17 April 2020

Morrison & Foerster hires Freshfields' US M&A head in New York

Portrait of Mitchell Presser

Mitchell Presser: 'It was clear that MoFo provided a unique opportunity for me to add value'

MoFo hails sustained New York push with eye-catching hire from UK rival

Morrison & Foerster (MoFo) has bolstered its New York corporate credentials with the hire of Mitchell Presser, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s US head of M&A and global transactions.

He will become co-chair of the firm’s global corporate department with current co-chairs Eric McCrath and Jackie Liu.

Presser’s departure is a setback for Freshfields as it continues to seek to build its New York M&A credentials in a crowded market — the hire of the former Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz partner was hailed as a major milestone by the firm when he joined in 2014.

MoFo, whose profits per equity partner broke $2m for the first time in 2019, said he would join its M&A and private equity investments & buyouts practice with his arrival underlining its commitment to growing both its New York office and its global corporate practice, having hired eight other partners in the city since the start of 2019.

Recent deals include advising Paine Schwartz Partners on its acquisition of Wawona Packing Company and on Wawona’s subsequent acquisitions of Gerawan Farming and Burchell Nursery to create the largest stone fruit business in the United States.

He joins a 400-strong corporate group at MoFo which advised deals with a total value of around US$117 billion in 2019.

Eric McCrath, co-chair of Morrison & Foerster’s global corporate department, said: “Mitchell’s reputation in agriculture, sustainability and life sciences sectors is unparalleled. Our firm has been a pioneer in these areas and increasingly people and companies around the world are focusing on them.”

Presser added: “It was clear that MoFo provided a unique opportunity for me to add value to a premier platform that had leading practices in forward-looking sectors, such as agriculture, life sciences and technology, where I have deep experience, and that my practice could be a catalyst to accelerate growth and leadership in these areas.”

The loss for Freshfields comes after its hire last October of leading M&A adviser Ethan Klingsberg from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton along with two other M&A partners and a litigation partner.

The high-profile hires were seen as a coup for the UK firm, which has long-held ambitions to build a heavyweight presence in the US to complement the rest of its international network.

Like its magic circle rivals — Linklaters, Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance — Freshfields is hampered by its relative lack of profitability in comparison to leading US firms. 

Freshfields was placed second in Mergermarket's global Q1 ranking having advised on $104.1bn of deals.

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