JPMorgan Hires Cravath Lawyer Woolery as Co-Head of North American Mergers

JPMorgan Chase & Co. hired James Woolery, a partner at the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, as co-head of North American mergers and acquisitions, part of management changes in the investment banking group.

Chris Ventresca, who has co-managed the North American M&A division since 2008, will remain a co-head with Woolery, who is 41, JPMorgan said in a statement today. Jimmy Elliott, who had been global M&A head for five years at JPMorgan, will focus on working with clients and hold the title of global chairman of M&A. He won’t be replaced as global head of the group.

Jeffrey Stute, who had co-run the North American M&A group while advising on deals in the health-care industry, will move over to be North American head of JPMorgan’s broader health-care coverage group. He has advised on deals such as Universal Health Services Inc.’s acquisition of Psychiatric Solutions Inc. and Merck & Co.’s takeover of Schering-Plough Corp.

Robbie Huffines, who previously held that health-care post at JPMorgan, will become a vice chairman of investment banking. Huffines worked on the sale of Guidant Corp. to Boston Scientific Corp. and is currently advising Sanofi-Aventis SA on its proposed acquisition of Genzyme Corp.

M&A Lawyers

Woolery is one of a handful of top M&A lawyers to attempt a switch to investment banking. In 2000, Cravath partner Robert Kindler left to become a banker at Chase Manhattan Corp., now part of JPMorgan, and another partner, George Bilicic, went to Merrill Lynch & Co. In 2005, Dennis Hersch left Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP to join JPMorgan.

Kindler now runs M&A at Morgan Stanley, Bilicic is at Lazard Ltd., and Hersch has left banking.

Among bankruptcy lawyers, Harvey Miller of Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP and James Sprayregen of Kirkland & Ellis LLP both entered banking in the last decade and later returned.

At Cravath, Woolery has had a hand in several of the biggest mergers in recent years, counseling Affiliated Computer Services Inc. on its $5.8 billion sale to Xerox Corp. He is currently representing a board panel at Massey Energy Co. as the coal miner weighs selling itself.

Woolery, who starts Feb. 7, was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He graduated from Wake Forest University and earned his law degree from the University of Kentucky, according to the Cravath website.

Cravath had the fifth-biggest market share among U.S. law firms for merger advice over the past three years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, advising Burlington Northern Santa Fe on its sale to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Pepsi Bottling Group Inc. on its sale to PepsiCo Inc. The firm also represented a special committee of J. Crew Group Inc. on its proposed $3 billion leveraged buyout.

JPMorgan finished third in global M&A in 2010 with $381.4 billion in deals, behind Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Bloomberg data show.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jeffrey McCracken in New York at jmccracken3@bloomberg.net; Zachary R. Mider in New York at zmider1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jennifer Sondag at jsondag@bloomberg.net.

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