Mayer Brown found the new head of its U.S. upstream oil and gas group with a Houston hire this week.
Carl von Merz joins the firm from Bracewell. Leaders at Mayer Brown said the addition of von Merz helps meet client demand for expertise in the midstream and upstream sectors, as well as the need for his experience in Latin America, particularly Brazil and Mexico.
Houston office managing partner Neil Wasserstrom said von Merz is the latest addition in a wave of high-profile lateral hires in Houston that includes Dale Smith, Phil Lau and Vera de Gyarfas.
“These additions signify the continued advancement of the firm’s strategy to build out its energy capabilities and investment in attracting top-tier talent,” Wasserstrom added.
Von Merz said Mayer Brown offered a “tremendous” platform for his oil and gas and private equity practice. He also pointed to the firm’s expertise in the public and private capital markets, which have been key drivers of the U.S. upstream and midstream sectors.
According to The Lawbook’s Corporate Deal Tracker, von Merz was part of the Bracewell team that advised Apache in the $367 million sale of its oil and natural gas producing properties in the western Anadarko Basin of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas to Presidio Petroleum in 2019.
In 2018, von Merz was part of a Bracewell group that represented Blue Ridge Mountain Resources in its $1.4 billion merger with Eclipse Resources.
More recently, von Merz said he advised a private equity-backed midstream client in its renegotiation of a key gas gathering agreement and acreage dedication with an anchor shipper that was going through the bankruptcy process.
Though the oil and gas business is famously hard to predict, von Merz says he would not be surprised to see continued consolidation in the U.S. energy industry, particularly in the shale-focused upstream sector. Over the past couple of weeks, the industry has seen the Chevron/Noble and 7-Eleven/Speedway deals.
“Many observers of the U.S. energy industry have been saying for some time now that consolidation was coming,” von Merz said. “The demand shock due to COVID and the production increases that took place earlier this year both seem to be factors in this process.”
In addition to public M&A activity, von Merz says he has seen private equity funds increase efficiencies by consolidating portfolio companies with complementary assets.
“The market is still fluid and we may see some creative new strategies emerge as companies attempt to navigate challenges and seek opportunities in the current environment,” von Merz said. “All of this makes for an exciting and interesting time to be an energy transactional practitioner.”
Mayer Brown is von Merz’s sixth law firm. The early stages of his career were spent at King & Spalding and Vinson & Elkins before he moved in-house at Statoil for a five-year period. He then returned to private practice at Kelly Hart & Hallman before moving to Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and, eventually, Bracewell.