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‘Nobody left’: KWM expected to close Munich as lease ends

King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) is expected to close its Munich office after failing to find support to recapitalise its European business.

The lease for KWM’s Munich office is expected to run out at the end 2017, and a number of partners and associates are understood to have left or handed in their resignations. In addition, at least one US firm is in talks to take on KWM’s office space.

Last month, Legal Business Euro Elite firm Flick Gocke Schaumburg hired two key private equity partners from KWM, including former Munich managing partner Christian Schatz and Martin Brockhausen. Their exits will leave the firm with just six partners in the city.

One former KWM partner told Legal Business: ‘Look at who has left, I’d be very surprised if they kept it going, given that the lease is due to run out shortly.’

Another former partner said: ‘They lost a few funds partners and IP partners. There is nobody left in Munich.’

In August KWM’s high-billing Munich-based funds partner Sonya Pauls left the firm for Clifford Chance, while in July K&L Gates launched an office in Munich with the hire of three lawyers from KWM, including investment management partner Hilger von Livonius. A number of associates are also understood to be moving to other international firms in the city.

KWM’s legacy SJ Berwin partnership is currently in discussions with a number of firms including Dentons. US outfit Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe is also thought to be interested in parts of the European grouping.

A former KWM partner said: ‘At one point Orrick were in the frame as a merger partner. Dentons would fit – the major practice they have in London is real estate and they could fill out in that – and KWM are their competitor on the worldwide China legal market.’

US firm Greenberg Traurig had also been linked to KWM’s European arm. However, executive chair Richard Rosenbaum took to Twitter to deny the firm had any interest in taking the entire EUME partnership. He said: ‘[It’s] not our style … they have great lawyers, some would be perfect fits with our culture and business strategies but nothing to say at the moment.’

A KWM spokeswoman said: ‘The views of former partners are not based on current or accurate information and should not be relied on. The firm has no plans to close its Munich office.’