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Linklaters throws down gauntlet as Latham funds co-head makes rare City switch

In an unusual City move from a US firm to the Magic Circle, Latham & Watkins co-head of investment funds Tom Alabaster is to join Linklaters three years after joining Latham from Carlyle.

The hire comes a few months after Linklaters launched a refreshed strategy to focus on financial sponsors and fund formation and Alabaster, who starts next month, is a significant coup for a firm less known for fund formation work compared to rivals Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Clifford Chance.

Previously senior counsel at Carlyle Group’s London and New York offices, Latham hired Alabaster in April 2014 to boost its links with the private equity giant. His clients also include Ares Management, Evercore Partners and General Electric.

Speaking to Legal Business, Linklaters head of investment management Matthew Keogh described fund formation as one of the pillars of the firm’s new strategy, announced in the Spring.

He said that the firm had broadened its focus on transatlantic operations: ‘Tom is coming in because he has a first-class pedigree in private equity work but also a broad range of skills working in both the US and UK. The fact that the firm has supported his hire is an indication of our ambitions.’

The firm’s full-service offering was one of the factors attracting Alabaster, according to Keogh. In particular he noted Linklaters’ presence in Luxembourg and the increasing amount of work coming out of the country as one of the factors that would give the new hire more means to thrive compared to Latham.

Linklaters is considered to have the least-effective US practice among the City’s top four, a particular weak spot at a time when so many US funds are investing in Europe.

However, Keogh pointed to the ‘enormous amount of work’ the firm was doing for clients such as KKR and added that in terms of investment management Linklaters has ‘equal quality in our US office than any of the US firms’.

Latham did not comment.