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‘Opportunistic’: Sidley Austin taps Simpson Thacher for brace of London private equity lawyers

With demand for City-based buyout specialists greater than ever, Sidley Austin is making good on its strategy of bolstering its European private equity practice with the hire of two lawyers from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett’s highly-rated practice in London.

Wim De Vlieger had been counsel since 2007 and Till Lefranc an associate at Simpson Thacher since 2008. The pair will become partners and will start at Sidley’s London office within the next two months.

De Vlieger advises clients across Europe on deals including acquisitions and consortia arrangements, high yield debt financings, IPOs and divestitures. His institutional clients include Apax Partners, KKR and TDR Capital.

LeFranc advises private equity, bank and corporate clients on M&A and capital markets transactions in Europe. His clients also include Apax and KKR.

Erik Dahl, co-head of Sidley’s private equity practice, told Legal Business: ‘The hires were opportunistic and part of a strategy to organically grow the practice to make Sidley one of the top firms for private equity in Europe’.

Dahl was part of a six-partner team which set tongues wagging among the PE community when it left Kirkland & Ellis in February 2016 with the express purpose of establishing a City private equity team at Sidley. Prior to that the firm only had one London private equity partner – Stephen Blackshaw – who had also co-headed the corporate group.

The other partners to exit Kirkland for Sidley at the time were Christian Iwasko, Fatema Orjela, banking partner Bryan Robson, corporate partner Sava Savov and tax partner Oliver Currall.

Sidley then re-launched in Germany in March, with London and Munich-based Dahl brought in to establish and lead the firm’s German office. To that end, he raided Kirkland once again for a seven-partner team to furnish the German office.

Sidley secured the corporate work of key Kirkland client TowerBrook Capital Partners with the relationship managed by Dahl and fellow corporate partner Christian Iwasko.

Dahl noted that the new hires will also be well placed to bring their finance expertise to bear on future opportunities in the restructuring market. ‘A potential uptick in restructuring transactions is something that the practice is keeping on its radar’.

Meanwhile Jason Glover, managing partner of Simpson Thacher’s London office, pointed to the high-profile hire of Ben Spiers from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer last year and the promotion of Clare Gaskell to partner in 2015 as evidence of the firm’s commitment to the London private equity practice.

‘We have staffed up our practices significantly, so when there are departures, we can continue to offer the same level of service to our clients,’ Glover added.