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Kirkland private equity duo quit for Willkie Farr

Long-rumoured to be on their way out of the US giant, Kirkland & Ellis private equity duo David Arnold and Gavin Gordon are set to join Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

The pair joined Kirkland from Ashurst in 2010 in one of the firm’s first major laterals in private equity in the City. Clients Gordon has worked with include Cinven, ABRY Partners, KKR and Vista, while Arnold’s list include CapVest Partners and Montagu Private Equity.

Gordon commented: ‘Willkie has one of the most attractive cross-border private equity platforms and a stellar reputation across both the European and US markets, making it an ideal fit for our practice and continued growth.’

Willkie chairman Steven Gartner added: ‘Gavin and David, two well-established leaders in the market, are a terrific addition to our premier private equity platform, and to our London office. They join Claire McDaid, widely regarded as being one of the top private equity practitioners in the market, and a team that has added tremendous value to our clients and to our success. This new complement of talent further deepens our bench and benefits our clients worldwide.’

Their departure follows a number of high value hires for Kirkland in recent months as part of its push upmarket in the private equity space. The world’s highest earning law firm tapped Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer twice for two of the most touted private equity hands in the City, hiring Adrian Maguire in January 2019 and David Higgins in December 2017.

The hires from Freshfields also see the Chicago-based giant turn to more mainstream deal advisers, a move reflected in Jon Ballis becoming chair in 2020, in a move expected to usher in a more consensual style than current chair, Jeffrey Hammes.

Kirkland has also tapped Linklaters several times over the years, most successfully with the hire in 2015 of Matthew Elliott. The firm has, however, also seen numerous departures amid a clash between the London office old guard and new hires including finance partner Stephen Lucas from Weil Gotshal & Manges in 2014.

De facto office head Graham White, London funds practice founder Mark Mifsud and finance veteran Stephen Gillespie left between the second half of 2014 and the first half of 2015: the first two to Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; the other to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. High-yield guru Ward McKimm left for Freshfields in 2015, while Dechert recruited a private equity and finance team, including European debt finance team founder John Markland, between 2016 and 2017.

An even bigger hit came when Sidley Austin recruited six partners from the London office and seven from the Munich office between February 2016 and March 2017, including veteran private equity partners Erik Dahl and Christian Iwasko.

A Kirkland spokesperson said: ‘We appreciate Gavin and David’s contributions to the firm and wish them all success in the future.’