Fowler White Boggs Banker, one of Tampa Bay's largest and best-connected law firms, will soon split in two. It's unclear who will get to keep the venerable name of the 65-year-old firm.
"Without a doubt, both groups want the Fowler White name," said Robert Banker, a senior partner who has been with the firm since 1961. Banker will lead the splinter firm of about 150 to 200 lawyers and support staff.
Banker and Rhea Law, chief executive and chairwoman of the board, described the breakup as "amicable." Before the split, the firm has 550 employees, including about 200 lawyers.
Law, who also serves as chairwoman of the University of South Florida board of trustees, said the split was not driven by financial issues and no layoffs are planned.
"For reasons not completely known to me, corporate firms don't seem to match well with trial firms," said Banker, who will take the firm's insurance trial group with him.
Law said the split allowed the two groups to focus on "core competencies." The remaining group will focus on corporate law, such as tax, land use, real estate and lobbying, she said.
Fowler White has represented the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority; Bob Thomas, a rancher with thousands of acres slated for residential projects in Hernando, Pasco and Hillsborough counties; and the Heights of Tampa project, a $500-million mixed-use project earmarked for land near downtown. Banker also represents George Steinbrenner, longtime owner of the New York Yankees.
Fowler White's Web site lists offices in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, Tallahassee, Orlando, Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale.
The change will take effect Nov. 1. The spinoff firm will sublet the same office space it occupies now, and both firms will refer cases back and forth.
"We will continue our long-standing friendship," Law said.
Times staff writer Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report. Asjylyn Loder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 225-3117.