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Rolling up the sleeves: Eversheds sets out corporate ambitions with hire of Simmons’ UK corporate head

Eversheds Sutherland is ramping up its City investment plans as the firm looks to become a leading player in the global upper mid-market corporate space.

The firm said today (4 November) it had hired the former head of UK corporate at Simmons & Simmons, Giles Dennison (pictured), in London. Dennison was a Simmons lifer, becoming partner in 2005 before heading the corporate team since 2012.

Dennison is Eversheds’ second corporate partner hire in London in the last year, following Stuart Womersley from Addleshaw Goddard last November, and becomes the firm’s 18th corporate partner in the City. Eversheds’ co-head of global corporate and M&A Richard Moulton, however, told Legal Business he wants that group to expand to 25 partners in the next three to four years.

‘We want to keep building and investing in the City, and following the US merger with Sutherland [Asbill & Brennan in 2017] we want to be a leading global player in the upper mid-market, £200m to £1bn deal range,’ he commented. ‘We do deals larger than that, we’ll do some smaller than that, but that’s the sweet spot and where we want to position ourselves. No firm is dominating in there.’

Moulton believed there was no market leader in that space because of its fragmentation and prevalence of smaller firms. Eversheds’ lead sector groupings for the corporate team included financial services, energy, technology, and diversified industrials.

‘If you’re going to dominate in that market or be a leading player, it’s going to be firms that really crack the global piece, particularly when you’re acting for the larger corporates,’ he added.

Dennison told Legal Business his client base includes UK and US corporates from the TMT, consumer, diversified industry and healthcare sectors, which would be particularly bolstered by Eversheds’ US presence.

‘I spend a bit of time out there but it’s not the same as having the access to the network here,’ he said. ‘There’s a sense of ambition and growth here and a feeling that both as a corporate group and as a firm, they’re on a journey.’

Moulton said Eversheds’ M&A group was as busy as it had ever been despite the patchier market, given the firm’s broad international work which left it less exposed to uncertainty such as Brexit, while mid-market deals tended to always be busier than large cap anyway.

Highlight deals in the past year or so include advising Dairy Crest on its £975m sale to Canadian dairy company Saputo, advising the shareholders of John Guest Holdings on its £687m sale to Reliance Worldwide Corporate, and Rolls-Royce on the £500m sale of its unprofitable commercial marine division to Nordic technology company Kongsberg Gruppen.

The firm would also look to invest in its broader network, having made eight other corporate hires across the US, Manchester and Europe – particularly the Netherlands and Germany – in the last 12 months.

‘It’s hard yards but we’ve got a hungry group of partners who are very ambitious and rolling their sleeves up,’ Moulton added. ‘It’s a little bit of new kid on the block and taking people on in the City.’