Legal Business Blogs

Dejonghe to stand again as A&O senior partner as six leadership hopefuls revealed

As voters head to the polls on UK general election day, Allen & Overy (A&O) has confirmed the names of six partners who will vie for leadership in its own election in February.

Senior partner Wim Dejonghe (pictured) is standing for a second term and will be up against Philip Bowden, the City giant’s well-regarded banking co-head.

The managing partner spot is more hotly-contested after Andrew Ballheimer said earlier this month that he would retire from A&O at the end of his current term on 30 April 2020. The London candidates are global head of projects Gareth Price and litigation head Karen Seward, two high-profile figures who will be considered serious propositions. Vicki Liu, the managing partner of Hong Kong and APAC and regional head of banking, has also thrown in, as has Dirk Meeus, the Belgium managing partner and co-head of global corporate in Brussels.

The leadership race comes at a crucial time for a firm grappling with thorny strategic decisions around its US strategy after Ballheimer and Dejonghe were forced to abandon marathon merger talks with West Coast firm O’Melveny & Myers in the autumn.

Ballheimer was elected as managing partner in May 2016 and before that was global co-head of corporate. He succeeded Dejonghe, who took up the role of senior partner at the same time.

Successors will be expected to take up the baton of redoubled investment in the US, with Ballheimer promising in September ‘more focus and speed of execution’ in its Stateside recruitment push.

Since then, the firm has had mixed fortunes on the US-front, adding US capability in London in the form of financial services regulation counsel Knox McIlwain as a partner from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton  in September, while the following month losing New York leveraged finance partners Alan Rockwell and Michael Chernick  to Shearman & Sterling.

The long-sought deal with O’Melveny also caused some corporate partners to shop around at US rivals, with the departure from London of respected corporate partners Simon Toms and George Knighton to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom only 10 days after the merger collapsed seen as significant collateral damage.

The election process will see voting take place in February with the senior partner to be announced on 24 February and the managing partner on 27 February. The successful candidates will take up their posts on 1 May 2020.

For more analysis on A&O’s election see our recent comment piece ‘If A&O’s new leadership team can’t get a mandate, who can?’