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Skadden and Paul Weiss pick off Linklaters partners as M&A and fin reg duo make moves

Paul Weiss, Kirkland, and Skadden were all active in London lateral hires this week, with two partner exits from Linklaters amid the moves.

In the latest of a flurry of high-profile hires, Paul Weiss has launched a Brussels practice with the appointment of antitrust partners Richard Pepper and Ross Ferguson.

Pepper moves from Macfarlanes, where he advised on cartel and behavioural investigations, global merger control and foreign direct investment. Key mandates for Pepper include advising Dow on its merger with DuPont and Telefónica on a joint venture with Liberty Global to form Virgin Media O2.

Previously at Simpson Thacher, Ferguson’s practice focuses on cross-border transactions, EU Foreign Subsidies Regulation filings, antitrust investigations and foreign direct investment reviews. He advised Refinitiv on its acquisition by the London Stock Exchange Group and KKR on its acquisition of ContourGlobal.

The firm also brought Matthew Hearn, partner at Linklaters since last year, into its London M&A practice. The move marks the firm’s fourth partner hire from Linklaters, following Dan Schuster-Woldan in January, Nicole Kar in December, and Will Aitken-Davies in September.

Also hiring from Linklaters was Skadden, which hired Sebastian Barling into its financial institutions regulatory group. Barling made partner at Linklaters in 2018 and is recognised as a Legal 500 next-generation partner for financial services: non-contentious and regulatory. He comes to the firm with broad experience advising financial services clients on a wealth of UK and EU regulations.

Hearn’s move to Paul Weiss and Barling’s to Skadden add to a rising total of departures from Linklaters, which lost a total of 12 partners in London in 2023, according to Edwards Gibson’s annual partner moves report.

Meanwhile, Kirkland & Ellis has bolstered its debt finance practice with the hire of partner Vanessa Xu from Allen & Overy. Xu, whose practice specialises in advising financial sponsors on cross-border leveraged finance transactions, is a Legal Business one to watch for debt finance. Dual-qualified as a solicitor in England and Wales and as an attorney and counsellor-at-law in New York, Xu joins other recent hires to Kirkland’s London office, including October arrivals Ian Barratt and Sinead O’Shea, and Marwa Elborai, who is set to join this month.

Elsewhere, Lewis Silkin has added to its commercial disputes offering, with the addition of litigation partner Duran Ross. A Legal 500 rising star for commercial litigation: premium, Ross trained at Lewis Silkin before moving to Linklaters and then to boutique disputes firm Hausfeld. His client book includes major banks, startups, sports brands, founders, family offices, high-net-worth individuals, and insolvency practitioners.

Speaking to Legal Business about his move, Ross said: ‘I trained at the firm back in the day, between 2011 and 2013, and I stayed at the firm for two years post qualification. More recently the disputes practice at Lewis Silkin has been growing and there was an opportunity to come back. There’s lots of growth at the firm, and it feels like coming back home.’

While Ross is a general commercial practitioner, he identifies tech disputes as a key market trend. ‘Tech disputes have been a growth area over the last ten years, and crypto disputes are here to stay. The tech space is rife with disputes: changes in management, new software, new legal issues around AI and copyright. It’s definitely a growing area,’ he said.

Clyde & Co has appointed contentious construction partner Robin Wood to its projects and construction practice. Moving from CMS, Wood, a solicitor advocate, has considerable experience working across the transport, infrastructure, water, electricity transmission, energy, chemical process plants, dredging and marine construction sectors.

In private wealth, Charles Russell Speechlys has strengthened its international offering with the addition of partner Amira Shaker-Bortman. Moving from McDermott Will & Emery, Shaker-Bortman’s client base is primarily based in the Middle East, where she advises Ruling Family PEPs and their corporate structures, alongside other ultra-high-net-worth individuals and family offices.

She has a particular focus on advising ultra-high-net-worth female individuals, to empower them to best manage their assets.

‘My clients are primarily a mixture of Middle Eastern high-net-worth individuals and PEPs. Given the fact that Charles Russell Speechlys is a top-ranked private client firm, with a big investment into the Middle East region, I felt it was a perfect alignment of the strengths and interests of our respective clients,’ Shaker-Bortman said.

Discussing market trends in the private wealth space she added: ‘There is a move to formalise the arrangements of private wealth. There is a remarkable generational shift where Middle Eastern female, ultra-high-net-worth individuals are exercising control and direction over their assets. These clients need advisors that understand their cultural needs but are also commercially savvy.’

Eversheds Sutherland has appointed DLA Piper veteran Barney Smedley to its restructuring practice. Smedley, whose standout mandates include advising on various phases of the Mamas & Papas turnaround and the insolvencies of the Beales department store group, joins recent lateral hires to the firm’s commercial practices including Tim Fosh, Kiran Arora, Walid Salib, and Ben Davis.

Meanwhile, Fieldfisher has hired pensions partner Oliver Reece from PwC. Reece brings with him a team that includes directors Lindsay O’Farrell and Daniel Fowler and associate, Larisa Gordan. He headed PwC’s pensions legal team for 18 years, having worked previously at the Pensions Regulator.

In international moves, Ashurst has bolstered its corporate offering with the appointment of Nicolas Bombrun as partner to its Paris office. A former Shearman & Sterling partner, Bombrun specialises in the energy sector, particularly nuclear, and the biotech and technology sectors.