Legal Business

The $50m question – will Akin Gump’s record-breaking City acquisition pay off?

There was a rushed engagement before the union and there is unlikely to be a long honeymoon for the 26 Bingham McCutchen partners, including ten financial restructuring partners, switching to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld later this month. Such is the size of the investment the Dallas-bred giant has made, with the total number of lawyers set to transfer across London, Hong Kong and Frankfurt expected to reach around 60, the team led by financial restructuring guru James Roome will have to hit the ground running when they transfer in late October. This is, after all, a team with around $50m in annual revenue, by some yardsticks the largest team hire ever executed in the Square Mile.

The move, which Legal Business first revealed online in early September, shifts virtually all of Bingham’s London arm, minus two partners whose futures are undecided.

Legal Business

Bingham’s Hong Kong office looks set to close as Akin Gump pounces again

Bingham’s Hong Kong office looks set to close as Akin Gump pounces again

Bingham McCutchen’s Hong Kong office has been put in a precarious position with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld making a two partner hire to take the number of partners joining the firm from Bingham to 28, while remaining capital markets partner Vincent Sum’s future is unclear.

Transactions partner Mark Fucci and funds partner Anne-Marie Godfrey will join Akin Gump’s Hong Kong office, following in the footsteps of restructuring partner Naomi Moore and corporate duo Matthew Puhar and Charles Rogers.

Fucci focuses on cross-border matters and is plugged in to the transferring Bingham team’s restructuring group spearheaded by James Roome in London. Godfrey advises investment managers on the establishment and regulation of hedge funds and private equity funds.

Last partner standing Vincent Sum, who specialises in capital markets including derivatives and securitisations, is understood to not be joining Akin Gump due to its lack of activity in his practice area.

Sum’s exit would lead to the closure of what was a six-partner office, with lawyers qualified in five jurisdictions including Hong Kong, England and Wales, the US, Australia, and Ireland, in the province just two months ago. The loss would be a blow to Morgan Lewis & Bockius, which is in merger talks with Bingham, as it does not have a Hong Kong office of its own.

The London-led implosion of Bingham’s international office started with a 22-partner exit, with Akin Gump initially securing 18 partners in London, two partners in Frankfurt to open the firm’s first German office and a further two in Hong Kong.

This was swiftly followed by a further four partners making the same switch, a group that included Hong Kong-based Puhar. All 28 partners are expected to join Akin Gump within the coming weeks.

Akin Gump chairperson Kim Koopersmith said: ‘Mark and Anne-Marie are terrific practitioners who join a truly exceptional group of lawyers poised to make a tremendous impact on our firm and help strengthen our brand as a global institution.’

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Akin Gump finishes the job and takes four more partners from Bingham

Akin Gump finishes the job and takes four more partners from Bingham

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has continued its takeover of Bingham McCutchen’s $50m revenue London office with the hire of four more partners leaving only two partners representing the beleaguered US firm in the City.

The firm, which last week brought in a 22-partner team that pulled partners from London, Frankfurt and Hong Kong, has almost finalised plans to rebrand Bingham’s office with an Akin Gump plaque, with the two remaining partners understood to be looking to move to other firms in the City.

London-based corporate partner Vance Chapman, a private equity specialist with close ties to the esteemed restructuring practice spearheaded by James Roome, Barry Russell and James Terry, that has already agreed to join Akin Gump, moves across alongside funds duo Thomas ‘John’ Holton and Thiha Tun. The moves take the number of partners at the combined entity up to 40.

Holton’s exit will add to Bingham’s woes, with his switch as part of the London-led exodus creating the first US dent. Holton is a longstanding partner at Bingham, with 19 years under his belt, and splits his time between Boston and the City. He focuses on launching and restructuring private equity and hedge funds and adds US regulatory experience in London at a time when firms – including international juggernaut Baker & McKenzie – have sought to build such capability.

Hong Kong-based corporate partner Matthew Puhar follows fellow corporate partner Charles Rogers and financial restructuring partner Naomi Moore to Akin Gump’s Hong Kong office. His exit takes Bingham down to just three partners in the province, making it half the size it was just a fortnight ago.

Akin Gump chairperson Kim Koopersmith said: ‘The chance to welcome these additional stellar lawyers further reinforces this outstanding opportunity. This continued expansion of our capabilities and services in these critical markets is further evidence of our commitment to the development of a truly robust international platform that plays to our strengths and benefits our clients.’

