expansion into Florida for Buchanan."

Sources said Fowler White has been looking to merge with a top law firm for at least a year. Previous talks with Memphis-based Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz fell apart for unknown reasons. More of a transactional law firm, Fowler White has struggled in recent years and lost numerous key partners in north Florida.

Buchanan Ingersoll is no stranger to large-scale mergers, though it has been a few years since the firm got into the merger circuit.

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