Legal Business

Ashurst, Slaughters and White & Case re-elect leaders as rivals ring in the change

Ashurst, Slaughters and White & Case re-elect leaders as rivals ring in the change

The recent spate of leadership elections has seen Ashurst, Slaughter and May and White & Case all sticking with tradition while Stephenson Harwood and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan bet on new leaders.

May saw Hugh Verrier’s term as White & Case chair extended to 16 years after he was re-elected for another four years at the helm of the New York-bred giant. First elected to the role in 2007, Verrier’s tenure has seen sustained growth for the firm, most strikingly in London, where the 2020 strategy led by partner Oliver Brettle, and its core ambition of taking on the Magic Circle in its own backyard, have paid dividends.

Legal Business

Ashurst dismisses board member under cloud of misconduct

Ashurst dismisses board member under cloud of misconduct

The board of Ashurst has asked Bernd Egbers, a Munich-based board member, to leave the firm ‘as a result of ‘conduct which is contrary to [the firm’s] values’.

Announcing the move on Tuesday (11 June), the firm would not divulge the nature of the misconduct, only that there was no connection to any client or client matter.

Joining Ashurst in 2006 from legacy Norton Rose, Egbers became partner three years later. He specialised in both domestic and cross-border structured finance transactions.

Partners at the firm voted in Egbers in 2016 post its merger with Australia’s Blake Dawson. That year, the firm posted its second year of falling revenue following the tie-up with turnover dipping by £28m, a drop of 10% to £505m.

The fall came on the back of a 4% decrease the previous year, when revenues fell to £561m from £568m. Profits per equity partner also fell by 19%, down to £603,000 from £747,000 during the 2015/16 financial year.

Ashurst has in recent years staged something of a recovery, with renewed financial success largely credited to the focused approach of global managing partner Paul Jenkins.

Estimated revenue growth for the firm for the 2018/19 financial year is between 13% and 15%, while approximately a 25% uptick in PEP is also on the cards.

Nathalie.tidman@legalease.co.uk

To read more about Ashurst’s revival, read ‘Inflection point – Ashurst steps back from the brink but can the revival last?’

 

Legal Business

Comment: Vital signs – the passing of old Ashurst holds surprising new life

Comment: Vital signs – the passing of old Ashurst holds surprising new life

Sometimes in institutional terms, something has to die before something new can live. The good news for Ashurst, as chronicled in this month’s cover feature, is that the City player is showing vivid signs of renewed life, with the firm set to post by far its best performance after a decade that has been plain bad. After the low points in late 2016 and early 2017, level-headed people were asking how long this could continue before decline became outright calamity.

The obvious caveat – and it is a substantial one – is that this has come largely by building on the ruins of what Ashurst was: a storied, corporate-driven City player with enviable history and a cohesive culture. What has emerged as the old edifice progressively crumbled is unrecognisable against Ashurst circa 2009. Thanks to its controversial merger with Blake Dawson, the shape and practice mix of the business has radically changed. Its once-vaunted private equity team has been battered down to functional coverage across Europe – the final blow to any borderline claim to first-division status being Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s five-partner Paris raid two years ago. And most of the big-name corporate figures have left over the years or retired – most recently Robert Ogilvy Watson and Simon Beddow – leaving a core corporate practice generating around 20% of its income; on paper, you would expect a firm of this heritage to be doing over 30%.

And what has emerged? I am not saying Ashurst is now a huge infra boutique, but it is doing about as good an impression of one as you can imagine for a firm that until recently saw itself as a Magic Circle challenger. Look at its litigation, corporate and finance teams, and you will see a lot of work for infra and energy clients. The major exception to this has been the firm’s surprisingly successful move into the TMT sector, building in part on the 2016 hires of Nick Elverston and Amanda Hale from Herbert Smith Freehills.

Much of this revival obviously comes through making a virtue of necessity. Having failed to remain credible in executing its previous model, it has pivoted to something new. In these Brexit-infused times, Ashurst’s accepted view that it is where it is, and it was better to move forward constructively and play to new strengths than bemoan what it has lost, deserves praise. After all, moving on will be tough given its partnership’s historic addiction to angsting about the past.

