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Ashurst blow as King & Spalding secures four-partner team for Tokyo launch

King & Spalding has chosen Tokyo as its second base in Asia, hiring a team of Ashurst partners led by Tokyo managing partner John McClenahan to spearhead its launch.

The US firm has hired Ashurst partners John McClenahan, Mark Davies and Chris Bailey in Tokyo, and Rupert Lewi from Perth, to form the core team and launch the firm’s Tokyo office.

Project finance specialist McClenahan will continue his management position into King & Spalding, serving as managing partner of the firm’s 18th office, and has 20 years’ of experience in the Japanese market. Energy partner Lewi, meanwhile, returns to the Japanese capital five years after co-founding what was then Blake Dawson’s Tokyo office. The Australian firm then merged with Ashurst in 2012. He previously spent 12 years in Tokyo as a foreign lawyer and has a book of utility company contacts in the country.

Project finance and M&A specialist Davies and arbitration partner Bailey have a decade of experience each in Japan. Bailey arrives with experience of major African and Middle Eastern corruption investigations before regulators including the US Department of Justice and the UK’s Serious Fraud Office.

Well-known in the Tokyo market, the group represent major Japanese and Korean energy firms and advise on related work with export credit agencies, trading houses and financial institutions. With King & Spalding eager to spread its energy advisory network, the four-partner team have experience financing and acquiring companies and settling disputes arising out of major energy projects.

‘We are excited to build a new office around a top-tier team with deep roots in the Japanese legal marketplace and expertise in energy, projects, finance, construction and international arbitration,’ said King & Spalding chairman Robert Hays. ‘Given our momentum globally, strategic focus on energy, the growth of energy and related activity in Asia-Pacific, and the opportunity to launch with an internationally recognized group, Tokyo presents a real opportunity for us.’

McClenahan added: ‘The King & Spalding name is a calling card in the energy and international arbitration space in Asia,” said. “As a platform for growth, we see this as a great opportunity for each of us and we are excited about collaborating with our new colleagues across the firm.’

King & Spalding has rapidly grown its Singapore offering since opening in 2010, expanding to 10 partners focused on power, oil and gas and international arbitration. Richard Nelson, the former head of the Southeast Asia energy practice at Herbert Smith Freehills and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom projects partner Simon Cowled have both arrived in the past year.

Ashurst announced yesterday that Robert Burrows will take over as managing partner in Tokyo as it also changed leadership in Hong Kong.