Washington law firm Wiley Rein will acquire lobby and consulting shop McBee Strategic, leaders of both firms said Friday.
McBee Strategic will be a subsidiary of the law firm and will continue to operate independently in its current offices near Mount Vernon Square. Wiley has signed a letter of intent, and the deal is expected to close by the end of 2014. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Wiley has about 275 attorneys, all in the District and Northern Virginia, and is known primarily for its telecommunications practice. McBee Strategic — founded in 2002 by former Democratic aide Steve McBee — earned $10.4 million in lobbying revenue in 2013, and has about 50 employees. All McBee employees will be part of the acquisition, and their compensation structure will remain the same, firm leaders said.
The acquisition was prompted by McBee’s decision to leave his firm to work for the New Jersey-based power company NRG Energy. He is to start Dec. 1 as the president and chief executive of NRG Home, the new clean-energy business unit within NRG Energy.
The new lobbying subsidiary will be managed by a committee of five McBee executives and two Wiley Rein executives, including Peter Shields, Wiley’s managing partner.
For Wiley Rein, the move is a notable departure from the firm’s roots in government contracts, telecommunications, insurance, trade and other regulatory work, and marks the second major structural change to be unveiled in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the firm announced it would be separating from its six-attorney bankruptcy practice, a relatively small but well-known group that has represented the defunct Washington law firm Howrey in its dissolution and is currently representing the trustee for the estate of bankrupt electrical contractor Truland Group. The firm at the time said the decision was part of a “new strategic plan.”
“We thought this fell squarely within our strategic plan,” Shields said of the McBee deal. “We’re very focused on all things Washington for our clients. It really complements what we’re doing. Public policy is a familiar area for us, and we wanted to grow that. It’s an area we think is important to our clients.”
In addition to traditional lobbying, McBee Strategic has several other business units: a government capital group that helps companies compete for government grants and contracts; a business advisory unit; a research and analytics group; and a public affairs unit that McBee acquired in 2012 when it absorbed the PR shop Gibraltar Associates and incorporated the PR shop’s 20 employees. McBee has recently been making a push into digital communications, including social media campaigns for corporate clients.
Wiley and McBee have worked on projects together in the past, including representing companies in cybersecurity, mobile health and drone-related issues.
“We think it’ll be the most diversified and integrated service provider in Washington,” McBee said. “I thought it’d be excellent for our clients and a way to leave the firm in a much stronger place as I transition out of it. It sets the firm up going forward to meet its high potential.”
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