It also speaks to the theme we touch upon in this month’s leader, which argues that major City firms cannot credibly continue as lookalike generalists. The less Ashurst resembles its peers, the easier it is to imagine the firm thriving, as has happened with its lean-but-effective US infra push. Much of the credit here has to go to managing partner Paul Jenkins. In an age in which many large City-bred law firms have forgotten the value of effective leadership, his clarity, competence and common sense has gone a long, long way.

I cannot fully commit yet – I have been hurt before. It will take another year or two of confident performance before the firm can genuinely lay claim to a credible place in the global market and I still argue its disputes team is too small for its business model. But it is a pleasure to see life in the old Ashurst yet.

alex.novarese@legalease.co.uk

See Inflection point for more on Ashurst.

Legal Business

Inflection point – Ashurst steps back from the brink but can the revival last?

Inflection point – Ashurst steps back from the brink but can the revival last?

It was not all plain sailing,’ reflects Ben Tidswell, Ashurst’s chair, on the aftermath of its 2013 merger with Australia’s Blake Dawson. ‘But partners saw what we were trying to achieve and most wanted to be part of that. Now the firm is enjoying the success of that.’

Tidswell speaks with the palpable relief of one whose darkest days are behind him. The merged firm is now on the brink of revealing its best financial showing to date after years of indifferent or poor performance. Tidswell may well celebrate given the upheaval that preceded this inflection point, dwarfing any woes suffered by City rival Lovells following its 2010 union with Washington DC’s Hogan & Hartson.

Legal Business

Vital signs – the passing of old Ashurst holds new life

Vital signs – the passing of old Ashurst holds new life

Sometimes in institutional terms, something has to die before something new can live. The good news for Ashurst, as chronicled in this month’s cover feature, is that the City player is showing vivid signs of renewed life, with the firm set to post by far its best performance after a decade that has been plain bad. After the low points in late 2016 and early 2017, level-headed people were asking how long this could continue before decline became outright calamity.

The obvious caveat – and it is a substantial one – is that this has come largely by building on the ruins of what Ashurst was: a storied, corporate-driven City player with enviable history and a cohesive culture. What has emerged as the old edifice progressively crumbled is unrecognisable against Ashurst circa 2009. Thanks to its controversial merger with Blake Dawson, the shape and practice mix of the business has radically changed. Its once-vaunted private equity team has been battered down to functional coverage across Europe – the final blow to any borderline claim to first-division status being Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s five-partner Paris raid two years ago. And most of the big-name corporate figures have left over the years or retired – most recently Robert Ogilvy Watson and Simon Beddow – leaving a core corporate practice generating around 20% of its income; on paper, you would expect a firm of this heritage to be doing over 30%.

Legal Business

Legal 500 Data: Behind the story

Legal 500 Data: Behind the story

The Legal 500 2019 London rankings

Ashurst and Hogan Lovells are the subject of this month’s cover feature – both firms that underwent large mergers in the last few years. Here we look at the firms’ London rankings in The Legal 500. For further information see ‘Inflection point’.

Ashurst

Legal Business

‘Engaged and energised’: Jenkins wins second term as Ashurst global managing partner

‘Engaged and energised’: Jenkins wins second term as Ashurst global managing partner

In another vote of confidence for Ashurst’s leadership, Paul Jenkins has been re-appointed as global managing partner for a second four-year term.

The appointment by the Ashurst board was the result of extensive consultations with the firm’s partners and staff, with Jenkins’ second run set to start on 1 November 2019.

Jenkins’ appointment comes as the firm prepares to reveal its best financial results since Ashurst’s merger with Australian firm Blake Dawson in 2013. The expected double-digit revenue and PEP growth will mark Ashurst’s third consecutive year of growth following two consecutive years of decline post-merger. Revenue for the 2017/18 financial year saw a 4% uptick to £564m from £541m, while PEP increased 11% to £743,000 compared with £672,000 the previous year

Last November, Ben Tidswell took up his second term as Ashurst’s chair having in June stood unchallenged in a leadership election. That four-year term built on an initial five-year stint in the role which started in 2013 and which was one of the conditions of the merger.

