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.

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.