Legal Business

Changing of the guard: DLA Piper elects next managing partner

DLA Piper has today (23 February) announced the election of Charles Severs as its next managing partner. His tenure will begin on 1 January 2025.

Severs moved to DLA Piper as a partner in 2003 from Herbert Smith Freehills.  A Legal 500 Hall of Famer for M&A: Lower Mid-Market Deals, Severs has an impressive client book including John Menzies, Symphony Technology, Science Group, Elekta, Hexcel, Puretech and Keller Group.

He has held several leadership roles at the firm, including international group head of corporate, managing director for groups, and managing director for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. He has been a member of the firm’s executive management team for 10 years and is an executive sponsor for graduate recruitment and the firm’s client listening program.

Simon Levine, who has held the position of international managing partner and global co-CEO for the past ten years, will take up the role of strategic innovation partner, leading DLA Piper’s innovation and strategic transformation programme. Levine was re-elected to managing partner in 2018 in an uncontested election following his first term, where he took over from Sir Nigel Knowles in 2015.

Since 2018, the firm’s revenue has increased by 40%, and it recorded a revenue of $3.69bn in 2023.

Levine will help Severs prepare for the new role over the next 10 months while continuing in his position as managing partner until the end of his term on the 31 December 2024.

‘Charles has been an integral part of my management team for the past decade, and it will be an honour to pass the baton of DLA Piper’s leadership over to him at the end of the year. Not only is Charles an outstanding lawyer, but his strength lies in his proven ability to lead and also to listen. I have every confidence that Charles is the right person to guide DLA Piper into a bright future,’ said Levine.

Commenting on his election, Severs said: ‘This is an incredibly proud moment for me. I have spent the vast majority of my career at DLA Piper and care passionately about this great firm and the fantastic people that make us who we are. Simon will be a tough act to follow, and I’m delighted that we will continue to benefit from his vision for innovation. We certainly have an exciting future ahead.’

Legal Business

Life During Law: Natasha Luther-Jones

When I was 12, I was a competitive swimmer, and I used to swim every morning before school. If you’re swimming that much, your swimsuits get see-through, so for training, sometimes you’d have to wear double swimsuits, and that’s a bit of a drag when you’re in a competition. I’d asked my mum for a new swimsuit, but she said I would have to wait till the end of the month. I asked her how I could become rich to be able to afford a new one. She said: ‘You can become a solicitor, or you can marry someone rich.’ So, from then on, my decision was made to become a lawyer.

I got work experience in a small solicitors’ firm on our high street in Bangor, North Wales, and was focused on doing a law degree. I knew it was very competitive to get a training contract, so I did law and French. Then I got a training contract with Garretts, part of Andersen Legal. Six months into my training contract, DLA took the Leeds office, I transferred, and 23 years later I’m still here!

Legal Business

Sponsored briefing: Addressing the gender imbalance

We ask three of DLA Piper’s female M&A stars some of the most pressing questions currently facing women in the sector. Partners Tracey Renshaw, Laura Marcelli, and Victoria Rhodes answer below

In your opinion, what specific factors contribute to the under-representation of senior women in M&A, and what steps can be taken to address this imbalance?

Legal Business

New brooms for DLA as Hoy named London managing partner and Bishop replaced as corporate co-chair

DLA Piper has appointed IP litigation partner Ruth Hoy as its next London managing partner, succeeding the longstanding Tom Heylen.

The move came during a considerable time of change for DLA after the firm last week announced that German partner Benjamin Parameswaran would be replacing the respected London partner Bob Bishop as global co-chair of its corporate practice.

For her part, Hoy (pictured) has considerable pedigree with the firm, joining DLA in 2005 and making partner in 2008. From 2012, Hoy led DLA’s UK IP practice, and in 2019 was named global co-chair of the firm’s fashion and retail sub-sector. In The Legal 500, Hoy is recognised as a ‘leading individual’ in both the IP: trade marks, copyright and design and retail and consumer categories.

Hoy commented: ‘Our London office is such a critical part of the firm and its success is in no small part down to the people who make up our exceptional team. I will give my best to ensure that every single person working in the London office understands their importance to DLA Piper and feels that this is a place where they belong, and where they can, and are inspired to, thrive and grow.

‘I look forward to continuing to build on the firm’s reputation in the City and beyond and further deepening our relationships with our clients and the communities we serve.’

For international M&A partner Heylen, it is the end of a six-year term that began when he succeeded Lord Tim Clement Jones in 2016. Prior to joining DLA Piper, Helyen spent five years with the Health and Safety Executive; part of which was spent in a policy unit in Whitehall leading government policy on OP pesticides.

It also marks a transition to a new role for Heylen, that of UK client and sectors partner. In his new position, Heylen will work alongside Stéphane Lemarchand, managing director for clients and sectors, to deliver DLA’s client and sector strategy in the UK.