Jenkins told Legal Business: ‘One of the biggest reasons for our success over the last three years has been getting the right people in the right leadership roles and ensuring all our people are engaged and energised and want the business to succeed. It was about getting everyone travelling in exactly the same direction. The strategy will be to continue investing in the five key sectors of banks and funds, energy and resources, real estate, infrastructure and digital economy, as well as growing in the strategically important markets of the US, Europe and Asia.’

Aside from Jenkins and Tidswell, Ashurst’s board comprises London-based corporate partner Karen Davies, Munich finance partner Bernd Egbers, Sydney-based restructuring partner James Marshall and strategic advisory partner Barbara Phair, projects and real estate partner Sarah Sivyour in London and – as of today (1 May) -Mark Herbert, chief financial officer in London.

Wu Gang and Robin Lawther are Independent board members.

Tidswell said: ‘I congratulate Paul on his re-appointment and thank him for his commitment, drive and leadership to date. We have had an exceptionally strong year and we are seeing the benefits of a significant focus on our clients, our market leading practices and our people. The board, executive team and partners share a determination to build further on this outstanding success in the years ahead.’

Jenkins joined legacy Australian firm Blake Dawson as a graduate in 1996 and became a finance partner in Sydney in 2006, co-leading the global finance division from 2012.

nathalie.tidman@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Ashurst makes up eight in the City amid reduced global round as DAC Beachcroft mints 19, RPC six and TLT four

Ashurst makes up eight in the City amid reduced global round as DAC Beachcroft mints 19, RPC six and TLT four

Ashurst has promoted 21 partners globally, including eight in London, after a slightly reduced promotion round which saw Australia and the UK pick up the lion’s share of new partners. DAC Beachcroft, meanwhile, promoted 19 to partner in a significantly bolstered global round while RPC minted six in the UK and TLT promoted four.

In London, Ashurst promoted corporate lawyers Braeden Donnelly, Gaby Jones and Aaron Shute. In tax, meanwhile, the firm promoted Tim Gummer and in competition the firm made up Steven Vaz. Tim Edmonds and Nicholas Hilder were also promoted in global markets and projects respectively, while Emma Johnson was made a disputes partner.

The round is good news for the firm’s diversity numbers, as the promotions will see 25% of the firm’s partnership be female as of 1 May when the promotions take effect.

Overall promotion numbers are marginally down on last year, when the firm made up 24 lawyers globally, including nine promoted in the City. Australia made up the majority of this year’s promotions with nine new partner, while one partner apiece went to Germany, France, Hong Kong and UAE.

Ashurst global managing partner Paul Jenkins commented: ‘The firm is delivering an impressive level of performance and this has enabled us to make a good number of promotions across our offices and practices.’

DAC Beachcroft, meanwhile, announced today (30 April) a significantly increased promotion round. Nineteen new partners have been made up at the firm, an increase of 11 from last year. Four of the new partners are in the City, three of which are in insurance litigation, with the fourth in claims solutions. In the regions, the firm made up four lawyers in Leeds, three in Bristol, two in Newcastle and Birmingham and one in Manchester. Abroad, the firm promoted a single lawyer in Dublin, Madrid and Mexico City.

RPC also announced its promotion round today, with six new partners made up in the UK across its London and Bristol offices.

Commercial lawyer Charles Buckworth, IP lawyer Ben Mark, corporate lawyer Peter Sugden, litigator Alan Williams and tax disputes lawyer Robert Waterson were all made up in London. Professional indemnity lawyer, Rachael Healey, was minted in Bristol.

Finally, TLT has made four partner promotions, down from last year’s six. Commercial lawyer Kuldip Dhanoya, regulatory lawyer Duncan Reed, corporate lawyer Nina Searle and housing lawyer Shazia Bashir were all promoted this year.

thomas.alan@legalease.co.uk

Ashurst partner promotions in full:

 

