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Eversheds real estate head and tax partner to form high-end boutique

The head of Eversheds’ international real estate group, William Naunton, is to leave the firm alongside tax partner Clive Jones to set up a high-end real estate boutique, after both have served a one-year notice period.

Jones and Naunton, who was a main board member until he stepped down in 2011, made their intentions clear when they handed in their notices in January, meaning they will be free to set up on their own in the New Year of 2015, with the unusually long notice period understood to reflect Naunton’s significant book of business.

Naunton leaves Eversheds after 24 years at the firm, having recently moved into high-value loan book acquisition work. He and Jones, who joined Eversheds six years ago from Clifford Chance, have also been assisting a growing number of private equity firms, typically on buildings worth between £100-250m.

Jones, who spent 12 years at Clifford Chance, specialises in handling indirect taxes on real estate. He led on Evans Randall Investment Management’s £452m acquisition of the Rhodium companies and the 5 Canada Square office building in Canary Wharf from The Royal Bank of Scotland in 2007.

With demand for office space in London hotting up after the subdued post-financial crisis years, Naunton and Jones are understood to be capitalising on the improved market, where a lack of available office space in prime locations has sparked competition among occupiers, as London’s corporate tax rates tempt more companies to headquarter in England’s capital.

‘It is an interesting move and William is a respected practitioner so I will be following it with interest.’

A senior real estate partner

If the pair’s ambition to service high-end real estate work is successful, it will put them in competition with Andrew Carnegie’s team at Clifford Chance, Justin Cornelius’ team at Berwin Leighton Paisner and Amanda Howard’s real estate finance group at Nabarro.

It is unusual to see breakaway boutiques in this sector of the market and one potential rival commented: ‘It is an interesting move and William is a respected practitioner so I will be following it with interest. Eversheds will be disappointed to lose him.’

David Watkins, head of real estate at Eversheds, said in an e-mailed statement: ‘It is correct that Clive and William will be leaving the firm at the end of their notice periods. Our understanding is that they intend to open a boutique real estate practice in 2015. I thank both of them for their contributions over the years.’

The move follows other recent spin-offs from top ten City firms, most recently Olivier Fréget, co-head of Allen & Overy (A&O)’s global antitrust group until the end of last year, who in May left the Magic Circle firm to launch boutique firm Cabinet Fréget – Tasso de Panafieu (CFTP).

In arbitration, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s London head Constantine Partasides QC in March launched Three Crowns alongside former colleague Jan Paulsson and Paris arbitration head Georgios Petrochilos. In April, Freshfields disputes partner Christian Borris left the Cologne office to set up a local arbitration boutique.