Further evidence of significant lateral movement between US players in London emerged today (7 February), with news that one the City’s most respected finance veterans, Chris Kandel, has quit Latham & Watkins after nine years to join Morrison & Foerster’s resurgent City arm.
Kandel, a standout performer with a proven track record in leveraged finance, acquisition finance and restructuring, joined Latham in 2010 from White & Case, where he was co-head of the London bank finance practice. He was global co-chair of Latham’s finance offering.
He is the third partner to join MoFo’s London finance practice in less than a year, following the arrivals of Benoit Lavigne from Ropes & Gray and Caroline Jury from Clifford Chance.
‘Chris is a market-leader with more than 20 years of experience in the London finance market,’ said Larren Nashelsky, chair of Morrison & Foerster. ‘He has extensive experience leading leveraged finance and restructuring matters under both English and US law, setting him apart in the market and further building our ability to support our clients with their most complex cross-border financial transactions.
‘I believe the acquisition finance market is looking for more choice,’ said Kandel. ‘MoFo has all the right elements in London to make an impact — great M&A, real estate, funds and competition lawyers, a growing finance team and, for deals that run into problems afterwards, a standout US and London restructuring practice. The vision here is compelling.’
MoFo’s Europe managing partner Paul Friedman told Legal Business: ‘Momentum builds – when you bring strong people over and they do well and believe in what they are doing here, other people knock on your door. Chris has former colleagues in our office and heard from them about the transformative things that we are doing. That’s frequently how some of the best recruiting happens – it’s like a magnet.’
Conversations between the firm and Kandel took a number of months, said Friedman. Kandel will become the third partner in MoFo’s ten-lawyer City finance practice, but Friedman said the firm planned to grow the team significantly over the next few months. Its London office currently counts 70 lawyers.
Kandel was part of a four-partner team moving to Latham from White & Case in 2010 in a move which planted the seeds for the Los Angeles-bred firm’s dominance in Europe’s leveraged finance market. The team also included Latham’s current London managing partner Jayanthi Sadanandan and City finance chair Sam Hamilton.
Mandates Kandel has acted on include the €6.8bn financing for China National Chemical Corporation’s acquisition of shares in Pirelli from Camfin and the $3.29bn bond offering by SoftBank.
His departure is a rare reversal in Latham’s long-going City hiring spree. Those recently joining the firm, which last year became the first to ever report revenues over $3bn, include infrastructure private equity experts Brendan Moylan and Conrad Andersen from Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy respectively.
The firm also beefed up its finance ranks over the summer, hiring restructuring star Yen Sum and her fellow finance partner Jennifer Brennan from Sidley Austin.
While Kandel’s hire may be the most significant to date in the City for MoFo, it is not the first time it has hit fellow West Coast player Latham in the UK in recent years. In 2015 it recruited private equity partner Graeme Sloan to head its London corporate team and serve as global co-chair of its M&A practice, followed by Sloan’s Latham colleague Vladimir Maly a few months later.