Anita Choi – Corporate, Sydney

James Clarke – Dispute Resolution, Melbourne

Gerrit Clasen – Corporate, Frankfurt

Rebecca Cope – Digital Economy, Sydney

Yvonne Cross – Projects, Dubai

Jacques Dabreteau – Projects, Paris

Madeleine de Garis – Global Loans, Melbourne

Braeden Donnelly – Corporate, London

Tim Edmonds – Global Markets, London

Melissa Fraser – Competition, Sydney

Tim Gummer – Tax, London

Nicholas Hilder – Projects, London

Emma Johnson (née Martin) – Dispute Resolution, London

Gaby Jones – Corporate, London

Caroline Lindsey – Projects, Perth

Dean Moroz – Investment Funds, Hong Kong

Aaron Shute – Corporate, London

Elissa Speight – Employment, Canberra

Julia Sutherland – Employment, Perth

Lynda Tully – Corporate, Melbourne

Steven Vaz – Competition, London

DAC Beachcroft partner promotions in full:

 

Sophie Lawless – Claims Solutions, Birmingham

Kevan Smith – Claims Solutions, Birmingham

Stan Campbell – Real Estate, Bristol

Sara Eaton – Clinical Risk, Bristol

Louise Wiltshire – Healthcare Regulatory, Bristol

Niamh McKeever – Professional Liability, Dublin

Jeremy Bennett – Claims Solutions, Leeds

Shruti Brockett – Business Services, Leeds

Charlotte Le Maire – Claims Solutions, Leeds

Paul McGough – Healthcare Regulatory, Leeds

Sarah Crowther – Insurance Litigation, London

Olu Dansu – Insurance Litigation, London

Andrew Sheppard – Claims Solutions, London

Toby Vallance – Insurance Litigation, London

Pilar Rodríguez – Insurance Litigation, Madrid

Morgan Nash – Claims Solutions, Manchester

Emma Bowens – Claims Solutions, Newcastle

Dawn McIntosh – Clinical Risk, Newcastle

Salvador Enrique Urbano Tejeda – Insurance litigation, Mexico City

RPC partner promotions in full:

 

Charles Buckworth – commercial, London

Ben Mark – intellectual property, London

Peter Sugden – corporate, London

Alan Williams – commercial litigation, London

Robert Waterson – tax disputes, London

Rachel Healey – professional indemnity, Bristol

TLT partner promotions in full:

 

Kuldip Dhanoya – commercial

Duncan Reed – regulatory

Nina Searle – corporate

Shazia Bashir – housing

Legal Business

Deal watch: Healthy pickings for Travers and DLA on Unilever’s £150m graze buyout as firms navigate Interserve rescue saga

Deal watch: Healthy pickings for Travers and DLA on Unilever’s £150m graze buyout as firms navigate Interserve rescue saga

Travers Smith and DLA Piper have sated their appetites on The Carlyle Group’s £150m disposal of graze while a raft of advisers sat tight as a further twist in the Interserve saga unfolded.

Unilever last Tuesday (5 February) sealed the deal to acquire ubiquitous healthy snack brand graze, having fended of competition from rival bidders Pepsi and Kellogg in an auction launched in the latter part of last year by Harris Williams.

The buyer, which also owns Marmite, mustard maker Colman’s and Wall’s ice-cream, was reputed to have paid exactly half the £300m asking price for the snack company.

Private equity house Carlyle, which sold graze via its Carlyle European Technology Partners fund, turned to longstanding relationship firm Travers and a team led by partners Ian Shawyer (pictured) and George Weavil. While not an obvious asset to be owned by a tech fund, Shawyer notes that graze, having started life in 2008 as a direct to consumer snack box delivery service, has a tech-based flavour in that it is based on data strategy and uses tech to mine customer preferences of its products.

The company has evolved to stocking the shelves of more than 30,000 UK retailers as well as US shops including Target, Walgreens and 7-Eleven.

Carlyle last year started sounding out the market for a successor fund – Carlyle European Technology Partners IV – with a view to raising €1.3bn to invest in companies with significant growth potential.

While Latham & Watkins is the firm most associated with Carlyle Group for international work, Travers has carved a niche advising the group on European deals.

Bob Bishop, DLA’s global co-chair of corporate, led the team advising Unilever, while Phil Hails-Smith, corporate and commercial partner at Joelson, advised graze’s management.

Meanwhile, the rescue of beleaguered UK construction plc Interserve has encountered a snag. Coinciding last Wednesday (6 February) with Interserve’s agreement in principle of a deleveraging plan that could save it from a Carillion-style collapse, hedge fund investor Coltrane Master Fund sought to leverage its 17% stake to requisition a general meeting that could see most of its directors ousted.

