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KWM funds architect Blake latest to exit troubled firm

US firm O’Melveny & Myers is the latest to benefit from partner exits at King & Wood Mallesons‘ European arm, as head of funds Jonathan Blake will join the firm.

Blake (pictured), who is considered a pioneer of the legal market for investment funds in Europe, will be assisting O’Melveny in advising private and public funds and institutional investors in private equity.

O’Melveny’s head of investment funds John Daghlian said: ‘Jonathan helped define the private equity industry. I know that his dedication to client service, his energy, and his extensive market knowledge will be a tremendous asset for the firm, and a great addition to our team.’

Formerly senior partner at KWM’s European arm, Blake was the architect of the firm’s pioneering move into private equity funds and lead the firm through the traumatic post-2008 period.

In his role as senior partner he initiated legacy SJ Berwin’s merger deal with a funds counterpart at King & Wood. Stephen Kon, who replaced Blake as senior partner in 2012, executed the deal with then managing partner Rob Day.

Influential funds partner Michael Halford, whose resignation along with several other heavyweights late last year halted the firm’s recapitalisation plans, was considered Blake’s protégé.

Since Halford’s resignation and the firm’s failure to recapitalise the business the legacy SJ Berwin practice has filed a notice to intention to appoint administrators. Quantuma is expected to replace AlixPartners as proposed administrators.

On Tuesday, legacy SJ Berwin filed for an extension to appoint administrators after the previous notice has expired. It had been valid for ten working days since 22 December when it was filed.

The new extension will give the firm’s various suitors more time to finalise deals to take on parts of the legacy business, including agreements about work in progress within already announced team moves such as those going to DLA Piper, Greenberg Traurig, Baker & McKenzie, Reed Smith and KWM’s Chinese arm.

However, the second notice may not necessarily last for another ten days, as such notices can be halted at any point by the firm or its creditors.

Meanwhile, staff at the firm will go without pay following the breakdown of negotiations with Barclays.

Earlier this week KWM Europe and Middle East managing partner Tim Bednall sent a memo to all staff confirming the firm would no longer be able to pay any salaries.