Attorney Howard Weitzman said he and about 65 fellow lawyers plan to dissolve the 39-year-old Wyman, Bautzer, Kuchel & Silbert law firm and join Chicago-based Katten Muchin & Zavis.
The Los Angeles lawyers will join Katten Muchin's existing, 10-attorney West Coast operation. The Chicago firm will be renamed Katten Muchin Zavis & Weitzman, and Weitzman will be named chairman of its national executive committee.
Weitzman said a total of about 190 lawyers and support staff will join Katten Muchin, a 330-member firm that specializes in banking and corporate law and has worked extensively with the Chicago White Sox and Bulls sports teams.
The 65 lawyers joining the new firm represent about 80% of Wyman, Bautzer's lawyers. Some lawyers apparently have decided to join other firms or practice independently.
Founded in 1952 by Eugene Wyman and Marvin Finell, the Wyman firm became a corporate- and entertainment-law powerhouse with the help of Gregson Bautzer, a Hollywood lawyer who joined the group in 1967.
With Bautzer's death in 1987, however, the firm became embroiled in an increasingly acrimonious power struggle that came to a head with the defection of some key partners who joined onetime managing partner Terry Christensen in the newly formed Christensen, White, Miller, Fink & Jacobs firm.
Wyman, Bautzer and Christensen, White then became locked in a legal battle over claims that the new firm illegally raided clients and other charges.
Weitzman, best known for his successful defense of car maker John DeLorean on federal drug sale charges, joined the firm in 1986 and became head of its three-member management committee after the defection.
People familiar with the firms say Wyman, Bautzer had sought to merge with the Chicago firm. But that plan bogged down when Katten Muchin learned that the Los Angeles firm had not carried legal malpractice insurance and might bring liabilities from any past missteps to the merged firms.
Karen Randall, Alan Croll, Craig Crockwell and Alan Goldman are among the attorneys joining the Chicago firm, Weitzman said. The Wyman, Bautzer firm said it expects to wind up its affairs by March 15.