The latest example of shareholder activists making their presence felt on this side of the Atlantic, Coltrane has called for Interserve’s entire board, apart from chief executive Debbie White, to stand down and that David Frauman and Stuart Ross be appointed as directors.

The rescue mission has kept firms including Ashurst, Slaughter and May, Allen & Overy and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld busy for several months. If approved by shareholders, it would involve £480m of new shares issued to lenders in a debt for equity deal aimed at reducing debt from £600m to £275m.

Advising Interserve are an Ashurst corporate team led by Tom Mercer and a Slaughters team led by restructuring partner Ian Johnson. A&O is advising the lenders with a team led by Trevor Borthwick, while Akin Gump, led by Barry Russell, is advising the noteholders.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer restructuring partner Adam Gallagher is advising the pension trustees of Interserve.

While there are clear parallels with fellow UK construction company Carillion, which fell into liquidation in January 2018, advisers are quick to note that the underlying business of Interserve does not suffer from such severe liquidity shortfalls and has not been subject to the same mismanagement.

‘A similar rescue plan was being considered for Carillion but didn’t work because that business was in far worse shape. This is what it looks like if it is possible to save the company’, said one partner of the Interserve restructuring.

Howard Kennedy and Browne Jacobson also last week won mandates acting on HMV’s rescue buyout by Canadian record company Sunrise Records & Entertainment Limited.

The move follows the music retailer’s demise into administration at the end of last year when Addleshaw Goddard partners Fraser Ritson and Alison Goldthorp were drafted in to advise the administrator KPMG.

The transaction will see Sunrise Records acquire 100 HMV stores across the UK while 27 stores were not included in the deal and have now shut down.

Howard Kennedy is advising KPMG, with a team led by corporate partner Jonathan Polin while Browne Jacobson corporate finance partner Roger Birchall is advising Sunrise Records.

High street cake purveyor Patisserie Valerie last month called in KPMG after it was unable to shake off significant fraud plaguing the business, with Gateley advising the administrator.

nathalie.tidman@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Double whammy for Ashurst as London head quits for BCLP and Macfarlanes hires former corporate head

Double whammy for Ashurst as London head quits for BCLP and Macfarlanes hires former corporate head

Ashurst London managing partner Simon Beddow and former corporate head Robert Ogilvy Watson have quit the firm to join Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) and Macfarlanes respectively.

A partner at the firm for 21 years, Beddow had led the firm’s City base since 2016 and was previously the firm’s corporate co-head. He will become BCLP’s deputy head of corporate.

BCLP’s co-chair Lisa Mayhew said: ‘At the time of our merger, we said that we would enhance our corporate team in London and hiring someone of Simon’s calibre clearly demonstrates this.  One of his priorities will be to consider which further additions we wish to make.’

Ashurst has appointed real estate finance partner Ruth Harris to replace Beddow as London managing partner, effective today (1 February).

Managing partner Paul Jenkins told Legal Business: ‘Simon wanted to continue in a management role and there wasn’t one available at Ashurst. We want people to be more transaction and client focused.’

He added: ‘I see it as a changing of the guard. We have some amazing corporate partners including Tom Mercer, Karen Davies and Jason Radford. The corporate practice has seen 17% revenue growth over the last year. It’s the strongest it’s been in many years. The departures are not going to impact that.’

Ogilvy Watson, whose 18 years as partner included a seven-year spell in the firm’s Hong Kong office from 2008, has acted on a number of public M&A transactions, including ITOCHU Corporation’s $10.4bn acquisition of a 20% stake in CITIC and Volcan Investments’ £778m offer for Vedanta Resources. He led Ashurst’s corporate practice until Jason Radford took over last year, and is a rare lateral for Macfarlanes, which is beefing up its public company M&A practice.

Macfarlanes senior partner Charles Martin told Legal Business: ‘We see public M&A as an important part of the practice and we see this as a quite interesting year for strategic M&A.’ He added: ‘When the opportunity to have Robert join us came along it seemed very timely.’

He added that the hiring process took ‘weeks rather than months’ and ‘as we got to know him, we thought he would be an outstanding addition to the team’.

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk