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Rigotti to stand down in 2020 as HSF starts search for a new leader

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) CEO Mark Rigotti is to stand down from his role next year, with the firm now priming itself to select a new leader once his term ends on 30 April.

The firm’s council will be the body appointing the new CEO, and is at the early stages of launching a selection process for Rigotti’s successor. The new incumbent will occupy the sole CEO position after the firm switched from a dual model in 2017.

Rigotti (pictured) first took the leadership mantle at HSF alongside Sonya Leydecker in 2014. The decision to appoint Rigotti as sole leader followed a consultation with the firm’s partnership following the merger between Herbert Smith and Freehills in 2012, with Leydecker apparently surprised by Rigotti’s appointment.

The leadership role at HSF typically does not exceed two terms, while Rigotti told Legal Business his decision was due to a desire to return to his native Australia for ‘personal and professional reasons’ after ‘six years and a solid run.’

In 2018, HSF senior partner James Palmer saw off a challenge from disputes partner Mark Shillito to be re-elected as senior partner and chair of the firm, receiving approval from over 50% of the partnership. Palmer’s victory against former head of disputes Shillito exacerbated a long-running rift between HSF’s transactional and contentious factions, with the upcoming CEO selection process likely to produce similar challenges.

Most recently HSF produced a sluggish financial performance despite a strong year for the corporate practice, with revenue rising a pedestrian 4% to £966m, while profits rose 11% to £307m. PEP, meanwhile, matched overall profit growth, rising to £949,000.

For more background on Rigotti’s leadership of HSF, read ‘Taking over – one leader at HSF but is the culture clash over?’ (£)