Sebastian Rice, who will continue to head Akin Gump’s post-merger London office, added: ‘The arrival of this team will undoubtedly be of great benefit to our top-flight London funds practice and enhance our globally recognised corporate team.’

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Secured: Akin pulls off one of the largest ever City acquisitions with 22-partner Bingham team

Secured: Akin pulls off one of the largest ever City acquisitions with 22-partner Bingham team

Bingham McCutchen’s London office, which turned over $52.3m last year, will merge with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in a move that will more than double the size of the firm in the City.

Akin Gump’s 19 partner office in the City will be combined with a 22-strong team from Bingham that includes partners in Hong Kong and Germany. The move sees 10 join as partners from Bingham’s much lauded financial restructuring team and will become effective over the coming weeks and is expected to push Akin Gump’s London office into the top 20 international firms in London by turnover.

The move will bring together Akin Gump’s financial restructuring practice in the United States, led by partners Daniel Golden, Ira Dizengoff, Fred Hodara and Mike Stamer, with the London-based leaders of Bingham’s financial restructuring group, partners James Roome, Barry Russell and James Terry. Bingham’s financial restructuring team played a leading role in representing creditors in high-profile European restructurings following the fallout from the financial crisis, including the bondholders of the Icelandic banks Kaupthing, Glitnir and Landsbanki.

Sebastian Rice, who head Akin Gump’s London office, will be managing partner of the combined team, with Bingham’s London head James Roome becoming senior partner.

In total, 17 partners are set to make the switch across the City, including competition lawyer Davina Garrod, tax specialist Stuart Sinclair and former Simmons & Simmons managing partner Mark Dawkins, a litigator who only joined Bingham two years ago. The combination has resulted in a promotion for finance lawyer Mark Mansell, who moves from counsel to partner.

The switch by Frankfurt-based financial restructuring partners Christian Halász and Axel Vogelmann will also launch Akin Gump’s first office in Germany.

‘This will be transformative in enhancing our brand as a leading global firm,’ said Kim Koopersmith, Akin Gump’s chairperson. ‘The attorneys joining us are hugely respected for their strength in areas that are key to our firm and clients, including financial restructuring, finance, disputes, tax, regulatory and corporate, and will build upon our own very strong teams in these and other areas. This move also helps us diversify into key areas across Europe and Asia.’

Rice described the union as ‘strategically compelling’ in a move that will enable the combined entity to better ‘present ourselves to potential clients here in London, in Hong Kong and in established and emerging markets across the globe’.

Roome added: ‘Our financial restructuring team has, for many years, admired their stellar practice in the United States, which represents many of the same clients that we do. The combination of our practices in London, Hong Kong and Frankfurt with Akin Gump’s financial restructuring team in the United States and excellent energy, telecoms and investment funds practices in Europe and Asia will be a major step forward for our team. We are all thrilled to be part of this once-in-a-career opportunity.’

Five Bingham partners in London didn’t make the move across to Akin Gump, with private investment funds partner Thiha Tun, competition lawyer Frances Murphy, M&A specialist Vance Chapman, Elisabeth Baltay in structured financing and Thomas ‘John’ Holton, who split his time between Bingham’s City and Boston offices, left in limbo as the US firm’s management mulls a merger with rival Morgan Lewis. The exodus leaves Bingham with just one remaining partner in Germany, with transactions lawyer John Schmitz splitting his time between Frankfurt and Washington DC. In Hong Kong, four partners remain across Bingham’s corporate, capital markets, financial restructuring and private equity practices.

The move was revealed by Legal Business at the start of September, after a tough year which saw revenues fall at Bingham’s office.

Full list of partners joining Akin Gump from Bingham:

London

Competition, Davina Garrod

Corporate, Angeli Arora

Finance, John Clark

Finance, Mark Mansell

Finance, Stephen Peppiatt

Finance, Sarah Smith

Financial Restructuring, Tom Bannister

Financial Restructuring, Neil Devaney

Financial Restructuring, Liz Osborne

Financial Restructuring, James Roome

Financial Restructuring, Barry Russell

Financial Restructuring, Emma Simmonds

Financial Restructuring, James Terry

Financial Regulatory, Christopher Leonard

Financial Regulatory, Helen Marshall

Litigation, Mark Dawkins

Litigation, Richard Hornshaw

Tax, Stuart Sinclair

Frankfurt

Financial Restructuring, Christian Halász

Financial Restructuring, Axel Vogelmann

Hong Kong

Corporate, Charles Rogers

Financial Restructuring, Naomi Moore

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Bingham’s City arm faces restructuring team exodus to Akin Gump

Bingham’s City arm faces restructuring team exodus to Akin Gump

Bingham McCutchen is set to suffer the departure of a team of City partners from the firm’s trophy financial restructuring group to US rival Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld‘s London office.

