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High yield, high stakes – DLA Piper makes key investment in deal finance with hire of ex-CC partner

It’s historically proved one of the hardest practice areas for City firms to break, proving often impenetrable for even elite London players, but DLA Piper is hoping its Anglo/American reach can help it make a mark in one of the most lucrative areas of deal finance.

In a major investment in its City finance team, DLA Piper has recruited former Clifford Chance (CC) high yield and leveraged finance specialist Tony Lopez, who joins the firm’s eight-partner London structured finance team today (4 November).

The US-qualified Lopez was formerly one of CC’s most prominent specialists in high yield bonds, a strategic area of leveraged finance that has gone through a boom in Europe in the last three years as sponsors turn to the capital markets in place of limited bank debt.

The growth on high yield issuance in European leveraged buyouts and corporate takeovers has seen most top London firms attempt to build credible coverage in the area. However, the market, which was developed in the US, has traditionally been dominated by advisers like Latham & Watkins, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Cahill Gordon & Reindel.

Lopez will be the first high yield specialist at DLA Piper’s London arm as the firm looks to grow its capability. Having joined CC’s New York arm in 2006 from Cahill Gordon, Lopez transferred to London in 2011.

DLA Piper head of structured finance Martin Bartlam told Legal Business: ‘We are looking to develop high yield for a mixture of reasons. Firstly, it reflects our platform, as the biggest law firm in the world. We get a lot of interest coming from various markets in developing a bond practice and there are opportunities in emerging markets and also more developed markets.

‘Also, with the banks being more constrained with the recent reforms, people are looking at alternative forms of funding and bonds are playing a more important part in that. Bringing in a US-qualified specialist is good for coordinating with high yield bond specialists in NY and elsewhere.’

Lopez, who left CC in August this year, will work under finance and projects partner Bartlam, who joined DLA Piper’s structured finance team in January 2012 having headed Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe’s London arm.