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A&O high yield head retires ahead of Shearman tie-up as firm makes first combined partner promos

Prominent high-yield partner Kevin Muzilla has retired from Allen & Overy, in the latest departure from the practice ahead of next month’s A&O Shearman mega-merger.

Ranked in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame for London high-yield, Muzilla joined A&O from Milbank as a partner in 2009, and has since headed up the firm’s leveraged finance teams, first the US and then Europe.

He has been active in the European high yield market since its inception, and has been involved in many market-defining deals, including advising the
underwriters on what was the largest Russian LBO financing in history
– the acquisition of Russian transportation group FESCO, which won the Legal Business Finance Team of the Year award in 2014.

His departure follows that of Marwa Elborai, also a Legal 500 high-yield leading individual, who left for Kirkland & Ellis last month after joining from Shearman in late 2022, while fellow high yield grandee Ward McKimm recently confirmed he would be retiring from Shearman ahead of the 1 May combination with A&O.

Another high yield specialist partner, Jeanette Cruz, also left A&O last August, according to filings on Companies House.

A&O said in a statement: ‘We would like to thank Kevin for the contribution that he has made during his time at A&O and wish him all the best for the future.’

A&O’s London high-yield bench is by no means totally depleted. Prominent partners remaining include US-qualified John Kicken, who joined in 2014 from Cravath, and Brad Weyland, who came in as a partner in 2021 from Latham & Watkins, where he was a counsel.

The magic circle firm is currently gearing up for the completion of its combination with Shearman; a deal which is of driven in large part by complementary finance expertise at both firms. Shearman’s London office includes Legal 500 high-yield leading individual Trevor Ingram and next generation partner Gordon Houseman, who made partner at the US firm in 2015 and 2021 respectively.

Elborai’s departure to Kirkland was followed last week by the news that A&O debt finance partner Vanessa Xu, who was made up in 2017, would also be joining the US firm’s London office.

However, these departures are to be offset by the first combined round of partner promotions at A&O Shearman, with 40 new partners announced in a joint press release issued today (8 April).

Of these, 32 come from A&O and eight from Shearman. This balance was ‘consistent with the relative size of the two firms and their geographic footprints’, the press release said, with A&O’s 80% share in line with its 78% share of the merged firm’s total headcount, according to data from last year’s Global 100. Last year A&O promoted 36 partners with 12 in the UK, while Shearman promoted ten, with one in the UK.

All nine of the new London partners came from A&O, with three each in banking and corporate. Thirteen have been made up to partner in the US, including five from A&O and eight from Shearman. The total also included 13 new partners in continental Europe, four in Asia, and one in the Middle East, all of which were from A&O.

Banking was the biggest overall practice area with ten promotions all from A&O. Corporate was in second with nine, including eight A&O corporate partners and one Shearman M&A partner. The new partners also included six in litigation, five in international capital markets and four in tax.

Full list of partner promotions:

Allen & Overy

New York
Lena Kiely, International Capital Markets
Puja Patel, Corporate
Derek Poon, International Capital Markets

Washington DC
Michael Sykes, Banking
Gideon Wiginton, Banking

Tim Bates, International Capital Markets
Imogen Carr, Corporate
Vanessa Morgan, Management
Rebecca Noble, Banking
Rachel O’Reilly, Banking
Kate Pumfrey, Litigation
Alex Shandro, Corporate
Jason Symington, Banking
David Weaver, Corporate

Axel de Backer, Banking

Luke Whibley, Banking

Laurie-Anne Ancenys, Corporate
Charles del Valle, Tax
Anne-Caroline Payelle, Corporate

Catharina Glugla, Corporate

Rauni Ahammer, Banking

Tim Drach, Tax
David Schmid, Litigation
Sebastian Schulz, Litigation

Baptiste Aubry, International Capital Markets
Franz Kerger, Tax
Madrid, Spain
Ishtar Sancho, Tax

Arash Koozehkanani, Litigation

Mohammad Andrew, International Capital Markets

Matthew Del Rosso, Banking
Jessica Lee, Banking
Ayesha Thapar, Corporate

Shearman & Sterling

New York
Melisa Brower, Compensation, Governance and ERISA
Jonathan Cheng, Antitrust
Joshua Ebersole, Litigation
Jai Garg, Compensation, Governance and ERISA
Christopher Glenn, Mergers & Acquisitions
Leila Siddiky, Litigation

Washington DC
Brian Hauser, Antitrust

Michelle Kwan, Emerging Growth

The promotions are broadly balanced along gender lines, with 23 men (57%) and 17 women made up.