Sources close to Bingham have confirmed the move will involve a significant chunk of the highly ranked London restructuring team, which could threaten the continuation of its restructuring capability in the City.

The restructuring practice in London, which is ranked among the top tier of firms in The Legal 500, is led by London managing partner James Roome, who co-heads the firm’s global restructuring group. The London team currently comprises 14 partners, including highly rated names such as London finance group head Barry Russell, Tom Bannister, Neil Devaney and James Terry.

News of the departures follows a tough year of falling revenues at Bingham McCutchen, which Roome attributed to a much softer debt restructuring market in 2013. London revenue was down 4.4% to $52.3m in 2013 from $54.7m in 2012. Revenue per lawyer in the City was also down by 6% to $1.09m from $1.16m last year.

The picture was the same for the firm globally. While Bingham weathered the financial downturn extremely well thanks largely to a booming restructuring practice, Bingham suffered in 2013 with revenues for the financial year falling by 12.6% to $762m from $871.8m in 2012.

Neither Bingham nor Akin Gump would comment on the move but sources have confirmed the main reason behind the partner exits is conflicting opinions over the firm’s strategy.

Earlier this year, the firm announced a landmark change in leadership as longstanding chairman Jay Zimmerman said he would step down in 2015 after 20 years at the helm, with managing partner Steve Browne set to take over.

jaishree.kalia@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Deal watch: CMS, Matheson and Akin Gump act on high-profile international deals

As international M&A catches the headlines, CMS Cameron McKenna has advised a consortium owned by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing on a HK$9.7 billion dollar acquisition of the Netherlands’ largest waste management group AVR Afvalverwerking.

CMS London corporate partner Charles Currier and Amsterdam partners Martika Jonk and Cecilia van der Weijden led the multi-disciplinary team advising Cheung Kong Infrastructure Consortium (CKI). Last year CKI acquired MGN Gas Networks for $1bn, also advised by CMS.

CKI is the largest publicly listed infrastructure company in Hong Kong for energy, transportation, water, waste management and infrastructure-related business.

The acquisition of AVR, which is subject to regulatory approval, is considered to be one of the biggest in continental Europe by a Li company.

Currier said: ‘We were delighted to act for the consortium on its first investment in continental Europe and for the opportunity to continue to build on the excellent relationship we have developed with them.’

Also advising a Ka-shing company is Dublin-headquartered Matheson, which confirmed yesterday (25 June) that it has advised Hutchison Whampoa-owned Three Ireland on its €780 million acquisition of Telefonica Ireland, which trades as O2 Ireland. A further additional deferred payment of €70m is payable on hitting agreed targets.

Telefonica is Europe’s second largest communications company by market value after Vodafone. The Spanish-headquartered company has sold its Irish unit as it attempts to cut its debt down to €47bn this year – which in 2011 peaked at €56.3bn.

In another high profile international deal, US Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has advised long-standing client ExxonMobil on an agreement with Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft, to establish a joint Arctic Research Center in Russia as well as a technology-sharing agreement supporting the two companies’ joint ventures worldwide.

International corporate transactions partners Richard Wilkie and Alexey Kondratchik in Akin Gump’s Moscow office led the team advising ExxonMobil, supported by Moscow corporate counsel Oleg Isaev.

Last year the US firm advised ExxonMobil on a joint project with Rosneft to access oil reserves at the Bazhenov and Achimov formations in Western Siberia, under which Exxon provided initial financing of $300m. The deals follow a strategic co-operation agreement between the two companies to jointly explore for and develop natural gas in Russia.

In 2011 BP famously entered into a similar arrangement with Rosneft, leading to arbitration with TNK-BP joint venture partner Renova, advised by Akin Gump.

david.stevenson@legalease.co.uk

sarah.downey@legalease.co.uk