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Gibson Dunn strikes again to land HSF’s global head of capital markets

Herbert Smith Freehills’ global capital markets chief, Steve Thierbach, is set to leave the firm for Gibson Dunn & Crutcher as part of a double swoop by the US firm, with capital markets partner also Christopher Haynes departing, HSF has confirmed.

Thierbach is one of the City’s most respected capital markets lawyers and his exit to Gibson Dunn alongside Haynes is part of the US firm’s private equity play in London. The pair’s arrival will add finance weight to Gibson Dunn and allows the firm to push on from its raid on Ashurst last year of private equity trio Charlie Geffen, Mark Sperotto and Jonathan Earle. For HSF, the exit of Thierbach and Haynes is seen as a major blow.

A dent to HSF’s ambition of developing a stronger corporate brand, the duo’s exit to Gibson follows a steady depletion of the firm’s City capital markets team. Jim Wickenden, who Thierbach succeeded as capital markets chief, departed for Allen & Overy in late 2012 and Alex Bafi, who sat on the firm’s partnership council, left at the start of this year to join Clifford Chance. Their exits leave English-qualified Charles Howarth as HSF’s most senior capital markets partner at a time when US finance is increasingly being used to back European M&A.

US-qualified Thierbach joined HSF five years ago in a rare lateral hire from Linklaters, where he founded the Magic Circle firm’s US securities practice and subsequently headed its US practice in London. He started his career at Sullivan & Cromwell.

Thierbach mainly worked on the banking side of capital markets mandates, rather than the corporate end, and has been instructed by a string of banks on recent IPOs, including online takeaway company Just Eat’s float in April 2014. 

Haynes, while a more junior partner, has built a strong reputation and was seen as Thierbach’s heir apparent for the head of capital markets role. Barclays and Deutsche Bank are among his biggest clients, with Haynes handling Sky’s £1.36m share issue as HSF represented the media firm on its acquisition of Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia for £7bn last year to create a pan-European pay-TV giant.

Scott Cochrane, HSF’s UK head of corporate thanked the pair for their contribution to HSF’s capital markets practice. He said: ‘HSF has a longstanding commitment to serving clients with a top-tier global capital markets practice which complements our eminent global M&A offering. We are committed to continuing the growth of the practice.’