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Revolving doors: DLA continues corporate march with trophy hire as Keystone makes Middle East move

DLA Piper made the most notable hire of the past week, announcing the addition of veteran Jonathan Earle to add further strength to its expanding London corporate practice.

Earle, who joined Gibson Dunn & Crutcher after 16 years at Ashurst in 2014, was part of a major push by the LA-based powerhouse into UK M&A that was fronted by Earle’s colleague Charlie Geffen.

Having departed Gibson Dunn at the start of this year, he joins the DLA team next month and brings a wealth of experience on high-profile deals including advising: Stars Group on its $4.7bn acquisition of Skybet from CVC Capital and Sky; Markit on its proposed listing on Nasdaq; and William Hill on its acquisition of BetDigital and OpenBet.

His hire is a notable milestone in a period of recent expansion in corporate, this month recruiting private equity partner Piero Carbone from McDermott Will & Emery, and the additions of Tracey Renshaw (Clifford Chance, in 2019) and Martin Nelson-Jones (Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, in 2018), all into London corporate.

Bob Bishop, global co-chair of DLA Piper’s corporate group, said: ‘Jon’s appointment further demonstrates our ongoing commitment to invest in the growth of our London corporate team, having recently hired partners Piero Carbone, Tracey Renshaw and Martin Nelson-Jones. We’re particularly excited about Jon’s public company client base and his deep gaming/betting sector experience.’

However, another partner moved out of DLA on Friday (14 August). Dimitri Papaefstratiou is leaving his role as partner in the firm’s energy and infrastructure finance team after 13 years to join EY Law.

The project finance lawyer advised sponsors and lenders in PPP/PFI transactions across sectors, including thermal and renewable power, transport infrastructure, oil, gas, commodities and water.

His work was predominantly centred around energy and infrastructure projects in the Eastern Mediterranean region, namely Greece and Africa.

He joined the firm in 2008 as senior associate and was promoted to partner in 2012. At EY he will work again with former colleague Charles Morrison, whom EY hired to lead a new energy sector group for the legal arm of the Big Four accountant.

Said Morrison: ‘Having worked with Dimitri, I know first-hand the depth and scope of his expertise. He has an exceptional track record in the sector and will add real value to our clients as they navigate the challenges posed by Covid-19 and climate change.’

Elsewhere, Keystone Law – having announced a spate of partner hires last week – is expanding its global footprint with a Middle East launch. Keystone Law Middle East LLP has now been approved by the Abu Dhabi Global Market in the heart of the UAE’s capital city, where the firm’s new head office will also be based. The firm says a second office in Dubai is likely to follow due to strong interest from lawyers in Keystone’s model.

The Abu Dhabi operation will be led by Waseem Khokhar, who previously established PwC Legal in the Middle East and more recently led the growth of DWF’s Middle East offices up until 2018. He will be joined by Saleem Khokhar, who will be the firm’s chief operating officer and was previously the head of equities at First Abu Dhabi Bank.

Finally, Dentons has strengthened its Luxembourg offering with the hire of Jean-Luc Fisch to head its tax practice in the grand duchy. He brings more than 20 years’ experience in tax matters related to investment funds, M&A, private equity, real estate and capital markets.

Fisch joins from Luxembourg-based law firm Elvinger Hoss Prussen, where he had been a tax partner since 2012. Prior to that, he was a partner at Allen & Overy, where he worked for 13 years. He focuses on tax structuring for cross-border investments and has extensive experience in setting up pan-European investment platforms for investment funds. He also advises on employee benefit schemes as well as carried interest structuring.