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Ashurst corporate head Stephen Lloyd quits in set-back for Anglo-Australian giant

Ashurst global head of corporate Stephen Lloyd has resigned in a move that comes within weeks of a vote for full financial integration with its Australian partner Blake Dawson and post-merger management elections.

Lloyd (pictured), who in July was appointed as co-head of the united firms’ corporate, commercial and competition team alongside Sydney-based Phil Breden, became the legacy Ashurst global head of corporate in 2010.

It is understood that Lloyd informed Ashurst’s senior management of his decision last month. The firm’s wider partnership is to be informed today (7 November). Lloyd is believed to have not yet finalised his next move, though he has spoken to a number of rival law firms.

The highly-rated corporate partner this summer advised Canadian private equity house Alberta Investment Management Corporate on its £935m acquisition alongside OMERS Private Equity of Vue Entertainment from Doughty Hanson.

The departure will be regarded as a set-back for Ashurst, coming a month after the firm voted ‘overwhelmingly’ in favour of full financial integration with the legacy Blake Dawson. Ashurst in October also voted in litigator Ben Tidswell as the new chairman of the combined firm in a surprise result that saw long-time Ashurst head Charlie Geffen defeated.

At the time of his election Tidswell denied claims that the defeat of Geffen reflected negative feelings towards the merger stating: ‘That would be completely wrong. I have spoken to an enormous amount of partners and the mood is one of excitement. The merger went through with a very large majority and at no point at all was that message coming through.’

Lloyd, who trained at Herbert Smith before working at Weil Gotshal & Manges, is particularly well regarded for private equity work, having handled regular instructions for Apax. He is believed to have spoken to a number of rival practices including Allen & Overy and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, though Lloyd had previously pulled back from a move to the Wall Street leader.

While Lloyd, who was personally involved in the Blake Dawson talks, has spoken of his support for the Australian union, the departure comes amid expectations that a handful of London corporate partners close to Geffen will depart following last month’s management vote.

A spokesperson for Ashurst commented: ‘Stephen has made a considerable contribution to the corporate practice and the firm. He is a talented lawyer and we will be sorry to see him go but we wish him the very best for the future.’

For further comment on Ashurst’s merger with Blake Dawson see Comment: The air of unreality – can the big deal deliver for Ashurst?