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Forward thinking: Ashurst appoints independent non-execs to its board

Ashurst has taken the unusual step of appointing two high level non-executive directors to its board as the firm beds down its merger with Australia’s Blake Dawson and seeks experienced counsel on its strategic direction and corporate governance.

Former director general of The Takeover Panel Robert Gillespie will join the board of Ashurst with immediate effect and David Turner, chairman of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), will join the board of Ashurst Australia (formerly Blake Dawson) on 1 June 2013.

Gillespie held the director general position from 2010 until April this year. Earlier high level roles include his appointment as chief executive officer of UBS Investment Bank for Europe Middle East and Asia in 2004 followed by vice-chairman of UBS in London a year later.

Turner, meanwhile, has been chairman of the board of CBA since 2010, having been appointed a member of the board in 2006. He was chairman of aerospace technology company Cobham until 2010 and has held a number of directorships including Whitbread and the Iron Trades Insurance Group.

The appointment of entirely independent board members is still unusual among law firms. Other similar moves include SJ Berwin’s high profile appointment of former Linklaters managing partner Tony Angel as a non-executive director in 2011, to advise the firm on its strategy.

Ashurst’s senior partner Charlie Geffen said: ‘Both Robert and David are seasoned board directors and during their careers they have accumulated considerable experience both domestically and internationally. Ashurst will greatly benefit from having such experienced independent board members who can provide external advice and expertise.’

Gillespie added: ‘Ashurst has undergone a marked period of transformation in recent years, which makes it a fascinating time to join as an Independent Board Member. I hope that my experience in the City and internationally will bring some relevant experience to the table from which the firm can benefit.’

Ashurst board will now include Geffen, managing partner James Collis, chair of Ashurst Australia Mary Padbury and chief financial officer Brian Dunlop, together with Singapore banking partner Matthew Bubb, Madrid head of real estate Cristina Calvo, London corporate partner Anthony Clare, German corporate partner Reinhard Eyring, London energy and transport partner Logan Mair and London dispute resolution partner Ben Tidswell.

Ashurst Australia’s board, meanwhile, comprises Padbury, managing partner of Ashurst Australia John Carrington, alongside Geffen and local partners Elspeth Arnold, Tony Denholder, Sarah Dulhunty, Paul Jenkins and Ian Williams.

Turner said: ‘The legal sector is undergoing a period of significant change and Ashurst itself is going through an exciting period of transformation. Having worked internationally in sectors which have also seen changes over the years, I hope to be able to bring some insights and perspectives to the firm.’