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KWM halts recapitalisation as four heavyweights announce exits

The beleaguered European arm of King & Wood Mallesons has been hit today (27 October) with yet another blow as it has emerged that four heavyweights are to quit its City office, including private equity partner and major biller Michael Halford, former managing partner Rob Day, as well as corporate finance partner Andrew Wingfield and Jonathan Pittal.

Their sudden resignations coincide with a partnership meeting held this afternoon where the group was informed of departures and, according to communications with Legal Business, have laid doubts over the finances of the firm.

In a statement the firm said: ‘King & Wood Mallesons can confirm the resignations of London partners Michael Halford, Jonathan Pittal and Andrew Wingfield. Rob Day has also indicated his intention to resign. These resignations do not impact our employees.’

‘In light of these resignations, the firm has paused its recapitalisation programme in EUME (having received commitments for the requested amount of capital) whilst it assesses the financial impact. We anticipate this process will be complete within four weeks.’

The four partners departing are considered major billers at KWM Europe, with three of them among the 20 highest-billing partners at the firm. Halford in particular is a senior figure in KWM’s European funds team, a trophy practice. It is not known whether these partners have firms to go to yet.

A former partner said: ‘All four leavers are highly mobile and are thought to being circled by many US and magic circle firms. This is the body blow in confidence that the (new) management team could have done without.’

The Asian legal giant has sought to steady its European business following a string of high-profile exits this year.

The firm’s European partnership has undergone a testing 18 months, having recently re-organised its structure, moving from 17 to three divisions, asked 24 partners to leave in March and increased its loan facility with Barclays earlier this year.

This month the firm replaced both leaders for its legacy SJ Berwin practice, opting for Frankfurt partner Michael Cziesla as EUME senior partner, defeating Dubai-based disputes partner Tim Taylor QC. Earlier this October the partnership elected Tim Bednall as EUME managing partner, defeating Gareth Amdor in a two-man race for the position.

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Read more: ‘Comment: How KWM became Rogers & Wells II but with less staying power’