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‘No one had done it in the London market’: Clifford Chance’s former head of antitrust launches City boutique

Oliver Bretz, former global head of antitrust at Clifford Chance, is leaving after 15 years at the Magic Circle firm to launch a competition boutique in the New Year.

Bretz, who has spearheaded the firm’s antitrust unit since 2010, stepped down from the role in May after handing in his resignation to launch Euclid Law. The boutique will have offices in Brussels and London specialising in EU and UK competition, regulatory and trade law.

Having done stints at Linklaters and Simmons & Simmons before joining Clifford Chance, Bretz, is known for advising Barclays on the Forex and Euribor investigations and is representing oil major Shell in a European Commission probe into the alleged manipulation of oil prices.

He follows competition practice colleagues Stephen Crosswell, who headed the Hong Kong antitrust group, and Brussels partner Johan Ysewyn in exiting the firm. Crosswell joined Baker & McKenzie as a consulant in September while Ysewyn moved to Covington & Burling to head its competition practice in April.

Olivier Fréget, who was co-head of Allen & Overy’s global antitrust group, left that Magic Circle firm earlier this year to launch Paris competition boutique Cabinet Fréget – Tasso de Panafieu (CFTP).

Bretz told Legal Business: ‘I was based in Paris at the time [when Olivier launched his boutique] and vaguely got the idea from Olivier Fréget as they were the people who showed this could be done. What was interesting is that no one had done it in the London market.’

He added: ‘I see a gap in the London market for strategic advice for clients regardless of which law firm they are using. Law firms can only get a snapshot of a business, there is nobody that takes a holistic view so therefore the whole discourse around the client focus and industry focus [at international firms] is hollow because they will never have the complete overview. The competition authorities are talking to each other the whole time and will have a holistic view so I’ll be looking to replicate that in private practice, link up dots that people aren’t linking up and lose the conflicts which are just horrendous at the moment.’

Bretz’s contract with Clifford Chance is currently set to expire on 17 January with the Magic Circle firm having lost its battle to impose a non-compete clause as his contract only covers exits to rival law firms. A high-profile lawyer in the City and Brussels, Bretz expects to have three associates in place by the end of next year, maintaining that he is not worried about turning a profit in the first year of practice as ‘quality is the primary goal’.

A Clifford Chance spokesperson said: ‘We’d like to thank Oliver for his contribution during his time as a partner and we look forward to continuing to work for mutual clients alongside him at his new firm.’