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White & Case to hire Linklaters big-biller Kelly to lead Asia push

White & Case is set to hire Linklaters‘ big-billing Hong Kong partner Christopher Kelly as its Asia head of corporate as develops its practice in the region.

The corporate partner has agreed to join White & Case as it makes an M&A push in the area. 

Kelly is one of Hong Kong’s most respected corporate lawyers and is ranked as a leading individual in Hong Kong by the Legal 500 for private equity work. He resigned from Linklaters in January.

He will be reunited at White & Case with former Linklaters colleague Peggy Wang, who left this time last year to become head of private equity in Asia. Kelly struck up a successful working relationship with Wang during their time at the Magic Circle firm’s Hong Kong office, controlling a number of key corporate relationships, including private equity giant Carlyle and commodity trader Noble Group.

The duo led on the Singapore-listed trader’s $1.5bn sale of a 51% stake in its agricultural unit to Chinese state-backed grain trader Cofco in 2014. Kelly had also recently acted for AIG on the $20.5bn spin off of is Asian insurance aim AIA group and on the $494m Hong Kong IPO of Macau’s largest casino operator SJM Holdings.

Kelly and Wang become part of a growing band of Linklaters alumni to move to White & Case following the arrival of City private equity duo Ian Bagshaw and Richard Youle from the Magic Circle firm in 2013.

Youle and Bagshaw have added over 60 lawyers to White & Case’s London private equity team since their arrival, recently hiring Clifford Chance private equity infrastructure partner Caroline Sherrell and Debevoise & Plimpton’s Kenneth Barry. Longstanding clients HgCapital, Mid Europa Partners, Global Infrastructure Partners, Triton Partners, Novator and Arle all followed Youle and Bagshaw with instructions for White & Case.

Kelly is one of several senior Linklaters partners based in Asia to depart recently, with the firm’s capital markets practice hit hard. Well regarded Dean Lockhart, who has spent the last 15 years as a partner in Singapore and Hong Kong, and Jeremy Webb have both retired at a young age from the firm this month. Fellow capital markets partners Jon Gray and David Ludwick have also departed in the past 12 months, leaving for White Shoe firm Davis Polk and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer respectively.