Meanwhile, erstwhile corporate co-chair Bishop assumed the role in 2014 and earned plaudits during his eight-year tenure, with peers describing him as ‘bright and credible’ and a progressive force within the firm. In 2018, Bishop stood in DLA’s senior partner elections, ultimately losing out to fellow London transactional partner Andrew Darwin.

Parameswaran joined DLA in 2010 and gained significant leadership experience after being appointed country managing partner for Germany in 2014. The firm describes Parameswaran as one of the corporate group’s ‘most active M&A partners’ and a leader of ‘some of the firm’s most valuable global client relationships.’

Parameswaran takes the corporate helm alongside fellow co-chair Kathleen Ruhland, who is based in Minneapolis in the US.

His headline matters include advising Rolls-Royce on various acquisitions and sales, as well as acting for Qualcomm on its $3.5bn joint venture with TDK Corporation.

Legal Business

The Global 100: Analysis – What’s the deal with DLA?

‘The whole place didn’t collapse, did it?’ So quips Simon Levine, almost six years since he took on the leviathan challenge of succeeding Sir Nigel Knowles as global co-chief executive and managing partner of DLA Piper. Nevertheless Levine, characteristically self-deprecating and garrulous, especially in light of the firm not being razed to the ground, has clearly never shaken off the stigma of the succession being likened by Sir Nigel himself to Manchester United’s legend Sir Alex Ferguson stepping down. As if taking over from a man acclaimed for shaping DLA into what was once the world’s largest law firm over 18 years was not daunting enough. ‘I didn’t want to go the way of Moysey,’ said Levine at the time.

It is rare for opinion to be unanimously glowing about a law firm leader, but it was about Knowles, who in May became chief executive of listed law firm DWF in what may be perceived as arguably an even bigger challenge than what lay before him at DLA.

Legal Business

DLA shakes off coronavirus jitters to crack £2bn global revenue amid 7% profit hike 

DLA Piper has pulled off a fifth consecutive year of profit growth for its International LLP while breaking the £2bn barrier for global turnover and exceeding £1m in profit per equity partner (PEP).

The eye-catching set of results will be a shot in the arm for the firm, even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to threaten international businesses, and builds on a similarly robust showing last year in spite of sustained investment in DLA’s infrastructure.

The accounts reveal turnover for its International LLP, which covers all non-US offices, grew 13% to £1.1bn from £974m last year.  Globally, revenue hit £2.1bn from £1.9bn in 2018/19 and PEP grew 3% to £1.1m, while the non-US businesses saw a 4% PEP increase from £814,398 to £848,301.

Meanwhile, London office revenue accounted for £170m, a 5% uptick on £162m last year.

DLA’s global net profit increased 7% to £555m and net profit relating to the International LLP rose 9% to £222m from £203m last year.

Practice group-wise, litigation was the largest contributor, generating 36% of revenue at £760m, followed by corporate, which generated £570m, some 27% of the firm’s turnover.

In a bid to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, DLA in April furloughed some of its non-fee-earning staff using the UK Government’s job retention scheme. More than half of those that were furloughed have now returned with the remainder following suit once the office has reopened.

DLA also deferred its partner profit distribution round, originally slated for May, until the end of August.

Legal Business

Sponsored firm profile: DLA Piper

DLA Piper’s EU-Greek practice draws from the widest pool of experience and track record in EU/international and domestic law to offer a full range of services to clients doing business with, in and from Greece and Cyprus. The team comprises highly-qualified legal professionals, each bringing a core level of skills and experience in domestic public and private law, energy law, M&A, as well as EU and competition law. Under the leadership of Orestis Omran, the team advises Greek and Cypriot businesses and governmental organisations, as well as international businesses active in the Greek and other regional markets.

The EU-Greek practice serves as a gateway in two directions: inbound and outbound – to and from Greece and Cyprus. The Brussels-based team is also in a unique position to represent the interests of Greek-speaking clients at the law and policy-making levels of the EU institutions in Brussels. The team works very closely with the London finance and projects team on transactional matters, including structured finance, project and privatisations work.

Legal Business

DLA cracks £1bn international revenue after pumping ‘tens of millions’ into offices and IT

DLA Piper has increased profit at its international LLP for the fourth year running despite a sustained period of investing ‘tens of millions’ of pounds in office moves, refurbishments and IT systems.

A strong year for its European offices – and the implementation of new accounting standards – simultaneously saw revenue lift 18.5% to £1.09bn, although on an underlying basis it climbed about 7%, slightly up on last year’s 5% increase.

The firm’s international (non-US) revenue for the year to 30 April 2019 was up £169.9m, although £105.6m of this was attributable to changes to accounting standards which means the firm now has to account for disbursements as well as fee income. The revenue increase was nullified by a mirrored £105.6m increase in operating costs, also due to the new standards.

Stripping that out and a negligible foreign exchange impact this year, underlying revenue grew £65.9m, including £52m in Continental Europe. Wage and other inflation added £37.5m to operating costs, resulting in an 8% lift in profit to £340.8m.

