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Linklaters private equity ambitions dealt a blow by departure of Bagshaw and Youle

Linklaters‘ now decade-long effort to carve a credible position in the private equity market has been dealt a serious blow as co-heads Ian Bagshaw (pictured) and Richard Youle leave to join White & Case.

The high profile pair, long-term friends having started their careers together at Eversheds, had to build the Magic Circle firm’s private equity practice almost from scratch after the departure of Graham White and Raymond McKeeve in 2007, although it has been an enduring irony that their own reputations in private equity exceed that of the firm.

Youle, who joined the 2509-lawyer firm in 2001 from SJ Berwin (becoming a partner in 2006) and Bagshaw, who moved across from Clifford Chance in 2007, are credited with building a dedicated team of lawyers whose buyout expertise is supplemented by Linklaters’ strong banking, restructuring and high-yield capabilities. Newly promoted Alex Woodward, while still comparatively junior, shows significant promise.

But while the City buyout pair have undoubtedly pushed the private equity practice comfortably into the mid-market on the back of clients including HgCapital and Montagu Private Equity, many feel it has yet to make enough ground with leading sponsor clients.

News of Bagshaw and Youle’s departure will cause a stir in the private equity market but comes as no surprise, as the pair have been in talks with a number of US firms, including most recently Ropes & Gray and Fried Frank. It was these discussions with other firms that ultimately brought the pair’s future at Linklaters to a head, with two independent sources suggesting that it led to an internal ultimatum.

The move comes as White & Case’ London office pushes hard to raise its profile, having recently hired Kirkland & Ellis private equity star Ross Allardice. The top 15 Global 100 firm  today (17 October) welcomed the duo, with head of global M&A John Reiss commenting: ‘As the European economy continues its recovery, private equity in Europe will see increasing opportunities. The addition of these talented individuals will allow us to capitalise on these opportunities.’

However, rivals have yet to be convinced of the business case, with one leading private equity partner commenting: ‘I’ve more money on Linklaters doing well in private equity than White & Case, and another adding: ‘Linklaters are still a world class firm.’

A statement from Linklaters said: ‘We thank Ian and Richard for their contribution to the firm and wish them all the best in their future careers.

‘Linklaters has considerable strength in depth in its global private equity team and dual strength in both private equity and banking. We remain committed to providing our clients with excellent service in this area.’

The private equity market has been particularly fluid this year, with David Walker having left Clifford Chance for Latham & Watkins while Raymond McKeeve recently joined Jones Day from Berwin Leighton Paisner.

For a more detailed look at Linklaters’ private equity practice see Back at the gate: US invaders raise fresh questions over private equity status of CC and Linklaters