DLA chief financial officer Paul Edwards told Legal Business he was pleased the firm had put together a string of strong years, following a turnover dip in 2014/15. But he was particularly happy about a fourth successive increase in profit, achieved during a period of investment for the firm.

In the 2018/19 financial year the firm invested more than £30m in its offices, including its marquee office move in London. The firm is also moving in Frankfurt and Birmingham, and has refurbished a number of its premises. That was on top of investment in IT systems, accelerated by DLA’s high-profile cyber incident in 2017. DLA’s borrowings more than doubled this year to £67.2m from £32.6m the year before.

‘We haven’t grown the bottom line simply by cost-cutting, in fact, quite the opposite,’ he said. ‘We’re talking about tens of millions of pounds of investment. I could have doubled that profit increase but then not made the investments which give you the longer term possibilities which we’re going to get.’

Key management personnel, which includes the senior partner, managing partner, members of the executive committee, international practice group heads, country managing partners and service directors took home another 9% pay increase following last year’s 22% lift, up to £48m from £44m.

Total staff numbers at the firm rose to 5,209 from 5,120, while fee earner numbers lifted to 2,187 from 2,135. Staff costs increased 5% to £347.1m.

Edwards said the first eight months of the current financial year were tracking ‘very strongly’ with activity levels higher than expected during a long-standing period of uncertainty.

‘What is pleasing for us is there is still a lot of uncertainty out there, and the UK – which is about a third of our business on the international side – obviously had a period of uncertainty, but business levels were quite active,’ he commented. ‘The caution we had baked into our budgets at the time didn’t really come through in the performance.’

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Slaughters and Ashurst make headlines on i newspaper sale as DLA and A&O dine out on Bookatable acquisition

In a busy week for UK buyouts, Slaughter and May advised Daily Mail and General Trust on the £49.6m acquisition from JPIMedia of i newspaper and its website by its consumer media business, DMG Media.

The Slaughters team was led by corporate partner Rebecca Cousin while an Ashurst  team led by corporate partner Braeden Donnelly advised JPIMedia Group.

Donnelly told Legal Business: ‘The sale of the i newspaper to Daily Mail was a significant first step for JPIMedia in realising value for bondholders. It is also part of a wider trend we are seeing in the UK print media market where consolidation is picking up pace as media owners respond to slowing print sales and increased competition from online alternatives.’

The deal was completed on 29 November. Ashurst previously advised Johnston Press on its acquisition of the i newspaper business from Independent Print Limited in 2016.

Meanwhile, DLA Piper advised Michelin on the sale of London-headquartered restaurant reservation business Bookatable to TripAdvisor company TheFork.

The acquisition allows competitor TheFork to consolidate in the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Finland and Norway meaning that 14,000 restaurants on Bookatable will join the 67,000 restaurants available on TheFork.

The DLA team was led by London partner Tim Wright and Paris partner Simon Charbit while an Allen & Overy team led by Richard Browne advised TripAdvisor.

The acquisition follows Michelin’s content and licensing partnership with TripAdvisor and its subsidiary TheFork. The partnership means that Michelin guide inspectors will be grading restaurants according to the ‘stars, bib gourmand and Michelin plate’ on the TripAdvisor and TheFork websites. 4,000 restaurants in Europe will also be available on TheFork and the Michelin Guide’s digital platform.

French firm Gide advised Michelin on the partnership with a team led by partner Guillaume Rougier-Brierre.

Elsewhere, Travers Smith has advised New York Stock Exchange-listed company Noble Corporation on the acquisition of its 50%interest in the Bully I and Bully II drillship joint ventures by a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell for a value of $166m.

Shell will pay a final cash settlement of roughly $59m of to Noble for its two drillships. Nobel, which owns and operates fleets in the offshore drilling industry, issued a note payable to Shell which satisfied a portion of the buyout price.

The Travers team was led by corporate partner Richard Spedding and Shell was advised in-house.

Finally. Addleshaw Goddard advised the promotional products company Pebble Group on its flotation on the AIM market with a fundraising value of £135m. It is the eighth IPO on AIM this year and the largest in terms of funds raised. The firm also advised on the £28m essensys listing in May and the £57m Brickability Group IPO in September.

The Addleshaw team was led by corporate partner Richard Lee. Lee told Legal Business: ‘What it means for the group is that they are no longer a private equity owned business and they no longer have the debt structure that goes with the private equity ownership. It gives them an improved balance sheet because the funds they raised in the IPO have been used to pay off the debt which they were previously carrying.

‘There were preferred share structures in there, plus loan notes, plus bank debts and the purpose of the fundraising for the company was to clear out that debt,’ added Lee.

The equity fundraise was managed by Berenberg with Grant Thornton acting as adviser. A London Bird & Bird equity capital markets team led by Adam Carling advised Berenberg as broker and Grant Thornton as nominated adviser.